There is something impossibly chilling about it: an insurgent races into a street to fire a rocket, unload with an AK, or fling a grenade, the whole time crying out the name of Allah.
Holy war. That's what it sounds like. That's what insurgents call it.
There is nothing holy about it, of course. Muslims all over the globe have denounced the tactics of terrorism and extremism for just what they are: thuggery masquerading as devotion. Maybe those Muslim voices of dissent are not loud enough for us as we watch our young troops fight and die, and even Muslim leaders have told me they want much more from their own communities in terms of opposing radical sects.
But Middle East analysts say we are also making it harder for moderate Muslims to stand up against the radicals. They say each time an American leader invokes the name of God, or makes reference to Islamofascists or the Axis of Evil, it makes it easier for radicals to claim the entire Muslim faith is under attack...by holy warriors from the West.
President Bush once referred to the war on terror as a "crusade." It's just a word to most of us, but for many Muslims it recalls crusades that started 900 years ago, pitting Christians against Muslims. The president says, "Freedom is a gift of God." Many of us may agree, but we still largely consider freedom a positive, secular value, like democracy. Not so for radicals in the Muslim world.
One Middle East analyst told me these forces are listening to every word our leaders say, and every time they hear the word "God," they roar out the news: a new heresy from the West, a new reason for Muslims to unite and fight.
Polls indicate most Muslims don't believe it, don't think this is really a holy war. But four years of fighting tell us that enough do. So should America's leaders avoid using the name of God whenever they talk about the war or terrorism to deny radicals the propaganda? Or would that itself be a kind of defeat?
-- By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent