Burning a Man Alive: Tolerating the Intolerable

By | February 8, 2015 | 0 Comments


Flt. Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh
Royal Jordanian Air Force

In response to ISIS burning alive a Jordanian Air Force pilot, King Abdullah and the Jordanian government were unabashedly furious:

Jordan vows to “eradicate” ISIS as thousands march for pilot.
News report

The only problem we’re going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.
King Abdullah II of Jordan

The king went so far as to quote from Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-winning film, “Unforgiven.” Apparently the quote was this:

Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.

In contrast, President Obama made this statement:

Should, in fact, that video be authentic, it’s just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organization, and I think it will redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of a global coalition to make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated. And it also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they are operating off of, it’s bankrupt.

Roosevelt said, “With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.” Churchill said, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” Obama said, ““Should, in fact, the video be authentic…”
But, you object, this comparison is unfair. Roosevelt and Churchill faced a totalitarian threat to the very existence of their nations and their civilization. Yes, and what do you think Obama is facing? The difference is that Roosevelt and Churchill understood the danger and strove to help their citizens understand it as well. In contrast, Obama either doesn’t understand the danger, or – even worse – understands the danger but tries to obscure it.
“Should, in fact, the video be authentic…” Now there’s a rousing call to arms. No, there’s a lawyerly statement from a graduate of Harvard Law School. King Abdullah of Jordan, in contrast, made more appropriate remarks.
You see, in addition to Islamic studies in Jordan and Middle Eastern studies at Oxford, Abdullah is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England, and the Armor Officer’s Advanced Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He served for a year as an armored troop commander in the U.K. and another year as an armored company commander in the U.S.
It is said that a person fights the way he trained. Sometimes we need someone who was trained as a lawyer. And sometimes we need someone who was trained as a leader of warriors. I leave it to you to decide which we need now.
Throughout history, the world has seen its share of brutality. The 20th century was cursed with the scourges of Nazism, Japanese militarism, and communism. But even these brutal regimes took care to hide the worst of their crimes.
The Nazis claimed that Jews were being “relocated to the East.” Even the gas chambers were labeled “shower bath.” The Japanese Army did not allow journalists to view the rape of Nanking, and the communists did not permit reporters to photograph the Gulag prison camps in Siberia.
But now we have sunk to a new low of inhumanity. Now we are cursed with terrorists so lacking in conscience that they make videos of beheadings, then put them up on YouTube. Now we are treated to a video of a young flight lieutenant in the Royal Jordanian Air Force who was locked in a cage, doused with gasoline, and burned to death. It took the strong young man over a minute to stop moving.
Why did ISIS publicize this brutal act? I am not an expert on sociopathy, but pundits have suggested two related reasons:

● Normal people will be revolted, frightened, and intimidated into tolerating whatever ISIS and similar terrorists want next.

● Budding sociopaths will be jealous, and will either join ISIS or similar terrorists groups, or be stimulated to become “lone wolves” and commit terrorist acts wherever they are.

It was my impression that burning human beings alive represented an unusual outburst of sadism. I was wrong. Throughout the Middle East, Christians are being burned alive, both in their churches and individually. And burning alive is one method of “honor killing” of women and girls who dated the wrong man or were otherwise too “Westernized.” This is occurring both in the Middle East and in Europe.
So let us correct our mistaken impressions. Let us discard our naiveté. Let us open our eyes and see the world as it is, not as we would wish it to be. What we need is the moral courage of General Napier.
When the British gained control of India, they got rid of suttee, the Hindu custom of burning a widow alive on her husband’s funeral pyre. This was done to express grief, and also so that the husband’s family would not have to share the inheritance with the widow. The British commander-in-chief in India, General Sir Charles Napier, was informed that suttee was an ancient tradition with a religious basis, and that suppressing it would cause resentment. (Sound familiar?) Unimpressed, Napier replied:

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

I am not an admirer of multiculturalism. But if we must have it, let us practice the kind of multiculturalism advocated by General Napier.
If they insist on their customs of vicious mistreatment of prisoners, enslavement of women and girls, misogyny, domestic violence, and “honor” killings, let us insist on our customs. In case you forgot what they are, may I suggest that you refer to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and – yes – the Bible.
Our ancestors were able to exert a civilizing influence in other people’s nations. If we are unable to exert a civilizing influence in our own nation, we do not deserve to have a nation of our own. And before long, we won’t.
We live in a bad neighborhood – the world. We can’t lock ourselves in our house and let the neighborhood be consumed by evil. The evil will inevitably sneak through the cracks and enter our house. Our only realistic alternative is to go out and clean up the neighborhood until it is safe for decent people to live in.
The fire that burned to death Flight Lieutenant al-Kaseasbeh caused him unimaginable pain. But it also gave off light. The question is, do we have the courage to use that light to see the inhuman cruelty it represents, and then to act accordingly?

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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