June 14, 2006

Zarqawi's body.

An argument against returning it to his family.

50 comments:

Tibore said...

Z's family is calling him a martyr? I thought they disowned him after the bombings in Jordan. Have I missed something here?

The Drill SGT said...

smart move is to punt it to the Iraqi's via the local morgue. Let them take the heat.

unmarked grave in the desert works for me though.

Peter said...

Achilles returned Hector's body in the Iliad. I'm not suggesting Zarqawi is Hector, but for thousands of years it's been the ideal of civilized warfare that you treat the enemy dead with respect. I think we should should try living up to our ideals.

Goesh said...

Let the family do with him as they will, IF they can foot the bill. It is tempting to get sadistic and vicious about this but if the family wants to rent a refridgerated truck and haul him back to Jordan, so be it. We killed the bastard so we can at least let his family cart him back home. Who knows, they may encounter an IED on the way home. I can't imagine Jordan allowing his grave to become any kind of memorial. They will probably confiscate it saying they need to confirm themselves with their own forensics that it is indeed the infamous Z man and then keep him on ice for 10-15 years.

jeff said...

Hmm. They want to claim him?

Would they also like to claim responsibility for all his victims? I can see a lot of fun lawsuits arising out of that one.

Personally though, on a strictly vengeful note I prefer to make him pig fodder.

Terri said...

Peter:

Achilles returned Hector's body, but not after dragging him behind his chariot around the walls of Troy three times and dragging him back to camp for a few days. Poor King Priam had to go to the Greek camp in the middle of the night to beg for it back.

Perhaps that is not the literary analogy we should be using here.

Bruce Hayden said...

Actually, it might be interesting. Zarqawi is Sunni, and that brand of Islam does not believe in shrines or the like - and that is a big part of the Sunni/Shiite schism. Indeed, apparently Saudi kings are buried in unmarked graves for this precise reason.

So, let them bury him in a marked grave, and then let them turn it into a shrine. Then ask, how is this any different from what the idol worshiping Shiites do?

Balfegor said...

Achilles returned Hector's body, but not after dragging him behind his chariot around the walls of Troy three times and dragging him back to camp for a few days. Poor King Priam had to go to the Greek camp in the middle of the night to beg for it back.


Achilles' behaviour in this instance represents something like the opposite of civilised conduct. A more recent (and perhaps more directly comparable) example of such barbarity might be Kitchener's treatment of the Mahdi's corpse. In revenge for what was done to Gordon's body, he had his troops blow up the Mahdi's tomb, take out the body, burn it, and then chuck the bones into the Nile.

Even Churchill was not entirely supportive of that.

We shouldn't deny Zarqawi's family the body of their son. TNR's editorial here seems to me like the "banality of evil," writ small -- niggling, pragmatic, bureaucratic justifications for an act which is actually quite monstrous.

Actually, it might be interesting. Zarqawi is Sunni, and that brand of Islam does not believe in shrines or the like - and that is a big part of the Sunni/Shiite schism. Indeed, apparently Saudi kings are buried in unmarked graves for this precise reason.

I'm not sure how universal this is. The Ottoman Sultans were, to my knowledge, Sunni (distinguished from the Shiite Shahs of Persia), but there are certainly marked graves and tombs and whatnot for past Ottoman Sultans.

Wickedpinto said...

Secret ingredient on Iron Chef.

I bet he would be prepared with a lot of pork, that would just be poetry.

And we can invite all kinds of psycho, anti-american/war libs to be the celebrity tasters so that they could "Grokk" the injustices Zak suffered.

Wickedpinto said...

Peter said...
Achilles returned Hector's body in the Iliad. I'm not suggesting Zarqawi is Hector, but for thousands of years it's been the ideal of civilized warfare that you treat the enemy dead with respect. I think we should should try living up to our ideals.


Hector was returned by achille's because Hector fought honorably, and his father made a plea for the body, at the risk of losing his own life.

The surrender of Hector's body was not a symbol of the humanity of Achilles, but rather it was an expression that only honorable men can understand the pain and suffering of war.

In fact, the only reason Achilles captured Hectors body was to defile Hectors body in the way that Petroclos' body would have been had the trojans marched off with the body they believed was achille's prior to his identification.

Bad comparisson.

Bruce Hayden said...

The Ottoman Sultans were most likely Sunni, so you have a point. But al Qaeda is strongly Wahhabi, which is fairly strict Sunni. Zarqawi made any number of disparaging remarks about the Shiites, many of which would seem to fall close to al Qaeda doctrine and the Wahhabi view of Shiites.

Tibore said...

Whoops. Sorry, all. I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't return the body. In fact, I think the opposite, that we should make the attempt. I was simply questioning the original article the professor pointed out, where Z's family demanded the body and proclaimed him a martyr; I'd thought that said family rejected him and wanted nothing to do with him anymore. If the article is accurate, then I'm obviously wrong.

Then again, it might be a large family, with members on both sides of that argument. I just don't know enough to know what the real story is. But everyone: Does anyone remember any stories about his family or individuals in his family rejecting him? I could've sworn I saw stories about that on CNN.com or MSNBC.com somewhere.

Simon said...

This is a lot of fuss over a lack of imagination. Cremate him and return the ashes to the family, which entirely obviates the concerns Hunt suggests.

Richard Fagin said...

His severed head should be put at the top of a pike and paraded through Baghdad, like Mohamed Ahmet, "the Mahdi" did to Chinese Gordon in Khartoum. Then maybe the nasty buggers wil get the message we ain't a foolin'

altoids1306 said...

Goesh, I don't understand you. Are you the same person who posted this comment?

Goesh: "There is nary a tear shed for the young wife and the child killed along side of zaqawri. He sawed off heads, we disintegrate with bombs and claim to hold the moral trump card in it all."

The apparent change of heart is encouraging, but I'm just curious as to why.

Peter said...

Yes, Achilles did defile Hector's body after returning it to Priam in response to Priam's begging for it. But the reconciliation expressed when Achilles and Priam sit down together and eat is at the heart of Homer's resolution of his theme, announced in the epic's first line: Achilles "wrath." Any half-intelligent reading of the Iliad would recognize that Achilles' defilement of Hector's body was the damaging, out of control result precisely of his wrath (or, as some would have it in this context, his sense of vengeance), and that he can only return to the society of his fellows after his return of the body and his reconciliation to the niceties of civilized conduct.

We brandished his body like a trophy. That was disgusting too. Aren't we better than all that?

Peter said...

make that "before" returning the body to Priam. sorry.

Internet Ronin said...

Peter:
We brandished his body like a trophy.

Who did? We did? A picture provided as proof that he was, in fact, dead, constitutes "brandishing?" Interesting.

I have noticed that you seem to enjoy opining darkly about some supposed transgression of American society, usually concluding with some line similar to Aren't we better than all that?
In the instances I've noticed you doing this, my answer would be "No," not because we aren't but because whatever you imagine to have happened, or about to happen, generally hasn't. And won't.

P. Froward said...

Peter,

If we hadn't published photographs of Zarqawi's body, people would be claiming we hadn't gotten him. You'd most likely be among them.

Grow up.

tjl said...

Balfegor said,

"Achilles returned Hector's body, but not after dragging him behind his chariot around the walls of Troy three times and dragging him back to camp for a few days. Poor King Priam had to go to the Greek camp in the middle of the night to beg for it back."

Achilles went to such lengths to show dishonor to Hector's body not because this was the normal practice in Homeric combat, but because Achilles was consumed with grief for Hector's killing of Patroklos, Achilles' beloved companion and probable lover.

When Priam came to beg for the body of his son, Achilles realized that they shared a bond of grief. He not only returned the body, but allowed a truce so that the Trojans could give Hector his due rites. The last line of the Iliad is "Such was the funeral of Hector, breaker of horses."

Zarkawi, who blew up schoolchildren and sawed the heads off living hostages, does not deserve any respect for his remains beyond an unmarked grave. The Homeric story illustrates the respect due those who try to behave honorably according to the codes of behavior known to them. Such was not Zarkawi, to say the least.

Balfegor said...

TLJ: Actually, I was quoting Terri, above.

Zarkawi, who blew up schoolchildren and sawed the heads off living hostages, does not deserve any respect for his remains beyond an unmarked grave. The Homeric story illustrates the respect due those who try to behave honorably according to the codes of behavior known to them. Such was not Zarkawi, to say the least.

Perhaps. I think it was simply that Achilles' grief made him act like a savage. The "shared bond of grief" you talk about simply helps pull him back into the pale of civilisation.

Whether our enemy is a barbarian or a civilised man shouldn't affect our treatment of his body when we have killed him -- dragging Hector thrice around the walls of Troy would have been a barbaric act even if Hector had tortured Patroklos to death, and been himself beyond the bounds of civilised behaviour. Similarly, I, at least, am revolted at what was done to Andronicus I, say, or to Mussolini, even though both were responsible for atrocities when they were alive.

While we (at least, our government) have not proposed gibbeting Zarqawi's body in this fashion, pour encourager les autres, it still bears pointing out that we shouldn't, even if our feelings incline in that direction. And even when a man is gibbeted, don't we return his body to his family after the punishment? I mean, where practical (as it is not always practicable).

He should be returned to his family.

Steven said...

Look, return the body. Then, on Arabic-language media, make a point of it, that we respect the grief of his family, and that since he's going to be punished by Allah for his crimes, there's no need to take vengance on his body.

Will the propaganda work? Maybe not. But we'd still have done the right thing.

the pooka said...

Am I the only one out here who's noticed that the proper time for a Muslim burial is long passed? Frankly, it's a measure of our ignorance that we (a) waited so long to give his body to his family, while (b) performing an autopsy. (And, FWIW, the cremation suggestion above is, from the perspective of Islam, just as repulsive as the Iron Chef one).

The rest of the world will start believing that we're better than animals like Zarqawi when we start acting like it.

MadisonMan said...

I'm guessing that Peter is referring to putting the picture of dead Zarqawi in a nice frame, and matted too! There was an interesting piece in the WaPo on that, tying it to the practice of packaging the war, gussying it up and all. I can't find the link at the moment, but it's out there in blogland.

His (Zarqawi's) body should be returned. Ideally, it should be given over to Iraq, but I'm afraid the Iraqi government might lose it.

Balfegor said...

The rest of the world will start believing that we're better than animals like Zarqawi when we start acting like it.

Er, I missed the part where we sent masked men through the countryside to abduct people and saw their heads off. And then deposit the bodies in ditches by the side of the road.

Balfegor said...

Er, I missed the part where we sent masked men through the countryside to abduct people and saw their heads off. And then deposit the bodies in ditches by the side of the road.

Oh! And videotaped it. For release to the public. As propaganda.

Jennifer said...

MadisonMan - I thought the military treated his picture that way as a form of respect for the sake of PR. Guess it just goes to show that we'll all see what we want to see.

Pogo said...

Zarqawi does not deserve it, but his human body deserves some measure of respect, regardless of his inability to show any.

A stoic, wordless delivery to his family is sufficient, and the less said about it the better. His supposed religious beliefs and customs are moot and irrelevant; it would be mockery to pretend they mattered given his actions.

Tibore said...

"The rest of the world will start believing that we're better than animals like Zarqawi when we start acting like it."

Easy, man. The worst you can say about missing the window for burial is that we were negligent. That's bad, but it's way far removed from being deliberately disrespectful, let alone barbarous. The fact we haven't desecrated his body or staged a press conference and photo-op around the autopsy table is enough to show the world that we're not acting like animals.

paul a'barge said...

We brandished his body like a trophy No, we didn't. We published pictures of his face.

I've scoured the media and I've consistently seen one picture, that of his face, the minimal picture you could publish that would prove that indeed we whacked him and got the right guy.

I've read exhaustive textual descriptions of the bodies and the place of death, but have seen not one shred of evidence of brandishment.

Now, that of which you have accused us is neo-slander. You've made your accusation. Back it up with links, or apologize immediately.

That was disgusting too

You know what is disgusting? Someone who would accuse his own culture of barbarity without a shred of evidence to back it up.

I repeat myself. Prove it, document it, back it up. Or, shut up.

Aren't we better than all that?
Wow. You're talking about the monster who cut off the head of Nick Berg while Nick was alive, filmed it and broadcast it.

You have a strange sense of how to measure "better."

Shame on you.

Jennifer said...

The fact we haven't desecrated his body or staged a press conference and photo-op around the autopsy table is enough to show the world that we're not acting like animals.

Tibore, I would make one correction: should be enough to show the world that we're not acting like animals

Tibore said...

Thank you, Jennifer. Yes I do see your point: Others may not choose to see things that way, so they'll interpret US actions as insufficient.

In spite of that, and in all due respect to your comment - I understand what you were trying to say - I want to deliberately avoid rewording it. Why? Saying "should be" allows for other's opinions, whether well informed or not, to shade any judgement on whether our treatment was not animalistic or barbaric. But declaring that we "have" done enough is asserting that our actions have in fact lived up to our own expectations. We didn't drag him through the dirt hooked up to a HMMWV. We haven't disfigured his body post mortem in disrespect, nor have we painted or written any crude drawings or statements on his corpse. And as I said, we haven't done any sort of photo op of him on a slab or wheeled him in on a dolly for all to see. In short, by our standards, we haven't disrespected his body. Saying "is enough" rather than "should be" is, to me, a much more assertive statement: We did do enough. Regardless of what others may think.

Please don't view this as being combative about what you said, Jennifer. I'm not trying to argue with you. I'm merely taking the opportunity your comment provides to expand on my thought, that's all. I don't disagree with the spirit of your post, which was a joke about the fact that others will choose to disbelieve US intentions. I'm just saying that it doesn't matter to me what those others believe. Thanks for the opportunity to work out how I feel!

Jennifer said...

Tibore: As you said, I was pointing out that, unfortunately, many people do not believe we are taking the high road.

But, no, you are absolutely right. We have done enough regardless of perception. Thanks for laying that out so clearly.

Simon said...

"FWIW, the cremation suggestion above is, from the perspective of Islam, just as repulsive as the Iron Chef one"Beggars can't be choosers.

"There is nary a tear shed for the young wife and the child killed along side of zaqawri. He sawed off heads, we disintegrate with bombs and claim to hold the moral trump card in it all."We are willing to accept civilian casualties as a necessary but regrettable part of a war strategy; they consider civilian casualties to BE a war strategy. The two can hardly be compared or suggested as moral equivalents.

Kev said...

Pooka: "Am I the only one out here who's noticed that the proper time for a Muslim burial is long passed?"

Sorry, but calling Zarqawi a Muslim is an affront to all peaceful Muslims the world over (I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here as to the "religion of peace" thing at the moment; your mileage may vary). This guy was one of many nutjobs who hijacked a religion to commit evil. Let's never forget the difference...

Elizabeth said...

We are willing to accept civilian casualties as a necessary but regrettable part of a war strategy; they consider civilian casualties to BE a war strategy. The two can hardly be compared or suggested as moral equivalents.

Those are just two different rationalizations. The civilians are no less dead for our regret. At some point I care less about the morality and more about outcomes. Our motives won't help us win the support of civilians who decide they have reason to fear us.

the pooka said...

Sorry, but calling Zarqawi a Muslim is an affront to all peaceful Muslims the world over...

Hm. Well, I'm one of those peaceful Muslims, and I wasn't affronted. Nor was my wife (also a relatively peaceful Muslim, except when it comes to pigeons).

My original point was merely that I can't see any down-side to the U.S. trying to be completely above reproach in matters like this. And, to my mind, that ought to include some measure of awareness about the dictates and traditions of his family's religion.

Kev said...

OK, Pooka, that makes sense to me. (And LOL about the pigeons...)

Daryl Herbert said...

Sorry, but calling Zarqawi a Muslim is an affront to all peaceful Muslims the world over

You should be sorry. Apologize some more. That's always a mark of intellectual excellence, to begin a post with an apology.

Nobody ever says, if an atheist commits some crime, then he's not really an atheist, because that would be unfair to all of the other atheists.

"Oh, sure he robbed a bank and shot a woman, but he's not really an atheist, because atheists are cute and cuddly Stalinists. No, he's must be a Christian!"
< < < this is not said often

If someone believes Mohammed is God's last prophet, and that it's okay for a 40-year-old prophet to [marry] a 9-year-old girl, then he's a Muslim. I'm not "sorry" for saying so. If you accept Islam, you're a Muslim. End of story.

In fact, the Koran itself says anyone who says they're a Muslim and basically holds Muslim beliefs is a Muslim and that it's wrong to question this. But you have no problem violating Islamic law, given that you're... not a Muslim.

Balfegor said...

"We are willing to accept civilian casualties as a necessary but regrettable part of a war strategy; they consider civilian casualties to BE a war strategy. The two can hardly be compared or suggested as moral equivalents."

Those are just two different rationalizations. The civilians are no less dead for our regret. At some point I care less about the morality and more about outcomes.

If they're different "rationalisations," they at least conform well to our moral intuitions. We see a significant moral difference between killing in the heat of battle, and killing in cold blood; between intentional murder with malice aforethought, and vehicular manslaughter. Sure, we can reduce that to a formula where a person dies here, a person dies there, and it comes up even, but that's excessively reductionist. Unhelpful.

Our motives won't help us win the support of civilians who decide they have reason to fear us.

I think motives are quite important here, because to the extent we communicate them accurately (and this is an area where we have failed, I think, and send extremely mixed messages, partly because of our "open" society) they should be feeding directly into peoples' assessments of whether they have reason to fear us.

Zarqawi's tactics, to the extent they are derived from the usual set of terror tactics, were predicated on randomness -- like the DC area sniper, the victim population's sense of dread and powerlessness is enhanced by the thought that there is nothing you can do as an individual to fend it off -- no change of private opinions or activities will save you, only a submission by people beyond your immediate control. This is the sense of helplessness and fear that Michael Moore showed, for example, when he complained that New York didn't vote for Bush, so why did they have to get hit? As such, Zarqawi's effectiveness in driving "popular" results relies (relied) on his being feared by the entire population, and a consideration of his motives should lead the population to hate him (and fear him, of course). Oderint dum metuant, as they say.

To the extent the population understand that our actions, in contrast, are non-random (because our tactics do not rely on randomness and unpredictability, but aspire to precision) that should have an effect on their decision whether they have reason to fear us.

On the other hand, whether they fear us or not is, I think, largely independent of whether they hate us. They could hate us even if we are saints -- pride might make them hate us more, then, out of the humiliation implicit in all colonial situations: the anxiety that outsiders may be able to govern and defend you better than you yourself can. That might land us in the worst of all possible situations, where we are hated, without being feared. And I think this may be part of our problem today. But that has little to do with the question of civilian casualties.

Rachel Friedman said...

We did not need to show the photo of his corpse. I consider doing so disgusting. Others disagree, but it's hardly slander to express disgust at the celebration of ANY death and disgust when the corpse (or even just a photo of the corpse is displayed to the world. Was the photo necessary proof of death? Of course not. First, given digital technology, it's pretty unconvincing proof. Second, Al-Qaeda in Iraq acknowledged the death. Want to prove the death? Show the body to reporters (without releasing photos-as with dead U.S. GI's), and return the body to his family.

Just do the right thing, for god's sake.

Smilin' Jack said...

Of course Zark doesn't care what we do with his body, so whatever is done is just ceremony.

So, what is the appropriate ceremony to mark the passing of something like Zark, in a society that truly values human life? Feed him to the pigs.

Elizabeth said...

Balfegor,

I agree that fear and hate are not necessarily connected here. I am also not saying that there is no difference in our motives, only that motives do little to change the experience of fear. Iraqis have reason to be afraid of random kidnappings, murders in the street, bombings, all from al-Queda, and from the clashes b/w Sunni and Shiite. But they also fear getting shot at an ill-marked roadblock, or being in the way of a firefight, and in other circumstances. Our motives in accepting, however reluctantly, civilian deaths as collateral damage, don't matter in the big picture of one who might become that collateral damage, or who has lost loved ones as collateral damage. War is ugly; motives aren't sufficient to assuage that ugliness.

jeff said...

Rachel,

The Iraqi's didn't believe we'd gotten Uday and Qusay until we showed x-rays of one of their legs, showing the results of some known prior injury.

The "headshot" was very necessary - after all, what's the first thing every single reporter in the world would say if we'd announced his death without the accompianing phots?
"Show us."

tjl said...

Elizabeth sid:
"War is ugly; motives aren't sufficient to assuage that ugliness."

Of course war is ugly, Elizabeth, we can all agree on that.

Can you propose an alternate, aesthetically pleasing way to stop those who share Zarqawi's methods and goals from forcing their dark-ages rule on the rest of the population?

Elizabeth said...

tjl, stick to the topic, which is about motives and responses in the issue of civilian deaths. Don't build a little strawman pacifist out of my remark.

tjl said...

Elizabeth-

Actually, the topic was not civilian deaths, but whether Zarqawi's body deserved any modicum of respectful treatment.

Elizabeth said...

tjl, you're still not paying attention. The post of mine that you quoted was part of an ongoing subtopic on civilian deaths.

Carl H said...

Although no good American will condone AMZ's tactics, we have to remember that he is a combatant commander in this war. We are bound to our own morals and international laws of war to respectfully return the remains. It was unfortunate but necessary that we publish pictures of AMZ's body to prove that we got him. If we did not he would live forever, along with Jimmy Hoffa, Hitler, and Elvis.

If at anytime you feel we should do anything other than respectfully return the remains to his family, think about how we would feel if AQI had the remains of General Casey or other Flag Officer- the equivalent to AMZ. Failure to return the remains of our soldiers fuels our fire, but when that soldier is returned home it is still with Military Honors. If it was a General, it would be an unprecedented home coming.

If returning his body motivates those who despise us already, so be it. If we do anything other it will still fuel those who hate us and likely create a spark to ignite more hatred towards us.

We are bound by the morals of our society to treat his remains with respect and do what we would expect to be done with one of our fallen heroes- even though our Islamic enemy will never regard him as a fallen hero- or even as a brave soldier.

The fact that these Islamic fighters do not respect international laws of war will ultimately be their Achilles heal. The only way they will ever succeed is if they gain the support of the international community. They will not do that by violating international laws of war which are based on the inherent morality of mankind. We must do the right thing and accept the fact that his death will inspire some of his followers. We must continue to set the example of civilized warfare as difficult as it mat be.

Dan said...

What's to talk about? take the body back to the US, wrap it in pig skins and preserve it in a block of solid clear plastic and place in a museum for all the free world to celebrate the elimination of something truly evil.