Whilst beheadings are undoubtedly savage and brutal the fundamental problem is that they are terribly old-fashioned. Today, civilized nations blow people up, obliterate them with drones, riddle them with bullets, and execute them with chemicals cocktails. Many of those killed with hi-tech weapons die slowly in excruciating pain, their bodies ripped to pieces. But this is somehow okay since it is the modern way and done from a distance – however savage, brutal and indiscriminate the results. Most of the weaponry involved comes from the guardians of peace and democracy in America and Britain, with average cost-per-kill running into tens of thousands of dollars per “insurgent,” millions by some estimates.
The drums of full-spectrum war are beating once again, stimulated by outrage and hysteria over this single video. Bearing in mind the fallacy of WMD it would behove us to see this war-worthy video but no, we are banned from doing so, with the mere viewing of it in the UK declared a potential terrorist act. Let me tell you right now that no execution takes place in the video, which is 4 minutes 32 seconds of propaganda. The other eight seconds of the video show a small knife being pressed against James Foley’s throat without drawing blood or cries of pain, then shifts to a prone headless corpse (or mannequin) with a severed head sitting on its chest looking almost as realistic as those in movies and TV series. James Foley may well have been killed, but it certainly did not happen on camera. Many who have viewed the video comment on the absence of copious blood, the green screen look, the omission of a neck on decapitated “body” or head, and even differences between the face of this James Foley and the one we see in previous television interviews.
If journalist Foley is reading from an Islamic State script, then he does so without notes and appears to have spent considerable time rehearsing IS’s message to the world. He doesn’t falter or show any sign of fear and included messages to his family and his brother, a serving air force pilot. It is a crude but effective piece of propaganda and with the “execution” edited out is far less gruesome than the killing of innocents we see in other Islamic State actions, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Syrian civil war, and even the cold-blooded shootings by US police in Ferguson and elsewhere. It may sway the minds of young Muslim men looking for purpose and excitement, with its twisted message being no more distorted than some of the blatant mendacity fed to us by our media – mendacity that led to phony wars killing over a hundred thousand innocents. Though difficult for a Westerner to find online (check LiveLeak), it must be easy for those searching in the Arab-language web.
The banned video is, of course, the propaganda of an evil and despicable group who have beheaded thousands of men and children, putting their heads on sticks, and abducting their wives and mothers. I despair at the appearance of this gruesome new player on the world stage; a player armed with the latest US hardware and rich with billions of US dollars seized in Iraq. For those who make the arms, of course, this is all good for business, as they effectively supply both sides in the conflicts of the Middle East. They will be rubbing their hands all the way to their bankster backers.
Responding to the beheading, Obama tells us emphatically that “no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” Correction Mr President, your faith does. Let us briefly dip into the Bible, believed by fundamentalists of Judaism and Christianity to contain the indisputable word of God. Muslims credit this too, except for those bits that differ from the Quran. Perhaps this selection from Deuteronomy will help us better understand both the mentality of the Islamic State and that of fundamentalist Christians in the US who see themselves as players in catastrophic events visited upon the Holy Land and predicted by the Bible.
Deuteronomy 13:12-16 New International Version (NIV)
If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt.
If we seriously want to neutralize the threat posed by Islamic State then let us join with the well-organized forces of President Assad of Syria, a secular leader. It was Western efforts to bring down his government through aiding its Islamist enemies that gave new wings to Islamic State, originally born out of the turmoil in Iraq. Their brutal slaughter of innocents appalls me, whatever means they employ, as does the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and wherever factions fight for ownership of the right to take money from a nation’s people and tell them how to think and what to do. It’s the same old stuff that has been playing out on the world’s stage since Sargon of Akkad started the ball rolling around 2250 BCE.
Is there anything we really cannot manage without a top-down coercive state running it, other than protecting us from other varieties of themselves? Many are rightly concerned about corporations running the state, though one could argue that it might be preferable to being ruled by fundamentalist Muslims of the Islamic State, or a military junta, or the sort of Christians who burn heretics. But as long as we accept the state as some kind of a “necessary evil” then somebody will always be calling the shots and we will always be arguing over whether we prefer cat shit to dog shit to chicken shit.
There is another way and we already self-govern the majority of our social structures. Civilization preceded, by a few thousand years, the top-down state that Sargon initiated, and has often survived its collapse. Humans are good at self-governing when they are well-connected, doing it with feedback loops instead of threats and sticks.