Fox News has performed the service of posting the horrific IS video depicting the death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh. The fact that media outlets have not made other IS videos available represents a breach of journalistic responsibility.
Citizens of a free society (surely no longer our own) have a duty to consider, analyze, understand, and criticize opposing points of view, including most especially those of their avowed enemies.
Without understanding the views of our adversaries, how can we resolve current conflicts and avoid future mistakes? The video is disturbing, but part of its horror is that Americans are deeply in need of disturbance.
The 20-plus minute clip is largely devoted to the Jordanian pilot’s account of the forces arrayed against IS – particularly those of its Muslim adversaries, such as the Jordanian government. Visibly bruised, and undoubtedly under extreme duress, Lt. al-Kaseasbeh provides details about the military contributions of participant states, including ordinance dropped upon IS-controlled territory.
Approximately five minutes of the clip purport to show victims of the air attack. Some of them are children. Bodies are burnt, mangled, and covered with debris. The point seems to be that the air campaign conducted by adversaries of IS has inflicted gruesome deaths upon innocents.
Lt. al-Kaseasbeh is then paraded before ranks of uniformed IS fighters. The fighters watch as the pilot tours urban wreckage evidently caused by aerial attacks. The scene cuts to fighters observing Lt. al-Kaseasbeh as he is confined within an outdoor cage that seems to have been placed amidst the rubble. A fighter holds a flaming torch and ignites a combustible (gasoline?), with which Lt. al-Kaseasbeh’s orange Guantanamo-style clothing seems to have been soaked. Lt. al-Kaseasbeh stands in composed dignity, and appears to look toward the sky in his final moments. The trail of flame quickly advances to the cage and ignites the pilot’s clothing. Consumed in flames, he staggers in agony, drops to his knees and burns for a horribly long time before collapsing backwards.
A front-loader extinguishes the flames by burying the corpse beneath a pile of rubble.
These events are a monstrous violation of humane standards and international codes. They deviate starkly from most moral systems. Yet, the clip is not without meaning.
The video means that IS leaders want the world to recognize the full horror of the actions that are undertaken against people on the ground in IS-controlled territory. Death by immolation means burning to death regardless of who starts the fire. It’s gruesome; and it’s all the worse when those who are burned do not voluntarily undertake the risk.
The video also means that IS officials want the world to consider the torture still inflicted upon innocents held without charge for more than a decade at Guantanamo. This too occurs in stark violation of humane standards, international codes, and American moral values.
Of course it will be observed that Jordan is among the states that are bombing IS territory BECAUSE of the horrific acts that IS previously has committed against so many of the people within territory that it has acquired. Jordan is bombing IS because it wants to put an end to IS horrors.
Yet it is also true that IS justifies its monstrosity in terms of the horrors that have been inflicted upon the people of Iraq and Syria, especially since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Without the American invasion, there would be no IS. These horrors would not be happening.
The United States started this chain of horrors, and now the US is powerless to end them. All that American meddling can do is to manufacture more Middle-Eastern horror, and more jihadists angry enough to pile on ever more horrors.
The immolation of the Middle East mirrors US moral decline. The Middle East is what we have made it. It reflects our desecration of those “American” values that once gave hope to the world and that once might have made the US truly great.
Any hope that remains for the Middle East must begin with Americans coming home to fix the moral and political morass of our own country.