A Man without a Face

by Yashiko Sagamori


You've seen me on TV, but you don't know my name, and if you run into me in the street, you won't recognize me. That's because my face was covered while I was posing for the camera along with four of my comrades, assembled for the execution of an American. I am one of those responsible, whom your president promised to bring to justice. Good luck!

It may come as a surprise to you, but I felt some pity for the poor guy whose head we cut off. He knew what was about to happen and, yet, he went to his death without a fight, like a sheep. He couldn't have gotten away, of course; but, at the same time, he had nothing to lose, and there was little we could've done if he had decided to violate the dignity of our presentation by kicking and screaming, except maybe making his death more painful. He would've been killed anyway; but, at least, he would've died like a man, fighting. On the other hand, we had to make the video, and if he had spoiled it for us, we would've had to execute someone else.

Your president is sending your soldiers and civilians alike to die in Iraq in pursuit of the pipe dream of spreading democracy. Our warriors die fighting for the sacred goal of spreading Islam. But the symmetry ends right there. Just look at what all contemporary democracies have in common: they all exist in prosperous capitalist countries populated mostly by Christians or, in the case of Israel, Jews. I doubt this is just a coincidence, since every single prosperous capitalist country populated mostly by Christians or Jews is a democracy. Although India and Turkey are considered democracies, neither of them presents an example to the contrary. Indian democracy is forced to coexist with their ancient caste system, which will easily outlive their democracy as well as any other sign of Western influence. And if you think that Turkey is such a free country, why has no American ever emigrated there in search of liberties unattainable at home?

We, Arabs, lack the prosperity of the decadent West. We are not capitalists. We are dirt poor. We have always been poor and always will be. Our most coveted possession, oil, was worthless a few decades ago, before capitalism made the West so powerful, and it will become worthless again a few decades from today, when capitalism dies and the power of the West becomes a thing of the past. And, of course, we are neither Jews nor Christians. We are Muslims. Our desert soil will not support democracy. Nothing grows on it, but jihad.

Let me ask you, what on earth could possibly give you an idea that we want democracy? Have you ever seen us do anything at all that could be interpreted as craving for the personal freedom that Americans, in their arrogance, are so eager to spread and to defend with their lives? Of course, we are moving to Europe and your country in ever growing numbers, but liberty is never on the list of personal reasons that cause so many of us to tear our roots from the sand, cross the ocean and settle among our mortal enemies. Our great migration to the West is not a drive to freedom; it is jihad, pure and simple, albeit in its least spectacular form. When America and Europe do not come to Mohammad, Mohammad comes to America and Europe. Some of us achieve great success among the infidel, but most do not even bother, because we know that sooner or later your evil folly will fall apart, as easily and as completely, as the World Trade Center collapsed under our blows, and the world will revert to the simple, clear truth of the Holy Koran. Where will you run when we turn your land into desert? Where will you hide?

But let us forget for a moment that democracy in Iraq is impossible. Let your fantasy loose. Imagine that you somehow win and Iraq becomes an American-style democracy. Imagine even that it fights jihad on your side. Of course, based on the performance of its army in the two wars your Bushes have forced on our people, you might be better off with them fighting against you; but imagine that, against all odds, you manage to teach them to fight like you do, cowardly and efficiently. Here's the question: how is that supposed to make you safe from terrorism? How will it stop another bunch of Saudis, or Egyptians, or Moroccans, or Libyans, or Jordanians from flying another couple of jets into another couple of skyscrapers, or planting a few dirty bombs, or poisoning your water supply, or doing any of the things we normally do to you whenever the opportunity presents itself?

The answer is, it won't. You can't win this war. Not the way you're fighting it.

Try looking at it from my perspective. The father of the executed American put the blame for his death on Bush and Rumsfield. I understand that you have little reason to trust anything I say; but you may believe me when I tell you that neither Bush nor Rumsfield were among the five men who beheaded the American. I know; I was there. I'm sure the father of the dead American knows it as well. Right now, he is probably going through the most painful days of his whole life, and you shouldn't judge him. God only knows what stupid things each one of us may do or say when forced to see his beloved son die without a purpose, while powerless to defend him and with no hope to ever avenge his death. Only the purpose gives us strength to face tragedy with dignity, like countless Palestinian mothers whose sons and daughters have martyred themselves fighting the Zionist occupation of their land.

But let's get back to the dead guy's father. He knows we, Arabs, killed his son, in strict accordance with our culture, our tradition, and our religion. Bush is the only world leader, trying to fight back, although with no chance of success. And yet, the grieving father blames your president. Blaming Islam, Arabs in general, or even just the five of us has never occurred to him or almost anyone else in the world. This is no exception. Whatever we do to uphold the glory of God, the world reacts as if the devastation we visit upon our enemies is caused by something absolutely beyond human control, like bad weather. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, kill thousands of people each year, but nobody calls for retribution, nobody demands revenge.

That leaves me and my brothers blameless. We can murder infidels in front of cameras. We can cut them to pieces and pose with their body parts. We can do anything we want, and nobody, be he friend or foe, is going to blame us for it. Just think about it. You are so proud of your freedom, but in reality it's we who are the freest people on earth. If you believe we are going to surrender our absolute freedom in exchange for the chimera of American-style democracy, you are totally, ridiculously wrong, and I will gladly tear you apart, preferably with news photographers present, to prove it.

I remember how at the beginning of the war your newspapers kept guessing if the Iraqis were going to turn on you or greet you as liberators. We adored Saddam, but not because he did anything good for us. He robbed the country blind; his thugs tortured people to death at his whim. This is what a ruler does. This is what any man would do in his place. Only no other man was smart enough to get in his place. That's why we admired him so. And when the Americans came, we greeted them for two reasons. First, we expected to be punished if we failed to extol the new rulers. Second, you had beaten the man we thought was unbeatable. In your country, when a challenger knocks down the heavyweight champion of the world, you all love the winner, don't you?

It took us time to realize that, despite your awesome arms and the excellent training of your soldiers, you are weak. You don't have what it takes to win a war against Arabs. You don't understand your enemy. Your president promised to bring me to justice. He might or might not get lucky, but killing or capturing me will change nothing. I am a warrior; I expect to die at the enemy's hands, and I am not afraid of my fate. But how will my death or capture help you? You captured Saddam; did it help you?

I, on the other hand, given the opportunity would not only kill your president, but wouldn't miss a chance to butcher your grandmother either — not because she posed any danger for me, but because this is a war, and in a war you do not miss a chance to hurt your enemy. I hope you understand there is nothing personal in it. This is jihad.

You thought you won the war when Saddam's army crumbled under your assault, unable to put up any real resistance. Now you know that by the time Saddam's army was completely demolished, the war hadn't even started yet. Now you have a real war on your hands, and you have lost it. It wouldn't be easy to point out when it happened, because it happened gradually, but I can name the exact moment when you reached the point of no return. It was when you allowed Fallujah to survive the murder and mutilation of four American civilians. You failed to implement the only policy that would've given you a chance: submit or die. You failed to destroy Fallujah with all its population. What happened next? Muqtaba al-Sadr, a nobody, a man who has nothing to show for himself except his dead father's fame, challenges you and survives. Now even children are no longer afraid of you.

Here's a lesson for you. Winning a war and keeping your armor shiny are two very different tasks. You are about to learn that when you are dealing with an enemy like us, these tasks are mutually exclusive.

Nothing exposes your innate weakness better than your refusal to do what needs to be done for fear of causing the hatred of Muslims. Do you think we hate you now any more or any less than we hated you on the eve of 9/11? Are you afraid of how the UN might react if you do the right thing?

Doesn't it strike you as strange that we, the obvious underdog, do not care whether you love us or hate us, although you can, in theory, blow us away in less time than it took us to film the beheading?

Think about it till we meet again. And we will, I promise.