Thursday, May 13, 2004

Dumb al Qaeda?

This is the really striking thing about the execution of Nick Berg. Al Qaeda never learns. Listening to the hooded coward shriek on that video and reading what he says can only remind us that these people are A) vile, B) as alien to true Islam as the KKK was to the Gospels, C) pathetic and D) dumb.

They think they terrify us by this? The gang murder of an unarmed, innocent civilian? And they think that it will add to the shame of Abu Ghraib, demoralize Americans still further and prompt a withdrawal? In fact, of course, the Berg beheading does a grim but salutary service.

In the midst of our own deserved self-criticism, we are suddenly reminded of the larger stakes, the wider war, why we are in Iraq in the first place. Americans do not in any way excuse Abu Ghraib, but also see that any sort of moral equivalence between our flawed democracy and Islamism’s pathological hatred is obscene. My gut tells me that the Berg video has had more impact on the American psyche than the Abu Ghraib horrors. It is a far more damaging self-inflicted wound to al Qaeda than Abu Ghraib was to the United States. Even Hezbollah has had to distance itself from its fanatical comrades. And the Arab street has been fed so many lurid lies about America in the past few years that it can barely be shocked any more.

In contrast, Americans may have begun to forget the nature of our enemy, so assiduously does our media concentrate on domestic scandal and war setbacks. But now we have been snapped back to consciousness. Bad news for the enemy. In a purely strategic sense, stiffening American resolve and inflaming American outrage at this juncture is exactly what a smart al Qaeda would avoid. But there is no such thing as a smart al Qaeda. Evil can sometimes be stupid, and often is. (Hitler, we recall, invaded the Soviet Union.)

For our part, we must not take the deeper bait, which is to associate these fanatics with Arabs or Islam as a whole. This is not a war against Islam. It is a war to save Islam from extremism and theocracy. And a democratic Iraq — not run by mullahs — is indispensable to that end.

Profiles in cowardice

Here’s the Boston Globe’s apology for publishing completely fabricated pictures of alleged GI rapes of Iraqi women, photos endorsed by the Nation of Islam, and images apparently taken from hardcore porn sites:

“Editor’s Note: A photograph on Page B2 yesterday did not meet Globe standards for publication. The photo portrayed Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner and activist Sadiki Kambon displaying graphic photographs that they claimed showed US soldiers raping Iraqi women. Although the photograph was reduced in size between editions to obscure visibility of the images on display, at no time did the photograph meet Globe standards. Images contained in the photograph were overly graphic, and the purported abuse portrayed had not been authenticated. The Globe apologizes for publishing the photo.”

“Not been authenticated”? And this is a paper crying blue murder for accountability in the Abu Ghraib fiasco. How about some real accountability at the Boston Globe?

Profiles in cowardice II

Here’s how the BBC described the video of the execution of Nick Berg: “His killers shouted ‘Allah is great’ before holding what appeared to be a head up to the camera.” What appeared to be his head? Who do they think Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is: Penn or Teller?

Right-wing hyperbole

“My mental state these past few days: 1) The Abu Ghraib ‘scandal’: Good. Kick one for me. But bad discipline in the military (taking the pictures, I mean). Let’s have a couple of court-martials for appearance’s sake. Maximum sentence: 30 days CB.” — John Derbyshire, in National Review Online, yesterday, rejoicing in the brutalizing of Iraqi prisoners.

“Kick one for me”? Is that a sentiment National Review endorses? I’ve seen conservative attempts to belittle the abuses at Abu Ghraib, but this is the first time I’ve read anyone actually endorsing them. For Mr. Derbyshire, the only problem with abusing, torturing and humiliating prisoners is that it might get out. Once again, the jaw drops.

E-mail of the week

“I just saw the Nick Berg video in its entirety. It is a case study in evil personified. These guys are cowards. They are creatures. After seeing this video I was initially shocked, scared and deeply disturbed. 30 minutes later though I was very, very angry. My view of Islamic terrorism is now set in concrete. These Islamists must be defeated. We need to take off the gloves. Every American should see this video to see the true nature of these Islamic terrorists. If evil ever infected anybody, it’s those guys murdering Nick Berg and posting it for everyone to see. I really feel extremely bad for Nick’s family. I wish I could give each one of them a big hug and say ‘I love you’ to them. I wish I could help them through this horror.”

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