Preposterous Universe

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Just another murder in Iraq

In case anyone was wondering what kind of barbaric inhumanity is operating under the rubric of Islamic fundamentalism, we have the murder of Margaret Hassan.

Hassan, Irish by birth, married an Iraqi man more than three decades ago, and had devoted her life to providing aid and comfort to the people of her adopted country -- first during the tribulations of Saddam's regime, and then through the difficulties of the recent war. One month ago she was kidnapped by an unknown group on her way to work at Care International. A hue and cry was raised by her many supporters throughout Baghdad, where billboards with pictures of Hassan were posted throughout the city, asking for information about her whereabouts. But Al-Jazeera has now aired a video of a hooded man shooting a blindfolded woman in the head; authorities claim that the woman is Hassan. Just one in a long line of innocent dead people.

And, again just to be clear: no, incidents like this do not justify the war in Iraq. Precisely the opposite; the war has stimulated incidents like this, not prevented them. The obvious culpability of Hassan's killers doesn't excuse the obvious stupidity of the war she found herself in the middle of. Instead of fighting terrorism and fundamentalism, we fought a misguided campaign against an ugly but contained secular state, and thereby gave the terrorists a new theater in which to operate and endless new material for their recruiting brochures. Young angry Arabs aren't seeing the video of Margaret Hassan's execution, they're seeing a scared Marine killing a defenseless Iraqi cowering in a corner. (The Marine's actions were in flagrant violations of the laws of war, but to be honest I can't judge him; who knows how I would act if I were being ambushed and shot at in a hostile country.) We're going to be dealing with the horrific fallout of this monumental screw-up for generations to come. What a stupid useless disgusting mess.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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