Sunday, October 30, 2005

Iraq war as "flypaper"

"I'd rather have this fight over there than over here" goes one popular justification for this war. According to an article from Speigel Online there is a list of extremists, mainly from Saudi Arabia but representing other countries as well, who inspired to become suicide bombers for exactly the same reason. Well, not exactly, but something like it: for them it is a high honor to die in service to their faith. Where better to do so than in Iraq?

Ahmad Sa'id al-Ghamidi wanted to be a doctor. The 20-year-old had enrolled at the University of Khartoum in Sudan and his family had given him money for fees and living expenses, enough to last him until he had his degree. But in the end, that money didn't go for rent or for books on how to heal the sick. Al-Ghamidi used that money to kill.

Incited by the propaganda of al-Qaida and Iraqi insurgents, the young man from Saudi Arabia threw his future away. He gave up his studies and, as one Internet site gushes, he "withdrew all his money ... went to Iraq ... and became the hero of a unique operation in Mosul."

The "operation" was a suicide bombing. Al-Ghamidi blew himself up in the middle of a mess tent in this northern Iraqi city. He killed 22 people, including 18 Americans.

The story of this one-time medical student who became a terrorist is just one in a list of more than 200 obituaries of "martyrs" which have been posted on Islamist Internet sites. Number 114 on the list, for example, is the account of a Saudi businessman "who wanted to break away from worldly things." Number 144 had a pregnant wife when he martyred himself. Number 109 is the story of a karate teacher inspired by the speeches of Osama bin Laden.

And that's just from one list of obituaries. There are more -- partly overlapping; partly supplementing each other; all providing unique insight into the business of jihad in Iraq. Through them, details emerge about communal life in "safe houses," about relations among the mujahedeen, about telephone calls to relatives back home and the planning of attacks. For many young men from outside Iraq, eager to become mujahedeen, the struggle in Iraq was so important that they refused to give up even after being repeatedly turned away at the border. Eventually, though, even they were able to sneak in.
The list of people who gave their lives for jihad is made up almost exclusively of non-Iraqi Arabs. The entries vary in length; sometimes only the name, the cause and the date of death are mentioned. In other cases, friends and companions have put together obituaries that are pages long.

Of course, not all the details are verifiable and the obituaries were put together with the goal of aggrandizing the terrorists' deeds and encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. Entries describing a bomber's body as smelling sweetly of musk or that the ground near him was covered with blood that was "pure" have to be seen in the light of such propaganda goals. Still, these records given an unfiltered account of the religious attitudes and personal experiences of the insurgents and provide the outside world a view of the mujahedeen's daily life.

Depending on whether one supports or opposes US involvement in Iraq's civil war this article can be spun to justify either view. My take is that if Americans were not among the targets the appeal to die a "martyr" would be much weaker, if not vanish altogether.

Most of the mujahedeen volunteers are, if one can generalize from the data from the lists, between 18 and 28 years old. Many of them are fathers; several of the older ones have already fought in Afghanistan and spent time in prison in their home countries because of extremist activities.

A few were highly skilled. One insurgent, gloated a companion, had excellent grades in school. Other accounts tell of sets of brothers among the fallen and some list the telephone numbers of those left behind, so that sympathizers could congratulate the families and express their condolences.

The "Heroes' Stories," wrote al-Qaida in Iraq as it announced the continuation of the obituary series, has as its goal the "lifting of hearts" and the "incitement of young men." Mothers are told that they can be sure that they bore heroes whose memories will not fade.

The twisted nature of this useless heroism becomes glaring in some of the cases. A Syrian, it is reported, traveled with his son to fight in the Iraqi jihad. Both died side by side in the bitter fight in the rebel stronghold of Falluja.

The son, who is now honored as a martyr, was 13 years old at the time.

Thanks to Ritzy Mabrouk, Egyptian "serial News Jockey" and blogger, for the link.

1 comment:

Miss Mabrouk said...

Welcome, it's an honour to meet such a nice blog! ;-)