It’s heartbreaking to watch the saga of the latest terrorist kidnappings. Americans Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley were beheaded on videotape, and it appears that Briton Kenneth Bigley is destined for the same fate. The three men were abducted last week from their house in the Mansour district of Baghdad.
The still shots and videos bring to mind last May when Nick Berg, an American traveling alone through Iraq, was also abducted and beheaded on videotape. In both cases, the responsible group is “One God and Jihad”, led by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The CIA says it’s Zarqawi’s voice on the Berg tape and that Zarqawi’s hand wielded the knives that decapitated Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Hensley.
All eyes are following the story to its traumatic conclusion. The latest is a video showing 11 minutes of Mr. Bigley begging Prime Minister Tony Blair to spare his life by bowing to the terrorists’ demand to release all female prisoners.
While I sympathize with the victims, I have to ask an important question: Why are westerners living so unprepared in Baghdad? There’s a war on. Most of the people in all directions loathe Americans and British. The whole reason we’re in the area is to fight terrorism. Terrorists do terrifying things like this. Why are kidnappings catching anybody by surprise?
The three men should have had pistols under their pillows, bars over their windows, an alarm system on every door, and an emergency button to the police. If I was forced to live in Baghdad you can be sure that’s how I’d approach it.
What’s more, I would submit that anybody choosing to go there these days has a responsibility to not become a pawn the way these men have. Because they are the first, we can forgive them for almost anything. We can only imagine the nightmare that was uniquely theirs. But from here on out, there should be no excuse for getting abducted and executed in such ignominious fashion.
There are several reasons for this. The first is that all of us are ambassadors of our respective countries. We don’t represent only ourselves, we represent our nations. When a man is reduced to begging for his life, it makes his country look weak. Weakness is what terrorists are looking for. Big, bad America doesn’t look so threatening when it’s dressed in an orange jumpsuit with its hands tied behind its back awaiting the knife. As tragic as the loss of the individual lives are in these circumstances, the psychological victory enjoyed by the terrorists cannot be overlooked nor allowed. In sum, foreigners living in warzones owe it to their countries to be prepared to defend themselves. They should do everything in their power to avoid becoming tools for terrorists.
The second reason is that when facing terrorists, our lives are forfeit anyway so we should fight to the death — preferably theirs. Terrorists don’t care if they live or die. Many of them want to die in their deluded war against the enemies of Allah. It’s impossible to reason with such a foe. It’s foolhardy to hope for a reasonable outcome. Therefore, all foreigners living in Iraq and surrounding areas need to be prepared for the not-unlikely event that they will come face-to-face with a terrorist. They cannot roll over and hope for the best. They cannot assume that reasonable people will meet at a table to work things out. They must assume that they are destined to die anyway, and then pull out all the stops to fight their way to freedom. They have nothing to lose. They will most likely be killed in the ensuing melee, but they would have been killed if captured anyway. There’s a chance that they will win the fight. Wouldn’t that be a reverse blow to the terrorists who tried kidnapping them?
The third reason is that going to the war zone is a choice. Nobody outside the armed services needs to be there. Given the stakes, NOT going seems perfectly reasonable. If one already lives there, then leaving seems perfectly reasonable. Yes, that could mean losing one’s job, but does anybody think that Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Hensley would not rather have sought new employment than face what they faced?
If I worked for a company that was doing business in Iraq and I was told to move there, I’d demand the following conditions:
- I am provided housing in a well-guarded area.
- I am armed for self-defense at all times.
- I carry an emergency call button with me at all times.
- I undergo self-defense and counter-terrorism training.
If any of those conditions couldn’t be met, I wouldn’t go. If that meant losing my job, I’d lose it.
We should not send vulnerable people into harm’s way to be ritually slaughtered by the vermin of the Arab World. We need to send only people who would put up such a fight in an encounter that terrorists would think twice before staging another kidnapping. Every foreigner in that god-forsaken country needs to be a gunfight waiting to happen because that’s the nature of the place.
Instead of the humiliating, sad story coming to its end before us, imagine if something like the following had been reported:
BAGHDAD, IRAQ, Thursday — Five armed terrorists broke into a home shared by two Americans and one Briton, employees of a construction firm engaged in rebuilding Iraq. The gunmen triggered an advance-warning alarm that awakened the three residents, who then pressed an emergency button to signal the police and took up pre-planned positions to defend themselves with pistols. In the ensuing gunbattle, the residents killed two of the surprised kidnappers. The remaining three kidnappers fled the house, but were shot dead by police arriving on the scene. This is the fourth such incident in which terrorist plans have been foiled by prepared foreigners.
Let’s hope that Mr. Bigley is the last foreigner to face death on videotape at the hands of terrorists. Let’s get smarter about how we live among the most unreasonable, hateful, dangerous people on Earth.
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