On the night of Saturday, October 12--the second anniversary of the suicide bombing of the USS Cole, a year, month, and day after the destruction of the World Trade Center, and mere days after terrorist attacks in Yemen, Kuwait, and the Philippines--two car bombs detonated outside neighboring nightclubs on the island of Bali, triggering a third explosive planted inside, and killing nearly 200 people (the majority of whom were Australian tourists), injuring several others, and redirecting the focus of the war against terror to Indonesia.

Also on the night of Saturday, October 12, the following bands and DJs were playing and spinning at several of Seattle's rock and dance clubs from Re-bar to Rock Bottom: FCS North, Sing-Sing, DJ Greasy, Michiko, Super Furry Animals, Bill Frisell Quintet, the Vells, the Capillaries, the Swains, DJ Che, Redneck Girlfriend, Grunge, Violent Femmes, the Bangs, Better Than Ezra, the Briefs, Tami Hart, the Spitfires, Tullycraft, B-Mello, Cobra High, Randy Schlager, Bobby O, Venus Hum, MC Queen Lucky, Evan Blackstone, and the RC5, among many, many others.

This short list, taken semi-randomly from the pages of The Stranger's music calendar, is designed to illustrate a point that is both facile and essential to reckoning the effects of the Bali bombings. Many of you were at these shows, dancing, smoking, drinking, talking, flirting, kissing, groping, and presumably enjoying yourselves, much like the 180-plus tourists and revelers killed at the Sari Club and Paddy's Irish Pub in Bali. Though no group has come forward to claim responsibility for the bombings, they were almost certainly the work of Muslim radicals launching the latest volley in the war against apostasy.

Whether the attacks turn out to have been the work of al Qaeda or one of the like-purposed, loosely connected, multicellular organizations that function in the region--groups like the Jemaah Islamiyah (an umbrella network that seeks a single Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore), the Indonesian Mujahedeen Council (led by Abu Bakar Bashir), Laskar Jihad (which waged holy war on Christians in the Spice Islands before mysteriously disbanding two weeks ago), or the Islam Defenders Front (which makes frequent "sweeps" of bars and nightclubs, attacking non-Muslims, and violently guarding against "prostitution and other bad things")--will ultimately prove to be of little consequence. What matters is that the forces of Islamic fascism have struck again, in a characteristically cowardly, murderous, and okay, yes, blasphemous fashion that must register as an affront to every living human with even a passing interest in freedom or pluralism.

The facile part: It could have happened here, at any club in Seattle. It's a ludicrous thought, of course--at least as ludicrous as the thought of shutting the Space Needle down on New Year's Eve because some crazy terrorist was arrested at the Canadian border--but that doesn't make it any less true. That doesn't mean we should be looking over our shoulders and under our chairs every time we go to a show. It simply means that it could happen anywhere, because anywhere is exactly where rabid Islamists can find evidence of blasphemy against their precious, imaginary god.

Which brings us to the essential part: The Bali bombings were not an attack against Bali; they were an attack against humankind. In all the jaw flapping about the multiple conflicts currently dotting our collective radar screen--the war against terror, the war on Iraq, the coming holy war, et al.--it seems worth restating (at the risk of sounding pious) that the war against basic human liberty, waged not by us but on us, is at the heart of the matter. Discourse has justifiably, necessarily turned to complexities of strategy, diplomacy, and consequences. The moral truth, however, remains agonizingly basic. We are still dealing with a small but indefatigable contingent of radicalized, militant absolutists who believe that every living being is accountable to the stricture of Shari'a, under penalty of death. As Salman Rushdie wrote, in an oft-cited Washington Post editorial, the fundamentalist faction is against, "to offer a brief list, freedom of speech, a multi-party political system, universal adult suffrage, accountable government, Jews, homosexuals, women's rights, pluralism, secularism, short skirts, dancing, beardlessness, evolution theory, sex." If these were fictional villains, you'd call them hyperbolic, not believable. But they aren't fictional. Their code would be laughable if it weren't so aggressively despicable.

As headlines about Bali cross-fade into news of North Korean nukes, and there are further debates about the finer points of Iraqi de- and restabilization, it's crucial to remember that there is, in fact, a very real enemy, with a very real will, and the very real power of delusional self-righteousness. How to remember? Consider the scene of the attacks (as reported by various Australian and European news sources):

It's a typical hot, sweaty, drunken, lascivious Saturday night. People, primarily young Aussie tourists from Melbourne, Geelong, Perth, and Adelaide, are crammed into the clubs, mixing it up, spilling out into the street. Rock band noises mix with techno music and innumerable voices as latecomers clamor to squeeze inside. Just after 11:00 p.m., a car bomb explodes outside of Paddy's, followed a few seconds later by a second blast that smashes the facade of the Sari Club and leaves a hole in the street a meter deep and 10 meters across. The second bomb is strong enough to damage buildings miles away. All at once, everything's on fire. People are incinerated. Cars go up in flames. Televisions explode. Ceilings collapse, trapping those still inside. Screams. Blistered, charred flesh. Disembodied limbs. Mangled bodies. Victims covered in blood. Inferno.

Now transpose this horrible, fiery mass murder from the seedy, alien lushness of Bali to, say, Pioneer Square, where clubs and bars are lined up in the same teeming proximity as the Sari and Paddy's in the "raunchy" Jalan Legian district, the busiest strip of nightlife in Kuta Beach. Imagine a car blowing up outside the Central Saloon and another, across the street at the New Orleans. Again, it seems too simple an equation, but the fact remains that the victims were not targeted at random, or for merely political purposes. They were doing exactly what any of us might be doing on any night of the week: exercising a liberty so deeply offensive to religious believers as to constitute blasphemy. And the punishment for blasphemy is death.

There is an ongoing lie in the official governmental position on the war against terror, which bends over backwards to assure us that, in the words of our president, "we don't view this as a war of religion in any way, shape, or form." Clearly, in every sense, this is a war of religion, whether it's declared as such or not. And if it isn't, then it certainly should be. Not a war of one religion against another, but of reason against religion--against any belief system that takes its mandate from an invisible spiritual entity and endows its followers with the right to murder or subjugate anyone who fails to come to the same conclusion. This is the war our enemies are fighting. To pretend we're fighting any other--or worse, that this war is somehow not worth fighting, on all fronts--is to dishonor the innocent dead.