Dyab Abou Jahjah
The horrible scenes of the Da'esh terrorists burning the Jordanian pilot alive are still haunting me since I saw them yesterday. I had to watch the video, just like most of you I could not ignore it. Burning someone alive, is something that we all thought belonged to the dark ages in Europe, when witches were put on the staple by zealous mobs. We barely got used to beheading, and now they come with this I thought. While watching it, there was a moment when I looked away, I couldn't bare anymore, but then I forced myself to watch again, I wanted to witness the horror, I wanted to let the anger rise inside of me, and it did.
But this is not the end of the story, this is not even the beginning.
The thing with anger is that it stops you from thinking. It dominates your senses. I was wondering why I was so angry. Is it because they do that in my name? Not just the name of Islam, an important part of my identity, but above all, in the name of my grievances as an Arab and a Muslim. In the name of the injustice that the Arab regimes inflict upon their peoples, that "Israel" inflicts upon Palestinians and others, and that the west inflicts upon the Muslim world and by extension the rest of the third world.
I was also angry that they force me to sympathize with a pilot serving a regime that is a repressive tool in the hands of Israel and the USA. Just like it was a tool in the hands of British colonialism before them. I do not want to sympathize with him, not with his king, not with his corrupt regime. But I did, and that angered me.
In the argumentation of Da'esh in the propaganda video that preludes the macabre execution, they make the link between the pilot burning them with his bombs and the fact that they set him on fire. Sure, the pilot was not throwing chocolate bars from his F 16, he was throwing shells of fire. But does that mean that the deed against him is justified? To make things clear, the Jihadi's do not see the pilot as himself only, they project into him a whole history of carpet bombings and massacres executed from the air, out of western air-crafts, whether manned by Arabs, Israelis or Westerners.
It all starts in the 1920's (Rif war, Maysaloun battle, Libya rebellion, Iraq rebellion) and goes into the 40's with the Nakba, then to the 50's and 60's (Suez, Algeria, six days war), then the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 reaching to 1991 and desert storm, to 2003 and the illegal war against Iraq that opened this hornets nest.
All true massacres, with in total millions of civilian victims ( in Algeria alone France killed more than a million, in the Rif war Spain and France together used chemical weapons that were dropped from the air killing thousands and still having an impact on the population there today) . All these losses, all this pain that is still very much alive in the collective memory of Arabs and Muslims was inflicted by Air Force, western air force, or western proxy air forces. All resulting in people burned alive in their houses, in their cars, in their shelters. In Lebanon in 1982, buildings were flattened by the Israeli Air Force, causing the death of hundreds of civilians including children. They were either burned or buried alive. Just last summer, in Gaza, "Israel" showed us again how to attain a new level of perfection in the cowardly art of slaughtering people from far, with remote control. For the remote control killer, people are then only dots on a screen, and for the Media just numbers that help assess the success of a combat operation. However, for the people who survive such attacks, or who witness them from near, the smell of blood and burned flesh is as real as it gets.
Yet, killing a prisoner, burning him alive, is a more barbaric act than shelling people to death from far. I am not being sarcastic, I really believe that it is more barbaric. First because it goes against the code of war, every code of war. You do not kill prisoners, and you do not torture them. These are war crimes. Just like killing civilians intentionally is a crime of war. You can kill civilians as long as your intention is not to kill them. You can even be reckless and bomb their homes after asking them to leave few minutes before, kill them all, and get away with it. Or you can claim that you were taking fire from within, behind, above or under that house, hospital, or even ambulance, and you can then bomb everybody in it to pieces and get away with it. If you need lessons in this, you can always ask the Israeli army to train you.
But executing prisoners, burning them, beheading them is more barbaric. It does not abide by laws and rules. It is more barbaric than carpet bombing, it is even more barbaric than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All these acts were methodical, industrial, surgical, and well targeted. They were all civilized, products of western civilization, they were not barbaric because they were quantified, and well communicated.
Just like the genocidal drift of western colonialism in Africa and in the Americas, that massacred millions of people was not barbaric and was civilized. Even the Holocaust is rarely referred to in western intellectual production as an act of barbarism. It is merely a flipped coin of western civilization. A manifestation of it, albeit an evil one. And this is where I come to the main question here: If an act is more barbaric does it therefore mean it is more evil? Were the Apache braves scalping cowboys more evil than the men they killed and who were implementing ethnic cleansing and genocide in their land? Were the few African tribes that reacted to colonialism violently and sometimes rebelled and slaughtered white colonial agents more evil than colonialism itself?
What I hate the most about Da'esh is the same thing I hate the most about their enemies, and that is the evil of oppressing human beings and enslaving them , deporting them, or killing them, one way or the other, with or without gloves, from nearby or from far, in a barbaric or in a civilized manner. Evil is evil, and it is on both sides in this conflict, and we are all stuck in between. May God save us all from evil, whether it is barbaric or civilized.