Bigley and his Killers

The decapitation of Mr. Bigley at the hands of the jihadis in Iraq has provoked remarkable angst among the news media and other enlightened persons.

Wretchard quotes and analyzes a Mark Steyn column that the Telegraph did not have the testicles to run. (Read Wretchard and Steyn if you haven’t already.)

David Warren wrote:

[A] friend, who watches TV, notes some expostulation by a CNN correspondent, who said that with the death of Mr. Bigley, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, “has blood on his hands”. This, my friend adds, is the moral and intellectual equivalent of asserting that Winston Churchill started the Holocaust.

Similarly, the routinely awful Andrew Greeley recently wrote:

If you support the war; if, with the president and Kerry, you want to ”stay” the course, the next time you see the bodies of children strewn about a street in Iraq, ask yourself if their blood is not on your hands

Note well: Fr. Greeley says that you, dear reader, murdered those children, if you support George Bush, if you won’t admit defeat and advocate abandoning Iraq. Fr. Greeley needs a refresher course in moral theology. But he is alarmingly typical.

Watch for more of this. If you oppose the jihadis, if you don’t give in to their demands, you have blood on your hands.

This is not just moral cretinism. It is the Left’s new approach to seeking the defeat of their political enemies at home, and whether intentionally or not, in the process, the defeat of the West. All crimes committed by the Jihadis will be defined as the fault of those who resist. All crimes of the jihadis will be held to be the fault of the West and its leaders because we have not surrendered fast enough. The suicidal impulse at the heart of modern liberalism, long ago diagnosed by James Burnham, in the Cold War context, is still there, a dark festering sore at center of the soul of too many people in the West. More than that, it is a weak spot in our defenses, an opening to our enemies which threatens us all.

I look at Zarqawi’s face. I don’t see derangement. I see commitment, asceticism, intellect, self-sacrifice, even courage. He is willing to take on the United States, the Superpower, in his view, the Great Satan. He is not a coward, or a fool. I don’t think he is even irrational, as Wretchard calls him. Zarqawi is calculating means to ends very astutely.

Zarqawi wants the West driven out of the House of Islam, first, and then he wants the West conquered in its turn for his God. The first of these ends is achievable and he is working to bring it about. He may succeed. The second I’m sure he believes is as inevitable as the turning of the seasons, and will come in its due time.

Zarqawi’s ends are evil, but he clearly and sincerely believes that God himself is on his side. So, like the martyrs of old, he fears nothing and will dare all as a result. Faith-like-iron is a force multiplier. “Give me ten men who are stout-hearted men / and I will soon give you ten-thousand more.” Men like Zarqawi, and Osama bin Laden, have the power to draw to themselves many, many followers.

I tried to ask myself an honest question. I thought, what if I were still basically myself, but a Muslim? Would I would support these men? Would I try to join them, even? If I loved Islam as much as I love America and Catholicism, and I saw them repeatedly defeated and degraded and humiliated, and I thought this was the only way to vindicate and defend what I loved against its enemies, would I be with them? I had to answer yes, probably I would.

The only hope we have to prevail in this struggle in some reasonable amount of time and at some cost less than catastrophic, is to utterly crush these men, and visibly, and permanently, and soon. That is the only way that the faith of their followers in them and their cause will be broken. This course will require abject ruthlessness. We aren’t there yet. We are not yet waging war. Not really. Not in our minds and hearts, or not most of us anyway. To most of us it is still all a spectator sport. The war is a “war”, a metaphor. Even Bush is not yet where he needs to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m voting for Bush. Kerry is hopeless. Kerry thinks this is like rounding up a gang of drug dealers. He’s a fool. Zarqawi and those like him will always defeat weak and deluded men like John Kerry. Bush, at least, is aware there is a war of some kind going on. That is something. It is a lot. It may be enough.

Zarqawi may prove to be a foe worthy of the mantle of Vo Nguyen Giap or Mao Zedong or even Saladin. He may yet deal America a humiliating defeat. He may yet turn Iraq into a monumental-scale Mogadishu. We may yet see those who trusted us, and whom we have betrayed to their fate, clinging to the helicopter skids as we pull out of Baghdad.

Zarqawi is playing the West like a violin with these media displays, like Bigley’s murder. He knows our weaknesses. He understands us well. But we don’t understand him yet. He is successfully exploiting divisions within his enemy’s house. These events are tactical victories for his cause. They may yet add up to strategic victory.

Zarqawi and those who fight and murder with him may yet win.

24 thoughts on “Bigley and his Killers”

  1. Nice post Lex. Agree with you about Greeley, he is beneath contempt. I have tried several times to contact him, respond to his rants with rational argument, all to no avail. He is truly a coward. I have had a few verbal run-ins with priests since before the start of the war. I posted the details of one, where Father Gullible related how during a tour of post-Gulf War Iraq, Tariq Aziz and his band of merry men had been such great hosts. How the U.S. had killed 500,000 thousand Iraqi children through sanctions. How little we all knew of the true story. Fools.

  2. Thanks, Andy.

    I literally think Greeley is getting senile. But on this issue I think he is showing his deepest beliefs. He is desperate to see the United States defeated in Iraq. He is like many older Lefties who were war protesters during Vietnam. They think the United States is the most dangerous actor in the world and that it stands for an evil system, capitalism, and only military defeat will deter it from going abroad and slaughtering people and doing evil. This view is impervious to facts or evidence. It is a deeply rooted sentiment among such people that any enemy of the United States is to some degree good and to some degree an ally. To these guys the USA is the boogie man.

  3. “If I loved Islam as much as I love America and Catholicism, and I saw them repeatedly defeated and degraded and humiliated, and I thought this was the only way to vindicate and defend what I loved against its enemies, would I be with them?”

    Lex – are you saying that Zarqawi is defending Islam? To a vast majority of Muslims, Zarqawi’s brand of Islam – or rather political goals dressed as Islam – is an alien concept. Zarqawi is the embodiment of “Muslim Brotherhood” ideas in action. When I was a child in 1970’s Afghanistan, the very word brotherhood in Arabic (ikhwan) meant a bully under a religious flag.

    Sulaiman (formerly “A Dogwasher”)

  4. Suleiman, short answer: No.

    Longer answer: I’m saying he claims to be defending Islam, and I suppose he really believes that he is. And I’m also saying that he is being aggressive and violent about it, and that he is responding to perceived injustice, and that is going to appeal to a lot of people who feel like they are being pushed around and want to push back, and who see no one else doing it, and see no other leadership. So he is stepping into a vacuum. Also, he is adept at getting media coverage and exploiting it, so he at one and the same time scares people into silence and reaches every young guy with a chip on his shoulder in the whole Muslim world. And Al Jazeera has made him a rock star.

    I always hear that a vast majority of Muslims reject his approach. I believe this. Common sense and observation and first-hand reports all confirm it. But even 1% of a billion people is a huge support base for an army of terrorists. I think most ordinary Muslims in most countries are afraid to speak up. They are intimidated. That is why this guy Zarqawi needs to be crushed. If he can get away with this for a long time then many people are going to imitate his approach and millions upon millions of sensible Muslim people are going to bet that keeping silent is a good way not to get your throat cut. The vast majority of Muslims need to get control of their governments and their societies so that a guy like this cannot claim to speak and act for them, or even stay alive outside of prison very long.

    Anyway, even while I agree with your point, I suspect that among the vast majority of people who don’t approve of Zarqawi, a plurality must feel, at some level, that at least he is teaching those arrogant Americans a lesson, however deplorable his methods. I am saying that I can understand how this could happen, that it is not too much of an intellectual stretch to see it.

  5. I hope we can catch Zarqawi, but won’t aother just take his place?
    Fighting this brand of terrorism is like the war on Drugs we have been fighting for what almost 30 years! Another war we can’t when; the drugs aren’t the problem, the addicts are.

    Find the conditions that create and support Zarqawi and men like him, and change those conditions, then you will begin to defeat them.

    Take the profit out of drugs, and authorize the cure for the addiction, Ibogaine, and you can begin to win the war on drugs.

  6. “…but won’t aother just take his place?”

    I have never believed this. The number of warrior souls is small in any population. Dealing a crushing defeat to him and his kind will empower the many who don’t approve of him and his approach, demonstrate the futility of the approach, and strip his cause of its boldest and most committed leadership.

    I don’t think it is analogous to the war on drugs. There will always be a desire to get high. Alternatives are usually just other ways of getting high. There need not always be a desire to be a suicide bomber or a televised head-chopper-offer. Lots of people won’t support this approach and empower people like Zarqawi if the stick of annihilation and futility is coupled with the carrot of the prospect of a better life. Insurgencies can be defeated. Killing the leadership is a big part of that. So, no there won’t always be another one.

  7. Nice post, Lex.
    But besides being deeply depressing, it leaves me with questions.
    I know what Zarqawi believes (not that I understand on the deepest level, but it doesn’t seem all that mysterious – he seems to believe with the simplicity and purity of a true believer). I also know what most of my friends (and the bloggers here generally)believe. The religious ones may believe it with more authority and a more precise definition, but all of us respect the dignity of man. We believe in (I suspect would see our greatest purpose in life to pass on these values to our children) respect for a set of values that have been slowly defined and will continue to be defined but that make up, well, Western civilization. We believe in transcending our tribalism.

    What I don’t understand (except in terms of the strong pull of death, of the abyss, of emptiness) is what those like Greeley believe. These are people that have apologized for a series of regimes that had no respect for the human nor for the religious. I realize Greeley is a priest – what kind of dissonance rings in his mind? (And not just now, in his old age?)

    And have we lost our ability to define those values (of freedom and respect and dignity) to such a degree that we can be seduced by the nihilism at the core of people like Greeley and the CNN announcer? What else can that be but nihilism?

    Whatever Bush’s faults may be, I think he recognizes not just that we must protect ourselves, but that we have something worth fighting for–something real and solid.

  8. “he seems to believe with the simplicity and purity of a true believer”

    That is how it seems. I look at his face, and that is how it seems.

    As to Greeley, et al., and the “strong pull of death” and nihilism of the supposedly intellectual and sophisticated, one of these days I really will do a review-essay on Burnham’s Suicide of the West. It is more relevant than ever 40+ years after it was published. As to his priesthood and what it means, I leave that to him and to God.

    Shared beliefs. Yes. The West and what it means, at its best what it means, what it aspires to and sometimes achieves. Freedom, the dignity of man, the universality of these values, preserving them, defending them, passing them on. Not irony, not cynicism, not Derrida, not “liberty”, but liberty, the rule of law, democracy, order under law, respect and neighborliness and civility, simple ordinary common and priceless things. And a great part of the West for 2,000 years: Christendom, love for neighbor, love for God, duty, sacrifice and devotion to the good of those God has placed in your care. This too, without apology. And amity and good will toward anyone, Muslim, or anything else, who is willing to live in peace as a neighbor. That’s the vision. Zarqawi is its enemy. Dodge City isn’t big enough for the both of us. He and his kind have to go. They love death. That should make it easier.

  9. Presuming that the anti-American agendists succeed in suborning America unto [“justified”]Socialism and Socialist OWG/GlobGovt, ala 2015-2020 by the LeftNet, what makes Nations like France, or orgs like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, so certain that STILL COMMUNISM-CENTRIC RUSSIA-CHINA WILL ALLOW THEM TO GO ON BREATHING UNDER NOW GLOBAL DEMOCRATIC CONFEDERATISM, WO ANY FORM, HOWEVER BENIGN OR SEVERE, OF REGUL OVERSIGHT??? All Americans had better enjoy these years between 2004 – 2015/2020 – these could very well be the last years and decades of Western-style democratic- and trad confederatist freedom in the World, before world societies realize they’ve duped and exploited by the Failed Left and plunge the globe into myriad Civil Wars and World Wars, anarchy and darkness! * DR FEELGOOD, aka HOW I LEARNED TO WORRY BY NOT USING “THE BOMB”, as I advised the Reagana and Bush 1 admins!

  10. Zarqawi may prove to be a foe worthy of the mantle of Vo Nguyen Giap or Mao Zedong or even Saladin. He may yet deal America a humiliating defeat. He may yet turn Iraq into a monumental-scale Mogadishu.

    I strongly disagree, Lex.

    He can make mischief for a while, but there is no way for him to rise above that.

  11. Well said Lex. I live in Britain at the moment and much of the media coverage here of Ken Bigley’s ordeal has been deeply disturbing, implicitly (and occasionally explicitly) blaming Tony Blair and Jack Straw for what has happened. I fully agree with Mark Steyn on this. It reminds me of what, for me, was the darkest moment yet in this war: the catastrophic and shameful Spanish election result. I then felt not only disgust, but fear that too many of us in the West lacked the understanding and resolve to know our enemy and fight accordingly, and fear of outrages taking place on the eve of elections the US, Britain, Australia, Poland, Italy etc.

    But I was given heart by this weekend’s election result in my home country, Australia: not just victory for the conservatives (confusingly for Americans, the conservative party is called the Liberal Party – but it’s more in the classical liberal sense), but an increased majority. The Labor Party’s pledge to “pull out the troops by Christmas” was a transparent and grossly irresponsible appeal to the “Spanish” vote in Australia. It was also opportunistic and unprincipled, as Labor is generally sensible on security issue. I am immensely relieved that this appeal seems to have given Labor no advantage whatsoever.

    Speaking personally, I voted against Labor for the first time in this election, and I can’t see myself going back.

  12. I suppose it’s never a good idea to underestimate your enemy but I see too much of the Mythical Afghan Warrior in your estimate of Zarqawi’s potential. The conventional thinking at the very highest levels in 1998, following the embassy bombings in Africa, was that the USA could not successfully project power into Afghanistan. The embassy bombings were as much an act of war as 911. The 1993 WTC bombing was as much as act of war as 911. The most significant thing that changed between 1993, 1998 and 2001 was the will to confront the enemy on our terms and on his home turf. By any historical standard the transformation of Afhgnanistan from medieval fiefdom to nascent democracy in three years is amazing. Even the former king registered and voted!

    Beneath the grime and soot the MSM throws on Iraq the evidence on the ground is that democratization is progressing on schedule and that the great majority of Iraqis are willing participants. Problems do not equal failure.

    Three cheers for Mark Steyn. He has stopped excusing the appeasers and the defeatists. People like Fr. Greeley should be metaphorically slapped not discussed. Either our way of life is worth defending or it is not. I say it is and I am not alone.

  13. Thanks Lex for putting this into words.

    And putting them into words helps us see more clearly. Words give us heart – especially because cynicism is quite attractive in its tone of superiority, futility. Cynicism breeds a reaction opposed to Bush’s “hard work.” The problem is that those that preach nihilism have pulpits (figurtively in the classroom and from the msm; literally in many churches).

  14. Lex, You seem to be leaving out one of the major actors; Iraqis. Poll after poll shows support for a pluralistic, democratic, secular government.

    What’s needed is time and willpower. Time after time I’ve listened to ‘the end is nigh’ prediction and each time my response is the same; wrong. This is a war of attrition right now. The Iraqi anti-insurgent forces are multiplying in numbers and daily gaining in confidence and self confidence. A small number of people are creating a lot of death and havoc at the momnent but the balance is tipping away from them, not towards them. Each day that passes the terrorists find themselves a little more isolated and a little more embattled. There is no popular support for them. If we stay the course and stay strong, like the Iraqis, we’ll prevail. We’re doing the right things, it’s just going to take time for tide that’s building to wash over and drown the insurgents, just as it finally has in Afghanistan.

  15. What Zarqawi is likely to “win”, is a face on a sweatshirt, to be worn by wannabe radicals, like a Che t-shirt. Of course, he will have to be a martyr to qualify, which can certainly be arranged.

  16. Ralf, I hope you are right. But a lot of people on the Left want it to be Vietnam, and want us to suffer a humiliating defeat.

    Sylvain, your point is well-taken, and I concur as far as it goes. Murdering a captive does not take courage. But that is merely a tactic. What does take courage is going to war against the United States. One day, most likely, a 1,000 lb GPS bomb is going to come through the ceiling, or the troops are going to surround the house and shoot their way in. He chose to go that route, to embark on a course that leads to almost certain death. I don’t really even respect this guy, but I think we do ourselves a disservice and fail to understand the power of what this guy is doing, presenting himself as David standing up to Goliath, if we use the phrase “cowardly terrorist” too glibly.

    Ginny, we will preach against nihilism in and out of season, rain or shine, Hell or high water.

    Charles, Peter, Michael and Robin, thanks for weighing in.

  17. Lex, there is a difference between dismissing or a threat and its alleged leader, and talking up his supposed courage and commitment when it’s imaginary.

    I disagree on the power of what he is doing. That has no basis in fact. Because we created that. Al-Jazeera and western media made this figure and his “power”, one sensational, shuddering news bulletin at a time. Who knew or cared about Zarqawi and his “power” before we gave it to him ? No one.

    A psychopath demands attention for his maniacal murderous fantasies, we supplies oodles of it and we wonder why he and his cohorts keep doing it ? Some even send him foreign ministry envoys with suitcases of cash.

    Had we kept Nick Berg under wraps, had all governments involved refused to negotiate with these sick fucks, would this abject nonsense go on ? Unlikely.

    Alternatively, should al-Jazeera or a western network broadcast this (click at your own risk), again and again, how “popular” and powerful and courageous and committed would that make Zarqawi and his so-called “resistance” movement ? Would that work as a recruiting video ?

  18. “Al-Jazeera and western media made this figure and his “power”, one sensational, shuddering news bulletin at a time.”

    I agree. But that is the point. That is how the war is waged these days. The main front is the news media and Western public opinion. This man Zarqawi is leveraging trivial material power into remarkably large actual power and influence because he is appealing to the world through the media, using it, with their compliance, as a megaphone. By creating “videos” of his murders, he is making himself the Madonna of Islamofascist terrorism, and al Jazeera and CNN et al are his MTV.

    “A psychopath demands attention for his maniacal murderous fantasies, we supplies oodles of it and we wonder why he and his cohorts keep doing it?”

    Again, exactly right. Oodles of attention is what the news media is going to give this guy because he gives them great images which “work” in terms of production values and telling the story that the Western media wants to tell — that we face implacable and psychotic enemies who will stop at nothing, so we should give up.

    My wife used to work for newspapers. What gets on the front page is driven by whether you have a good photo. News = good photo. Similarly, what gets on TV is driven by whether you have “good” video footage. Zarqawi provides exactly what the media needs and wants: striking video images which grab viewers. They give each other what each needs. The media get a story they want to tell packaged in a way that they can use, Zarqawi gets global publicity for his cause.

    Clausewitz said you must strike at the enemies center of gravity. The center of gravity in the West is public support for the war on terrorism. The best way to degrade and defeat that is to take advantage of the news media’s need for spectacle. What the Vietnamese communists stumbled on during Tet 1968 has now been refined into a technique by Arab terrorists. Where we disagree is that this guy is “maniacal” or a “psychopath”. I think he is a master of show business, who produced video theatre which is brilliantly calculated to get maximum media exposure, to strike fear into comfortable westerners and to appeal to the fringe elements who are drawn to this kind of thing, and to intimidate any more rational opposition within the Muslim world.

    Zarqawi is not a raving madman. He is a calculating enemy who is using the means at hand to advance his cause.

  19. I don’t believe Zarqawi to be in control of his media exposure anymore than al-Qaeda expected the twin towers to collapse. And, in a way, his power and reach are out of his hands and in those of both the media and the audience. Remember when the roadside bombs were front page news ? Nobody cares today.

    As for his most powerful images, they’re never shown on TV. They are merely talked about. He is a common psychopath. There is nothing courageous, clever or especially orginal about anything he has done. Sending videos of hostages was done in Lebanon in the 80s. It’s only a small step to execute trough the same medium.

    In the short term, it matters. It doesn’t follow that the guy has any relevance to Iraq; Allawi or Sistani have followings. This guy is a rabid thug on a rampage. Anyone who has actually watched any of his videos to the end knows there is nothing there beyond medieval bestiality; I don’t believe for a second this stuff is appealing to millions as “courageous” or “committed” or any way respectable, even in the Middle East. That’s pure intellectual nonsense to me.

  20. Sylvain:

    I don’t think he appeals to millions. The number of people who will be drawn to this is necessarily small. Thousands, maybe, will be attracted to this. Many more will at least see him as striking a blow against America and the West. Did you see the article about how videos of the murders are very popular among young Muslims in Britain, who are sending these images to each other on their cell phones? Sad if true. But if fits with my notion that Zarqawi is a “rock star” of sorts, nor respecable, but popular in a disreputable “rebel” or “outlaw” sort of way. That sort of uncommitted sympathy may be shared by millions. And I do think he does intimidate millions, or he will if he and those like him appear to be winning.

    I think our essential disagreements are two. One I think he is intelligently operating a strategy, you seem not to. I think he is pretty effective in operating that strategy, with the public response in Britain to the Bigley episode as exhibit A. you, I think, do not believe that his strategy is effective, if he even has one.

    One way we could find out the answer to the first point would be if he were captured alive and interrogated, or put up for a public trial, and we would see if he were coherent or raving. Fortunately, I think he’ll eventually be killed and not captured alive. As to the second, time will tell whether he is effective. I hope you are right and that his approach is not effective in rallying opposition to the USA and its allies. I hope as you seem to that there will be a countervailing response from the vast majority of sane and decent Muslims. For now, I think they are probably afraid to say much of anything in most places they live.

    It is interesting to me that you are usually the person who is pointing out the serious nature of the insurgent challenge we face in Iraq against any simple-minded optimism, particularly against any idea that the mere application of military force will lead to victory. This has made you something of a contrarian on this blog, more of a pessimist about the ultimate outcome in Iraq, but your posts taking this position have certainly helped to prevent us from falling into “groupthink”. But on this particular detail I seem to be taking this position more than you, which is odd.

    I agree with the person who said Zarqawi’s likely final destiny is to end up on a t-shirt, like Che Guevarra.

  21. On a related subject I was astounded to hear Mr. Kerry include the staged beheadings in a laundry list of reasons why military involvment in Iraq (as per Bush Admin.) was a bad thing, a mistake.

    Pretty effective propoganda when the propoganda is given as a reason for action or inaction and possibly indicative of the intellectual depth of Mr Kerry.

  22. Lex, it depends on what you think his goal is. If you think it’s relative popularity among fellow thugs and like-minded travelers, then yes. He has achieved his goal and has built his own franchise.

    And then what ? What does he want to do with it ? What can he do beyond being a painful parasite wherever he happens to be ? What is his network except an radical Islamist version of organized crime ?

    We do face serious opponents in Iraq, and it ain’t easy. But while he’s quite visible, I don’t think Zarqawi is the main one; the likes of al-Sadr can create, and have created way more mayhem Zarqawi ever will. The likes of him are parasites who can only fester in the right environment; organizations like his could not be sustained in more stable environments, even in the tough neighborhoods of those young muslims who have even less brains than balls.

    Focusing on him is, I am afraid, a confusion of cause and symptoms, not unlike chasing flies above a garbage dump.

    But he certainly is a valuable indicator, to the extent that his ability to operate and elude us proves this kind of fish has plenty of water to swim and move around. However, there is little evidence to show he controls the currents, the depth, or the tides.

    Unfortunately, we don’t either. We’re still learning to swim.

  23. “The only hope we have to prevail in this struggle … to utterly crush these men….. This course will require abject ruthlessness.”

    Absolutely correct and what I have been saying, almost since September 12, 2001.

    My analogy is “The Godfather” and it pains me to say it. Not only must we destroy the active members of the “resistance”, but it will probably require reaching deeply into the “family, clan, ethnic group and religion in that order” to truly cleanse the world of this menace.

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