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May 8, 2006
Courage And Cowardice (Updated and Bumped)

Please see Update III below -- the identification in the London Times was incorrect.

The London Times reports on the final days of Atwar Bahjat, an Iraqi woman viciously murdered by terrorists of one type or another for her courage in reporting on events in her native Samarra. Bahjat, a television reporter for al-Arabiya television, had built a following for her work in covering the violence in Iraq until kidnappers abducted her while a group of Samarrans did nothing to assist her. Bahjat's body was found later along with those of her cameraman and sound man, and the presumption was that she had been shot to death.

Not so. In fact, Bhajat experienced the worst of the terrorist depravity in he final moments, made clear when a video recording of her execution was sent to her family:

First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.

Then her arms were bound behind her back. A golden locket in the shape of Iraq that became her glittering trademark in front of the television cameras must have been removed at some point — it is nowhere to be seen in the grainy film, which was made by someone who pointed a mobile phone at her as she lay on a patch of earth in mortal terror.

By the time filming begins, the condemned woman has been blindfolded with a white bandage.

It is stained with blood that trickles from a wound on the left side of her head. She is moaning, although whether from the pain of what has already been done to her or from the fear of what is about to be inflicted is unclear.

What is painfully and disgustingly clear is the cowardice of the "men" who brutally tortured Bahjat. The Times gives entire gruesome description of her last conscious moments. Without a doubt, the perpetrators used Bahjat to indulge the darkest impulses of their souls, sending her to death in an orgy of violence that defies description. The use of adjectives of any kind cannot possibly do justice to the horror of this murder.

It reveals the cowardice and evil at the heart of terrorists, no matter the cause. When a cruelty grows too banal for them, they come up with ways to increase the depravity. These sick and disgusting cowards use a woman in the most grotesque manner possible, and then send off the video to her family. Of course, their pride doesn't extend to revealing their identities on the video so that they can actually take responsibility for their cowardly cruelty. This is the measure of the terrorists that have declared war not just on us but on liberty wherever it appears. The terrorist groups are nothing but a club for craven sociopaths and psychopaths that use religion as an excuse to get their sick, twisted kicks.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Bahjat and the other journalists who try to cover Iraq by getting into the towns and villages where the action takes place. Bahjat knew that she risked this kind of death every day she reported for al-Arabiya, and yet she insisted on continuing her work in her country. She believed in Iraqi unity -- so much so that she wore a locket in the shape of a united Iraq whenever she appeared on television, a locket that became her trademark. Her torturers removed it before filming her painful death, apparently unable to endure the symbolism of her love for her country.

We need more people like Bahjat, courageous men and women who do their best to inform us of the Iraqi situation. We need people like Michael Yon, Stephen Vincent, and Jill Carroll -- men and women willing to risk their lives and on occasion give them in order to give us the information we need. They provide a much-needed contrast between the civilized world and the world that these terrorists plan for us if these sick murderers succeed in their fight.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has a good round-up on this story, and Michelle Malkin nails it when she calls it "insanely evil".

I hope that the Iraqi people get a chance to either read about or view Bahjat's last moments. It will make their course that much more clear and perhaps put an end to support for the various insurgencies and sectarian gangsters in the Sunni Triangle.

UPDATE II: Be sure to read Greyhawk's excellent post at the Mudville Gazette.

UPDATE III: Rusty at The Jawa Report has rather conclusive evidence that the woman in the video was not Bahjat but a Nepalese man murdered by an insurgent group in Iraq in 2004. Bahjat's body had been photographed and clearly was not beheaded.

That does not make this video a hoax, however. It still depicts the gruesome torture and death of an unarmed hostage, and Halal Jabar's description of the video is accurate.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 8, 2006 5:26 PM

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