Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"The New Face of Evil": Al Qaeda Murders American G.I.'s in Iraq

On NBC Nightly News last night, Brian Williams suggested the capture and murder of the two American soldiers outside Baghdad earlier this week revealed, in Al Qaeda's latest barbarism, the "new face of evil." The report suggested Abu Hamza al-Muhajer may have emerged as Zarqawi's successor in Iraq. Fox News had a background report on Muhajer on June 12.

The Washington Post ran a front page story on the slayings this morning. Here's the background:
Two U.S. soldiers, missing for three days since their abduction in an insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad, were found dead, a military spokesman said Tuesday, and a top U.S. commander ordered an investigation into why the men were isolated from a larger force in such a dangerous part of Iraq....According to residents of Yusufiya and a relative of one of the victims, the soldiers were beheaded. An Iraqi official said they had been brutally tortured before their death, but provided no further details.
Reports from the scene indicate the bodies of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker were apparently booby-trapped as well, which prolonged the recovery effort of U.S. forces on the scene. This New York Times story provides the details:
An American military official in Baghdad, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that both bodies showed evidence of "severe trauma" and that they could not be conclusively identified. Insurgents had planted "numerous" bombs along the road leading to the bodies, and around the bodies themselves, the official said, slowing the retrieval of the Americans by 12 hours. Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman, said "the remains" of what are believed to be the two Americans were found near a power plant in the vicinity of Yusefiya, about three miles from the site were they had been captured by insurgents. General Caldwell declined to speak in detail about the physical condition of those who had been found, but said that the cause of death could not be determined. He said the remains of the men would be sent to the United States for DNA testing to determine definitively their identities. That seemed to suggest that the two Americans had been wounded or mutilated beyond recognition. "We couldn't identify them," the American military official in Baghdad said. Maj. Gen. Abdul Azziz Mohammed Jassim, the chief of operations of the Ministry of Defense, said that he had seen an official report and that he could confirm the two Americans had been "killed in a very brutal way and tortured." "There were traces of torture on their bodies, very clear traces," General Jassim said. "It was a brutal torture. The torture was something unnatural."
There'll likely be much more commentary in the press over the next few days. In the meantime, here's the editorial comment from The Oregonian, from Portland, Oregon:
It hurts just to read the news from Iraq in this newspaper today. Words on the page are insufficient vessels for the rage and heartbreak arising from the murders of Thomas Tucker of Madras and his fellow soldier, Kristian Menchaca of Houston. And make no mistake, it wasn't war. It was murder. And it's tempting to thirst for the same for the person who executed the two soldiers. If it really was Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, as a statement published online has claimed, then he has succeeded in matching the barbarism of his late, unlamented fellow murderer, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And by his butchery this week, he has brought himself closer to the same rough justice that eliminated al-Zarqawi. Nothing that happened at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay or even Haditha can compare to this. And even in those troubling cases, justice is at work, as soldiers and Marines are called to account for their actions. The process in those cases may be imperfect, and not always as swift, certain or as sweeping as it might be. But it speaks to the effort of an open society to redress its wrongs. There is no trace of justice in the capture and slaughter of two soldiers. Only a person who can justify the murder of nonbelievers in an effort to gain political power can countenance such a thing. The killings seemed to be aimed at influencing policy in this country and in Iraq by spreading fear. The terrorists used these murders to re-state their power to strike violently, undo political progress and humiliate the United States. Our government, as well as Iraq's fledgling government, soon will -- and should -- demonstrate its resolve to prove the opposite....The murders of two American soldiers by terrorists form a bond of sorrow that neither war-weary Iraqis nor Americans sought. But the bond is a testament to the nature of their common enemy. It is an enemy that knows only self-interest, considers violence righteous and exploits the vulnerable. It is an enemy that has no place in tomorrow's Iraq.

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