May 12, 2004

Nick Berg

It is a dark and stormy night. That is, it's sixty-five degrees outside and there's no wind. Beyond the lights of the nearby houses I can see stars. This isn't, you'll note, the kind of storm that requires one to move the balcony furniture inside and grab a flashlight. It's a subtler variety.

It's stormy in my soul as I grapple with the murder of Nick Berg. I go up and down the scale of grief, from horror to anger and back again. I honestly half-believe I could go to Iraq right now, find these guys, and kill them with my bare hands. "Look, Ma--no gun!" My reason seems to have fled; I hope it'll come back soon.

Here's what I do know:

First of all, there's no real reason to think this had anything to do with the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib. This truly appears to be a crime of opportunity: I suspect the AQ operatives got the bright idea of mentioning the prisoner abuse issue before they shot the video. They suddenly realized they could paint this as vengeance for the excesses at the prison. You'll recall that this is only one in a long string of attacks on Americans and other Westerners, including 9/11, the murder of Daniel Pearl, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole . . . I could go on and on. None of the previous attacks were related to the actions of Americans in any way. These guys managed to capture an American, and there was a media circus going on, so they felt bringing that issue up would muddy the waters a little.

I believe the very same thing about their contention that they had been in touch with the U.S. authorities and offered to save Berg in exchange for Abu Ghraib prisoners: that truly appears to be another red herring. I don't believe the U.S. should bargain with people like this, but I don't think in this particular instance the attempt was even made by our friends in AQ. That line appears to be a way of trying to create a stress-fracture between men and women in the U.S. Or between those who support this war and those who think there are other, better ways to fight terror.

I also think that our friends in AQ are idiots. In those moments when my grief and anger ebb, I can almost laugh at how strategically stupid it is, with a group of photos circulating that embarrass the U.S., to release a video that makes your own cause apppear much, much worse than the Americans ever did their own.

The Arab street, much-maligned and written about in such patronizing tones by our friends in journalism, is not going to be turned on to jihad by this video: AQ will lose a lot of potential converts as the images get wider and wider circulation. No one is going to be fooled by people chanting about God as they murder an innocent man.


There is something that was said a lot about the jihadists after 9/11 that I kept remembering today as the awful news leaked in: these guys underestimate us because they have, fundamentally, no idea what we are about as a nation and--speaking of the Western World that still wants to survive (including England and Australia)--as a force of fucking nature. There seems to be this idea that an atrocity will make us flee. Wrong, Buck-O.

We are not the rich spoiled people you see on television. We are not the people of the obesity epidemic, who gorge on McDonald's food and never exercise. We are not the sex addicts, the beer men who go to strip clubs for a cheap thrill on a Saturday night. We're much, much more than that, and each time the jihadists try to prove how weak we are they will be dealt another crippling blow until they have trouble finding a goddamned Western kitten to kidnap and torment.

We are halfway done. Keep the faith.

The BBC story is here.
The Command Post piece, which supposedly has pictures (I can't get them to load properly).
The New York Times gets in on the action. And another NYT article discusses the Berg family's concerns.

And one more thing: if I hear one more comparison between the actual Abu Ghraib incidents and this murder--with us coming out ahead--I'm going to puke. You might as well say you live a moral life because you don't kill as many men (or fuck as many women) as Tony Soprano or his real-life counterparts: no one convinces anyone of their morality by comparing themselves with society's reprobates. Stop it.

Posted by Attila at May 12, 2004 12:46 AM

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic "Let the issues be the issue.

About Joy W. McCann: I've been interviewed for Le Monde and mentioned on Fox News. I once did a segment for CNN on "Women and Guns," and this blog is periodically featured on the New York Times' blog list. My writing here has been quoted in California Lawyer. I've appeared on The Glenn and Helen Show. Oh—and Tammy Bruce once bought me breakfast.
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