Saturday, September 25
Beheadings, its aftereffects and historical perspective -- [part 1]
Jang Newspaper Group, Pakistan, September 25, 2004

NEW YORK: Insurgents in Iraq have commandeered a modern medium by bringing decapitation videos to the Internet, making an ancient punishment a 24-hour news cycle’s shocking message of defiance, one that effectively both sows terror and shows off to the young Islamic men the militants are trying to recruit.

"What they do is behead Americans so they can get on the TV screens," President George W Bush said on Thursday. "And they’re trying to shake our will and they’re trying to shake the Iraqis’ will."

That much is certain. But behind the mix of brutality, adeptly produced video and a free global distribution system, the militants are tapping into a network of fears many centuries old, and blending the ancient with the modern to create a freshly powerful method of communication.

Since journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded on video in Pakistan in 2002, the taped decapitation of kidnapped Westerners has become a staple of post-Sept. 11-shock value.

The past week in Iraq has been particularly striking. Two Americans and a Briton were abducted from their Baghdad home last week, and the Americans were beheaded and their slayings shown on graphic videos posted on the Internet.

The Briton was shown in a video Wednesday pleading for his life. And in a departure from ancient practice, when executioners were usually hired hands at least one of this week’s beheadings was carried out personally by a hooded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda-linked militant who has spearheaded the insurgency in Iraq.

"The fate of the first infidel was cutting off the head before your eyes and ears,’’ an al-Zarqawi follower said on tape after American civil engineer Eugene Armstrong was decapitated. Then, on Thursday, a militant group claimed in a Web posting that two Italian women abducted in Iraq had also been beheaded. No video evidence immediately surfaced, and neither claim could be verified.

Commentary from American news outlets has focused on the primitiveness of the execution method ("Butchers, " said the New York Post; "Savages," said the New York Daily News). But the videos themselves _ complete with full-motion graphics and scene fades exude sophistication. [ ... more]

Hey, excellent website. A great Iraq resource is Deaths in Iraq. It breaks all of the casualties down by age, race, branch of the military, country, etc.
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