The Pointless Death of David Johnson
In the grim calculus of death and mayhem in the Middle East, the videotaped beheadings of Nick Berg and Paul Johnson are somehow supposed to count as “told you sos” for the prowar right wing. The brutality of the killings, coupled with the grisly footage thereof, are supposed to elicit disgust, not just for the men who murdered these men but by extension to the Iraqi resistance and Muslims in general.
Obviously the murderers are first and foremost to blame. But a share of the responsibility also lies at the feet of those who have made America so despised throughout the world: presidents, policymakers and spooks past and present. They made “American” a dirty word. They made Americans targets.
It’s also true that Mssrs. Berg and Johnson took a risk by, respectively, traveling to the active war zone of occupied Iraq and, in Mr. Johnson’s case, working in Saudi Arabia—a nation ruled by a widely despised U.S.-puppet dictatorship under siege from internal dissidents and outside Islamists. Having a risk go bad doesn’t make one responsible for the consequences, but the risk should be acknowledged. Both men would be alive today had they chosen to work in stable, democratic nations.
Johnson’s killers are naive if they believe that Americans or their Saudi puppets will release prisoners or alter any of their policies in response to his beheading. Ditto with the Al Qaeda group that killed Berg. Americans are revulsed by these deaths, but they don’t change anybody’s minds. Supporters of U.S. foreign policy under Bush view the deaths as confirmation that Arabs are inhuman; opponents see them as further indicators that we should act to become less reviled.
As we consider these gruesome murders, we should consider them on par with the gruesome murders of 800+ American servicemen and women and close to 100,000 Iraqi and Afghan civilians and soldiers killed during Bush’s two wars. Bush’s hands are dripping with their blood, just as surely as the men who drew the knives across Berg and Johnson’s throats. They’re all tragic; unnecessary and pointless. The difference is that their deaths aren’t on tape.
And even if they were—as we see in the case of the still yet to be seen Anu Ghraib videos—the American media wouldn’t broadcast them.