Tuesday, May 09, 2006

SO FAR I HAVE FOUND ONLY TWO BLOGGER VOICES challenging the oceans of self-righteous and self-serving, hypocritical, racist screeds against "Islamofascists" that have been flooding the blogosphere in the wake of a London Times article about the February torture and murder of Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat: The Heretik and Maha.

[See Update below.]

The murder happened back in February; the video of the murder, apparently filmed by Bahjat's killers with a video-equipped cell phone, surfaced only last week. I have not watched the video; nor do I plan to. I have read some text descriptions of what was done to her; that was enough for me.

Not so for right-wing bloggers, who have been linking to the video (and I will not link to it) and urging readers to view it. The only purpose in doing this is to squeeze every drop of propaganda value out of the graphic depiction of the extremely cruel and sadistic manner in which Bahjat was murdered -- and by that I mean that the Right Blogosphere is cynically using Bahjat's unimaginable suffering to whip up war fever and racist hatred against all Arabs and Muslims. You only have to note the term these vile people use to refer to the vile people who murdered Bahjat: Islamofascists. Not Iraqi National Guardsmen, or Sunni insurgents, or the Shiite Badr Brigade, or Zarqawi's Al Qaeda -- although the killers could be from any one of these groups, as Maha points out:

... [I]t's not at all clear who the murderers are and which side they are on. The murderers appear to be wearing Iraqi National Guard uniforms, but of course the uniforms could have been stolen. The Sunni insurgency supplied the video but claimed they found it on a cell phone captured [by or] from the Shi'ite Badr Brigade.
Anything is possible. They may have been Sunni insurgents or even Al Qaeda. But they just as easily could have been from one of the Shi'ite militias -- groups our little maladministration in Iraq unleashed. The Shi'ites and Kurds are the people our troops liberated from the Sunni Saddam-supporting Baathists, and the Shi'ites dominate the new government George W. Bush is so proud of.

Joe at The Heretik has some choice words for certain high-profile bloggers on the right who ignore the carnage in Iraq until they have a video of a journalist being beheaded that they can use as war porn to serve the cause of demonizing the "enemy" (see the first and fourth comments -- by Rosemary and drjohn respectively -- for examples) and sanctifying the "good guys" (that's us, of course):

These terrorists or insurgents alone are the brutal ones. Apparently. We have to know the enemy for who he is. So says the wise one. And we have to be careful.

True, there is a fine line between "war porn" and the dissemination of information.

There's a video out, so there must be some war porn. Let's not talk about the graphic porn. But let's talk about the graphic porn if it fits our beheader of the month fetish. As if there isn't other violence perpetrated upon journalists and civilians all the time. The wise one uses this occasion to talk about Bahjat. He's never written about Bahjat until today. Neither has Malkin. Journalists have been killed with great regularity in Iraq as they do their jobs. Bahjat believed in a unified Iraq, her gold locket a testament to her belief. Now we are told not to look away from her death. Is her death a part of the greater jihad against the west by Islamofascists? Or is it more a story of the brutal sectarian violence, revenge, and retribution in a land sundered from civility? And how is it all the people decrying the death of Bahjat in the video missed the story when it happened back in February? The shock of the beheading of Bahjat will be used by people now who didn't care too much for Arab journalists before.

It will also be used as a way to trivialize the well-documented horrors committed by Americans in the "war on terror"; as well as a cover for any atrocities or violations of legal or human rights the Bush administration might commit in the future. It's already being used that way [Emphasis mine]:

I really don't think some truly understand this. They have no trouble asking how much better we are then them, but don't stop to actually see the differences.

Sure, we have capital punishment, it may not be pretty, but we don't run around, or allow others to run around killing their own at will. Here you have an exact example of that where a group of people ran out, and for no reason, killed a woman. No one arrests them, no investigation, just left free to find another target and murder again.

Defending acts like this is stupid and pointless. Yes, we've had our moments of torture incidents and such, but those guilty were brought before the law and punished according to it.

With them, they kill, and nothing acts against them, and now people sit back and make excuses for it. [Comment on Mudville Gazette by Chris, published May 8]

Put another, and more honest, way: They are evil and subhuman by nature. Their horrors are worse than our horrors, by definition. Even when it might seem that "we" are doing terrible things, "they" are always going to be worse than we are. The terrible things "we" might do are very limited in scope. They are aberrations, the work of a few bad apples, the exception to the rule. And we always punish the people who do these things and then they don't happen again --or if they do, they are aberrations, the work of a few bad apples, the exception to the rule. And we always punish the people who do these things. And then they don't happen again. Or if they do. ...

See what happens here? By defining "the other side" as inherently depraved, we give ourselves permission to go to any extreme. We give ourselves permission to commit acts that would horrify us if we did not have this satanic enemy to measure our own deeds against.

To me, that is the scariest and most dangerous aspect of this whole thing.

UPDATE: It now appears that the London Times fell for a hoax. The victim in the beheading video was not Atwar Bahjat; it was a Nepalese man who was murdered by the Army of Ansar al-Sunna in August, 2004. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette refers to a Wikipedia entry that he says links to photographs of Bahjat's corpse that in turn prove that her body was intact. I could not find those photographs in the Wikipedia entry or linked from the Wikipedia entry; but I confess I did not knock myself out trying to find them, because I really have no wish to see the video or the photo. The violence and cruelty they depict is all too real, no matter who the victims are. The only certainty is that the violence will continue and get worse until we understand, and begin to act on the understanding, that violence is a cycle that feeds on itself -- literally.

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