May 13, 2004

"God is greatest" indeed

...A man, who identified himself as Nick Berg of Philadelphia (C) seated in front of his five masked captors moments before he was executed. Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq beheaded an American civilian and vowed more killings in revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, an Islamist Web site said on Tuesday. After one of the masked men read out a statement, they pushed Berg to the floor and shouted 'God is greatest' above his screams as one of them sawed his head off with a large knife then held it aloft for the camera.

The U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday the body of a U.S. citizen identified as Berg had been found in Baghdad. The official said Berg had no ties to the U.S. military or the Defense Department, but offered no further details.(Reuters Tv/Reuters) (Link)

This is what coalition forces are up against. National Guradsmen whose leave has been extended for two years end up getting burned alive by a mob and strung up on a bridge. Even non-military personnel, like Nick Berg, are routinely targeted and killed by Iraqui insurgents. In fact, civilian personnel are targeted more often because they are easier targets. "They're all infidels," goes their logic.

Their violence against our troops IN NO WAY justifies the inhuman treatment of Iraqui prisoners. I think that all of our nation and the world are united in disgust at the pictures of mistreatment that we've seen. The question has to be posed, however, if our mistreatment of these prisoners justifies them brutally sawing off the head of a civilian contractor.

The US is held to the highest standards of conduct by the world. Standards so high that only a handful of nations can even be reasonably compared. Every nation should strive to meet certain standards of conduct, such as not harming civilians and ensuring basic needs of occupied cities remain intact, and we as a nation do more to ensure that these standards are met than anyone else. Our military publishes reams of new rules every year, updating them as needed, and punish any who disobey them.

The problem is that while the world holds us to this standard, the people of Iraq and al Qaeda do not so much as consider standards of conduct for themselves. Insurgents have free reign to torture and kill reporters, snipe national guardsmen and burn them alive, and now, to brutally decapitate an American civilian. In the face of such brutality, we must maintain the moral high ground, and not sink to their level. This is not difficult to do, because most of us are born with something called a conscience. It's that little Jimminy Cricket or angel sitting on your shoulder that tells you not to do something because it's wrong. Unfortunately, it appears that these insurgents are not burdened by such a thing as conscience.

In the middle east, the reigning policy appears to be the "get-back." You did this to me, so I'll get you back by doing this to you. You got back at me by doing this, so I'm going to get YOU back for GETTING me back by doing this to YOU! Back and forth, since the dark ages, like siblings fighting in the back seat on a long trip. The get-back is what's important, it doesn't matter what started it all, or if you were justified, so long as you continue the Hatfield-and-McCoy tradition.

The real tragedy is that these insurgents and terrorist groups are usually small groups of extremists, and are not representative of their nations' population. small as they may be, however, these groups are usually so powerful that they hold sway with the countries' leaders, like cells of ultra-violent lobbyists. Some leaders are directly affiliated with such groups, others promise to keep the groups in check or mediate between them, but these extremist groups are as much a part of the politcal landscape in the middle east as political parties are in the States.

Most of these groups claim some religious affiliations, but these links exist mostly to provide some weak justification for whatever atrocities that they decide to carry out. The brutal murder of Nick Berg is case and point. The acts of decapitating a civilian and chanting "God is greatest" seems quite at odds with one another.

Of course, the translation of their chant changed "Allah" to "God", which is a mistranslation on the scale of JFK's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" (In which he mistakenly claimed to be a donut-like pastry, rather than a citizen of Berlin). Don't get me wrong, the Judeo-Christian God is just as often misquoted as Allah, and many atrocities have been carried out in each of their names (The Salem Witch Trials, The Crusades, the "christianizing" of the Phillipines, etc. ), but any citizen of the middle east will tell you that they are far from the same thing.

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