Friday, June 18, 2004

Real versus ersatz beheadings

It is useful to contemplate the difference between what a real beheading looks like (or at least the results of one), and what a fake beheading looks like. The difference largely comes down to blood. If Islamic fundamentalist terrorists held Nick Berg, why would they go through the charade of a fake beheading? Wouldn't they either kill him and just announce that they had done so, or, if they wanted to be spectacular, behead him for real? On the other hand, if Berg had seen something he shouldn't have while up a radio tower at Abu Ghraib and died, either accidentally or otherwise, at the hands of Americans, a faked beheading makes perfect sense. The Americans authorities at Abu Ghraib may have been sitting in the middle of a torture scandal with an unexplained dead American on their hands, with rumors that he had been in American custody. A fake beheading takes the blame away from the guilty parties, and provides both a distraction from the torture scandal and a further demonizing of Iraqis so right-wingers can continue to think that torturing these 'animals' is not morally wrong and is probably necessary to protect the lives of people like Nick Berg. Republicans in the United States can then stifle discussion of the torture scandal by insisting that such discussion puts the lives of Americans in danger. The perpetrators of the Paul M. Johnson Jr. beheading, whoever they may have been, were kind enough to make the connection explicit.