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War on terror does not give blanket authority to bomb

The U.S.-led war on terror should not give governments blanket authority to drop bombs in the midst of a civilian population.

Some might characterize the U.S. missile strike in the village of Damadola, near the Afghan border in Pakistan, a limited success. Provincial authorities Tuesday characterized at least four of the 18 people killed in the Friday blast as "foreign terrorists."

The airstrike purportedly targeted al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. It is not known if Mr. al-Zawahri survived.

Since the blast, tens of thousands of Pakistanis protested the missile strike, which killed several civilians, including children.

In the first comments about the attack from a top U.S. official, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that serious action is necessary against al-Qaida.

"These are not people who can be dealt with lightly,'" Ms. Rice said.

With collateral damage an inevitable result, where exactly should the government draw the line limiting such attacks?

To answer that difficult question, consider a hypothetical situation with the roles reversed.

How would Americans respond if a foreign government launched a similar missile attack here after getting information that terrorists with whom it was at war were present in an apartment in a U.S. city?

How would Americans react if our government, armed with similar intelligence, responded in the same manner on a domestic target?

The killing of innocent people abroad cannot endear America to other nations. It breeds ill will and provides terrorists with propaganda to recruit suicide bombers.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q condemned Friday's airstrike, but Mr. Aziz did not cancel a scheduled trip to the United States this week.

It will be an excellent opportunity for President Bush and Ms. Rice to apologize for the deaths of innocent civilians abroad and to explain exactly where they draw the line on collateral damage in the war on terror.

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