Sunday, September 26, 2004

Netflix, Ala Iraq

According to our President, the people of Iraq "see a better future;" according to Laura Rozen, who links to this piece from the UK's Spectator, they also see a lot of beheadings -- on their home entertainment systems.

You might have thought that sitting down to watch a series of filmed executions would become tedious after the tenth unfortunate victim is dragged before the camera to be slaughtered like a sheep. After all, most of the characters do not change much. There are the hooded Islamic holy warriors standing to attention, as the charges are read out to the accused, usually a man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling and blindfolded on the floor before them. The sets are the same too, often a dingy cement backroom in a house probably on the outskirts of Baghdad. The build-up is tedious. A martial song in Arabic exhorts the faithful to fight and then the commander reads out a statement, often a hammy delivery that even a B-movie Egyptian actor would not get away with. But the closing scenes never fail to shock, no matter how often you witness the sight of a man gasping his last breath as his head is hacked off with a knife. After two or three of these savage episodes you begin to feel physically sick and somehow complicit in these terrible acts.

So why is it that the snuff movies, which are being deliberately distributed by the killers, are being snapped up in their thousands on DVDs across Iraq? A year ago Iraqis liked nothing better than buying illicit pornography or video footage of Saddam Hussein's henchmen torturing and killing their victims. It was assumed that this lurid fascination would wear off now that, after 40 years of state television, Iraqis have access to 24-hour satellite television.

But no, something more disturbing is at work here. In the latest video to hit the streets an Egyptian man, accused of spying for the Americans, is paraded before a camera and has his head severed in a matter of seconds by a powerfully built executioner. Before the murder the video shows footage filmed from the camera of an American warplane that fires a missile into a crowded street; and then pictures of Iraqi civilian victims of the fighting.

The unmistakable message, sent by the fanatical Tawhid wal Jihad (Unity and Holy War) group, is clear. All non-Muslims and even their Muslim collaborators deserve to be executed in the most brutal manner conceivable as punishment for occupying Iraq. A year ago most Iraqis would dismiss these actions as the work of fanatics bent on plunging the country into civil war. After all, the same group is responsible for blowing up the United Nations building a year ago and killing scores of Shia Muslims during their pilgrimage earlier this year in an attempt to spark sectarian strife.