Another High Water Mark in Middle East Culture

The method and fact of his execution don't disturb me much in light of the heinous offenses he committed. I find more absurd and disturbing the relatively short sentences routinely meted out to cold-blooded killers in Europe's infamously "progressive" nation states and some US states. I do find distasteful the circumstances of his execution--that it would be played out before an assembly of eager voyeurs including a vast anonymous Internet crowd (and no, I personally did not play any video or view any photos beyond the set up photo). But we have voyeurs in every culture. In my former life as a prosecuting attorney I learned that cases involving blood, guts, and sex invariably bring out the picnic and popcorn crowd like flies to fresh sewage. Americans are no better than Yemenis in this respect.

Posted by kcraig at July 6, 2009 4:23 PM

I don't think we can expect that they will understand us and our beliefs any more than we can understand what drives them. It is so unfamiliar as to be frightening. It is like reading some of the most violent passages from the bible with 20th century weapons instead of lightening bolts.

I think we are so accustomed to laws and due process, and crime and punishment being somewhat cleaned up, that the immediacy of the reaction to this man's crimes is a little breathtaking. Who's not to say it might be kinder in the long run.

IF he was guilty as accused...we are asked to assume that...beyond a shadow of a doubt. I am in no position to know...but crowds gathering to watch such a spectacle is anything but new, sadly. Having justice meted out behind closed doors is no more appealing.

Posted by Carolyn at July 6, 2009 4:40 PM

Am I supposed to feel bad about the death penalty for someone who rapes and kills an 11 year old boy?

Posted by Lance at July 6, 2009 4:48 PM

Nope. I'm not talking about any single element but the whole culture as summed up in that photograph and the caption. Every element underscores the failed society on every level.

Posted by vanderleun at July 6, 2009 6:52 PM

Would you rather it had been a beheading with a big sword or something?

Look, these are essentially a tribal people still living by all those old tribal rules.

Tribal cultures are almost uniformly bloodthirsty and blood soaked. See Michael Yon's recent article about the tribes in the Philippines.

The Romans had a couple of methods for dealing with tribes: Wipe them out, or co-opt them and essentially make them Roman.

So, since the US (and the West in general) isn't as ruthless as they once were, the first option isn't really on the table. That leaves co-option.

That will take time and treasure, and probably the lives of a good many SF teams, civil-military teams, and those Marines setting up their outposts
right now in Helmand.

Posted by Eric Blair at July 6, 2009 7:30 PM

Once more: It is not about the separate elements but about the gestalt.

You're right about the Romans and this is one of the moments I get nostalgic for them.

Posted by vanderleun at July 6, 2009 7:37 PM

Brings to mind the Indians, the British, and suttee:

"But we have always put the wife on the pyre. It is tradition!"

"Build your pyre. I will build a gallows next to it. If you burn the wife, I will hang you for murder. It is tradition."

Not any more, though. As we have this conversation, I'm sure The Won is springing his Big Surprise on the Russians: we'll abandon theater missile defense AND eliminate some number of our sea launched missiles.

When we get hit next, I believe the Won's first act will be...

... to apologize. It's all he's ever known.

Posted by TmjUtah at July 6, 2009 7:56 PM

"That will take time and treasure, and probably the lives of a good many SF teams, civil-military teams, and those Marines setting up their outposts
right now in Helmand"

We don't have enough of any of those to be giving/throwing them away. I favor option #1 over searching and begging for hearts and minds. If it's off the table, we need another table.

Sorry, but no cigar.

Posted by rascalfair at July 6, 2009 9:21 PM

This image of a hanging will inform you roughly when and where it happened. See that a society cannot be judged only by it's worst elements.

Note that the Yemeni execution was legal, and the single victim at least committed a crime. Not so in the linked image.

Posted by Fred at July 7, 2009 4:42 AM

I agree Gerard.
I think, and have thought for a long time, that islam is completely incompatable with democracy or any type of constitution which guarantees equal treatment under the law and the freedom given us by God. The introduction of such collides with sharia law and everything else laid out in the koran.
I don't want another drop of the blood of brave Americans - the best of the best, wasted on an exercise in futility. The lives of those killed in Iraq are likely to have been wasted just like those killed in Vietnam, and our allies in-country also.
The world is watching, and the world has a long memory.

Posted by teresa at July 7, 2009 5:39 AM

Handling his weapon like that, he executioner could easily blow his foot off, or worse, but hey, he's a pro.

Posted by Mike Bailor at July 7, 2009 6:32 AM

The great untold story of those cultures is not even what is atavistic, but all that the separation of the sexes really brings. This odd separation is not atavistic.
So it is only when a man continues to do other men beyong the age of thirty that he is considered a pervert. In such a society of public and private contrasts, certain other rules must be publicly enforced.

Public executions are sexual in nature. Repressed sexuality describes this culture.

In Elizebeth's day public tortue was a sport. Civilization eventualy discovered them to be counter to their interests.

Posted by james wilson at July 7, 2009 7:51 AM

"Look, these are essentially a tribal people still living by all those old tribal rules." Isn't that the point Gerard himself is making?

Posted by ELC at July 7, 2009 8:07 AM

Quick, effective, about as painless as possible (A shotgun slug would seem optimal though,) and entirely public. Pretty much what an execution should be.

Frankly I do not see your concern at the gawkers. Their government is about to kill a man. If it were a truly representative government that would mean they were about to kill a man in their name. It only seems fitting they come to witness that which they either support or, at a minimum accept.

I would be more apt to judge their reaction after the deed. Did they cheer? Did they revel in the blood? Or did they whisper a prayer for the man's soul?

Posted by at July 7, 2009 8:41 AM

I find women in burqas, forced marriages, clitoral mutilation, praying five times daily to a blood thirsty religion, and etc., etc…NOT offending more people but being described as a religion of Peace more offensive.

Islam is the root cause of most of the world’s ills. Period, full stop.

Posted by tim at July 7, 2009 8:52 AM

On one hand, yes, that's pretty brutal.

On the other hand...if the guy did what he was accused of, tying him down and handing his straight razor to the next of kin might be more poetic.

Posted by Rich Fader at July 7, 2009 8:55 AM

If a culture is going to have executions, I think it should be out in the open, and this is literally so. It's more honest than pretending that there's a humane execution going on behind closed doors.

Posted by Ward at July 7, 2009 10:43 AM

"The lives of those killed in Iraq are likely to have been wasted just like those killed in Vietnam, and our allies in-country also."
Those lives that have been sacrificed in Iraq will only be considered 'wasted' if, as in Vietnam, the likes of obammy and his leftist friends hand our enemies a victory snatched from the jaws of their defeat.

Posted by Uncle Jefe at July 7, 2009 2:11 PM

Yes, and that is exactly what is happening - I guess I left that unsaid in my comment.
It always made me uneasy when I would hear these interviews with these young Marines in Iraq saying "We're here for the Iraqi people, we're setting them free".
I hope they can reconcile the loss of their brothers in arms whem the worm turns and islam does what it always does and reverts to barbarism and destruction,
via premature withdrawal of our armed might courtesy of the quislings and traitors at the helm.

Posted by teresa at July 7, 2009 3:13 PM

Please excuse my ego, but this discussion has reminded me of an essay I wrote a while back... er... more than 7 years ago, actually.

"America: Land of the Oppressed?"

Posted by ELC at July 7, 2009 4:21 PM

I think anon. at 8:41 has it about right.

Tribal you say? Sure, just like the Saudis are tribal. I would take my chances in Yemen with Yemenis any day over KSA, where you can land in the klink for a microdot of dope on the bottom of your shoe at the airport, or for exhibiting Christian paraphernalia.

Yemenis in my experience are kind and good-natured, as those in Third World hellholes often are. I should say the men are, no idea about the women. Their feelings about a rival clan will be very different from how they feel about us. Deep, ancient hostilities and sense of justice make the outside world irrelevant.

Except for that global caliphate thing.

Yemen is also a place of striking grandeur, both man-made and natural. Some parts of it are to be avoided.

Posted by Hannon at July 8, 2009 10:05 AM

I understand your point completely. This is accepted in their culture, and that's what's horrifying. Never mind the crime, that's not the issue. Over there it's okay to drag a man into the street and put a bullet in his head. They do this to their own. Just think what they'd do to us.

Posted by mike at July 8, 2009 12:50 PM

Right right a peadophilic murderer being executed in public is so terrible, while back in the good old USA, prisoners rot in a tiny jail cell for 20 years before being strapped to a table and injected with poison. Of course far away from the public eye so they don't have to deal with anything distasteful...

In any case back in Britain there's these folk...

Who'll probably be released while they still have their life ahead of them. A shot in the head is much too good for them.

Posted by Adam at July 8, 2009 3:29 PM

Obviously the commentary is permeated with racism and Islamophobia. The commentator is oblivious to decades of public lynching of the blacks in the U.S. He has obviously not seem pictures of Americans assembling to watch a black man burn to death. How come those criminals were worthy of "Democracy? Freedom? Prosperity?" So, when you hold it against certain people and not others, you are called a racist. Ignorance knows no limits.

Posted by Historian at January 17, 2014 3:04 PM