At this writing, no one yet knew who commandeered four airliners loaded with passengers on Sept. 11 and crashed them into both of the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC.

It was possible nevertheless to describe, if not who the terrorists are, what they are and what they are not.

The terrorists are not legitimate representatives of any religious or ethnic group. They are evil misfits who use religion and ethnicity as excuses for narrow-mindedness and reprehensible behavior.

The terrorists are not heroes, as they were portrayed to be by a few poisonously foolish Palestinians in Israel who publicly celebrated the US massacres. They are cold-blooded killers of innocent people.

The terrorists are not angry products of US failures in international politics, as some commentators have already and inevitably suggested. They are fanatics whose actions repudiate any political goals to which they give voice.

And the terrorists are not simply murder suspects. People suspected of crimes possess rights. The terrorists are assassins, wartime assassins.

Their rights are less important than the global imperative of stopping random slaughter.

If it was not clear at this writing who the terrorists are, it was clear that the world was prepared to respond to this massive act of terrorism as though at war.

For all its horror, war clarifies perception and focuses human purpose.

The terrorists, therefore, are one other thing. They're doomed.

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