During my formative years living in the farming country outside Troy, New York, there came a time when the city streets held more fascination for me than the hayfields, apple orchards, and barns.

Troy is a small city, but a city nonetheless, and it held the complete spectrum of city experiences from the low to the high, poor to rich, mean to expansive. Troy was also accessible.

As a teen I spent increasing amounts of time hanging out with my friends in the city, enjoying both the cultural aspects of city life, and occasionally learning some of its harsher lessons, too. On the less pleasant side I encountered the hard cold realities of street and alley fighting that would be refined a few years later when I spent time in service towns and port cities.

First and foremost, there was no 'fair' or 'unfair' in terms of tactics. There was WIN or LOSE. Period. Nothing in between.

There was no honor in losing to a bigger or tougher guy, it was still a loss. The only consolation in a loss was if you inflicted sufficient damage on your opponent that others, even those who could probably beat you, were loathe to challenge you, knowing they would win a Pyrrhic victory at best. But you still lost.

In those years I met some world class bullies, and some world class champions. Outsiders might have had a difficult time telling the difference, but on the streets everyone knew which was which and who was who.

Regardless of outsider views that street fighters were unprincipled brawlers, there were still some unspoken rules.

Street fighters fight due to pride and for pride. It is pride that will get them into a fight in the first place and pride in their status that will keep them in a fight long after most people would have quit. It is in those situations that sure losers on occasion turn into surprise winners.

The surprise it should be noted, usually is on the part of the bystanders and bookmakers, not the guy in the fight, who would rather die than bear the shame of backing down or quitting.

That sense of pride also manifested itself in the decisions on when to fight and with whom. If a punk from your neighborhood was running his mouth about you, trying to build his own reputation at the expense of yours, and you encountered him on the street, it was expected that you would brace him on the spot.

Occasionally an up-and-comer would take on the neighborhood champ, and in those cases a predesignated time and place was involved. Often enough, it was in an alley along River Street in Troy, on a Saturday night. A certain amount of preparation was necessary for those fights, including being in shape, and on occasion determining if and what kind of weapons your opponent preferred.

That is why I have said for years that our invasion of Iraq had everything to do with intent on Abu Al Zarqawi's part, not whether Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Weapons are far down the list on deciding when and where to fight, intent is at the top.

If guys from another neighborhood invaded yours, you took them on. Generally speaking you didn't get into it with a smaller guy because that detracted from your rep, and put you in the bully class.

Bullies would push guys around for the hell of it, even guys from their own group. Smaller guys would defer to a bully rather than getting hit, but they lived for the day that a bigger or tougher guy would show up and give the bully a taste of his own medicine.

Champions, however, had an aura about them. If they paid any attention to the smaller guys it was only on occasion and it was usually a nod, or a brief hello. The neighborhood champ had a rep to maintain, and only the toughest of the tough were in the champion's inner circle.

But the smaller guys lived for the moment they got "the nod" in front of their friends, as it meant an immediate increase in their status.

For all of these unwritten rules, and their intricacies, there was one rule that was inviolate. You never, ever, ever, punched a girl. Do that and you were labelled a screw up, weakling, mindless dumb-ass forever.

If guys from another neighborhood invaded your neighborhood and brought girls with them, even tough girls, you got some of the tomboys from your area to take them out. Punching a girl was unmanly, the kind of thing that only a rabid dog would do.

Which brings me to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan yesterday.

She was killed by an Islamo-fascist extremist who first shot at her, (reports are mixed on whether his bullets actually hit her) then blew himself and dozens of others all to hell, because he believed he would get some kind of otherworldly reward for the ultimate act of cowardice.

It is because of the nature of Mrs. Bhutto, what she believed in, how she was viewed, and how she was killed that every woman in the free world should be thanking God for George Bush, and praying that the anti-war left doesn't ever get into power in this country.

Mrs. Bhutto wanted democracy, she wanted equality, she wanted women to have the same rights in her country that they take for granted in many other countries, especially the United States. She was well aware that the extremists in her country could care less about the "glass ceiling" because they are adamant that the only ceilings any woman should see are in their kitchens and bedrooms.

She wanted an end to terrorism, an end to their extremist viewpoints. That was why she was killed.

Although the terrorists our forces have lured to their deaths in Iraq use the tactics common to street fighters, the manner in which Bhutto was killed violates the most basic rules of the man who has earned his stripes in the alleyways. You don't pick on women!

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was the act of a rabid animal who can't be talked to, can't be reasoned with, can't be swayed, and won't change his mind, his tactics or his opinions of his enemies. The Islamo-fascists, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their spinoff organizations hate everyone who is not of their mindset, but they hate women the most.

Benazir Bhutto was a danger to them alive, but now she may well be more effective as a martyr.

America lost an ally when Mrs. Bhutto was assassinated. But women worldwide lost a champion. There is much to say about her tragic death, but for women who live in the free world, and take their freedoms for granted, there should be a cold realization of what awaits them if the terrorists win, and their dominant extremist governments prevail.

The Bush Administration has taken a ton of criticism over the past five years, but Benazir Bhutto's assassination shows that he was right in taking the fight to the terrorists, wherever they were gathering, rather than waiting for them to strike us on our homeland again.

The only way to defeat these animals is to take them out on their own turf. Luring tens of thousands of terrorists to their deaths in Iraq has turned out to be a winning strategy.

While the mainstream media talks incessantly about the casualties we have suffered, the real number that should concern these commentators is how many civilian casualties we would have suffered had President Bush fought the War on Terror as a law enforcement issue that would have allowed them to again attack us here, instead of us attacking them there.