Monday, April 05, 2004

The War: The Barbarity in Fallujah

Mark Bowden examines the psychology of last week’s barbarity in Fallujah in today’s Wall Street Journal:

Lynching is deliberate. It is opportunistic rather than purely spontaneous, and it has a clear intent: to insult, to challenge and to frighten the enemy, and to excite and enlist allies. The mutilation and public display of bodies follows a distinct pattern. The victims are members of a despised Other, who are held in such contempt that they are considered less than human. Respectful treatment of the dead is the norm in all societies, and a tenet of all religions. Publicly flouting such basic dignities is a communal expression of hatred designed to insult and frighten. Display of the mutilated remains must be as public as possible. In Fallujah they were strung high from a bridge. In Mogadishu, where there were no central squares or bridges, the bodies were dragged through the streets for hours. The crowd, no matter how enraged, welcomes the camera--Paul Watson, a white Canadian journalist, moved unharmed with his through the angry mobs in Mogadishu on Oct. 4, 1993. The idea is to spread the image. Cameras guarantee the insult will be heard, seen and felt. The insult and fear are spread across continents.

The other message at a lynching isn't as obvious. It is also an appeal. It is a demonstration of potency designed to sway and embolden those who are sympathetic but fearful. It says, Look what we can get away with! Look what we can do! The sheer horror asserts the determination of the rebel faction, and underlines the seriousness of the choice it demands from its own community. It draws a line in the sand; it is a particularly graphic way of saying, You are either for us or against us.
In reply to Iraq's barbarians, I vote against.

Bowden contemplates an accounting for those so viciously attacked:

The rebels in Iraq who ambushed those American security workers in Fallujah ought to be hunted down and brought to justice, but they are not the only ones responsible. The public celebration that followed was licensed and encouraged by whatever leadership exists in Fallujah. Whether religious or secular, its insult, warning, and challenge has been broadcast around the world. It must be answered. The photographic evidence should be used to help round up those who committed these atrocities, and those who tacitly or overtly encouraged it. A suitable punishment might be some weeks of unearthing the victims of Saddam Hussein's mass graves.
Bowden is far more chartable to the enemy then I would ever be.

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