Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Allahu Akbar, the Ghost Dance and Magic Bullets

I was floating on the internet this evening, when I came across a video. The pictures weren't new. They were on TV and several newspapers as still shots. It was a picture of a man, kneeling in the middle of the street, getting ready to fire an RPG. The still shots then showed one where he was getting shot and falling backwards and the last one showed him to be laying dead in the street. Fairly anti-septic pictures of death. They didn't even raise my feelings of concern. I felt very detached.

Today, I saw the video of the actual firefight complete with sound track. I must say that it was shocking at first. Just a 30 second clip of a man in sweatpants and sweater. Black. He was in a half kneeling position, one knee down and the other foot first and half cocked so that he could get up and run if necessary. I noticed that the position had pulled his sweatpants down in the back, like the plumbers crack we always joke about. His white t-shirt and underwear were exposed in the back. He had short dark hair and you could only see a small part of the side of his face.

As I watched, I wondered about the insanity.

He had the RPG up on the right shoulder and it seemed that he was taking a very long time to aim it and fire, even in those few 30 seconds of time. Too long, as it turned out. Then there was a burst of fire. You could tell it was large caliber bullets, just from the size of the tracers flying by. You couldn't see the opponent. The camera was hiding behind a corner as it filmed. Just the lone man in a street strewn with trash. There were no by-standers and the buildings across the way were all shut and boarded up like a ghost town in the wild west.

The bullets struck the man at least six or seven times. Four went into his chest as he flew backwards dropping the RPG. As he landed on his butt, his legs spread out in front of him, at least three bullets struck him in his arms and leg. Pushing him back further. He had a really surprised look on his face as he flew backwards. His eyes and mouth open wide with a look that said, "What?". Like he couldn't believe that he was just shot. Then he sat there for another second or two, with his legs out in front of him and his arms behind him, straight out and pressing into the ground to try to hold himself up or maybe push himself up to try and get away.

Then, another spurt of bullets from the off camera opponent. Three or four, I couldn't count them, but you could plainly see that he was struck in the head. He dropped back and hit the ground hard, his arms just loosing their stiff support and collapsing. Not in the slow motion theatrics of a movie. Quick as that, he was dropped like a lead weight.

The film ended about then with just a few more seconds of showing the guy, dead in the street. It was during that time that I actually heard the sound with the video and noticed something that sounded like crying and screaming. So I went back and watched the video again, listening to the sound track. That's when I heard the chanting.

Apparently, this man's friends or comrades in arms were all standing behind the wall of the building they were filming from. There were probably six to ten voices and they were yelling, "Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!" (God is Great) over and over again in what must have been an attempt to give their compatriot courage. As the film went on and the first shots were fired, the chanting suddenly came to a stop. You could hear some murmering and then the man was shot in the head, total silence for about 2 seconds. Then the sound of crying and screaming. I couldn't make out the words, but if they had been in English, I imagine they would have sounded something like, "My God! My God! Abdul! Abdul! Oh, my God! How could that happen?! Abdul!"

No one ran out to his body or tried to pick up the weapon. In my mind I imagined them standing around with shocked looks on their faces, beating their chests and slapping their heads with both hands. Their bodies curled over some in that defensive posture that humans take after they have just experienced mental anguish.

Maybe that makes them too human, describing them that way?

After the film clip shut down, I thought about the re-action of the men behind the wall. They seemed very surprised that their friend was killed. Maybe he was the bravest and smartest of their group? Maybe that's the way it was supposed to be? He was supposed to be alone, showing his individual bravery. The chants were to keep his courage up. Based on the reaction of the crowd behind the camera, I am more than positive he was not planning to become a martyr. They all seemed surprised when he was shot.

I read from one of the other bloggers that the insurgent recruiters have films of "successful" operations that they sale or show to their potential cannon fodder. "Look at the glorious damage we are doing to the enemy. Pay no attention to the death toll counts. Those are not real. This is real. See. We are showing you on camera how we kill the enemy. You can do it, too. You too can be a hero!"

And these boys and men buy it. Buy the rhetoric. Based on this film, they must think that all of those funerals they see, all of the deaths counted, are lies from the American propaganda.

Another thought crossed my mind as I watched. It seemed terribly like a painting I once saw of a group of Native American Indians attacking a Calvary unit. All of the Indians had their mouths open as if they were all making their war cries. In the lead of the group, at least four or five horses ahead was an Indian in a magnificent head dress (which I know of course is false, but that is the picture) and his hand, with a rifle, was raised above his head.

In American history, the native Americans counted themselves as nothing if they had no honor. They would ride in the front of the pack, the bravest, alone and ahead, racing towards their enemy in a desperate attempt to count coup. The picture stops there. You don't see the twenty rifles aimed at him. Or the barrage of fire that hits him and drops him from his horse.

Most of these recruits have no idea what it's like to face the enemy. Only stories told around the campfires to young, impressionable boys and barely tried warriors. There was always much boasting and story telling, according to the books I read on the subject. I imagine it is the same there. The young men, untried, sitting around fingering their AK-47s, maybe an RPG or two amongst them. Maybe one or two of the older boys, who have run up to the corner of a building and stuck their gun around the corner, fired and ran off to live another day, are boasting of their exploits. Telling the others about how they killed 5 of the enemy. No. No. Ten, in one minute.

They are boasting loudly so that their stories will be heard. The younger boys look at them with hero worship. The boys their own age with just a little less worship and some skepticism, but hoping to make their own heroic stories. Count coup. But the ones they want to hear their stories aren't really the young men around the fire. It's the older ones. The ones with dark eyes and unsmiling faces. That's who they look up to. They've heard that this one has killed a hundred soldiers, no, two hundred. He's been shot at by thousands of bullets, but they never touch him. Allah protects him. He chants, "Allahu Akbar," as he goes into battle.

Like the native Indians who would performed the ghost dance and had special shirts made. Like Crazy Horse. They believed that they could call on their ancestors to protect them in battle. That the shirts were magical and could protect them from bullets.

And these new ones, they believe it, too. They believe that if they pray hard enough and chant "Allahu Akbar" they will be protected. God is with them.

They hear the stories of the enemy. Bashing in the heads of their children and eating their brains. Carrying off the women. Destroying their sacred places. Mutilating their dead. They've never seen it. They only heard the stories, but surely, God must be on their side. The spirits must be with them. It all sounds familiar. Like the stories the native Indians would tell themselves, tell their children to scare them of the bogeyman.

But the others, the hard ones, they keep to themselves. Talking low amongst themselves about the next day's plans. They only look at the others occasionally, sizing them up for action. Which one will be the one they send out? They don't mingle with them because they cannot be their friend. They will lead them into battle tomorrow and many will die. Much better not to know them. Keep them as just pawns in their minds. Things to be used.

They believe that God is with them, too. But for different reasons. They know that the enemy has not committed these deeds, but the stories are useful to keep the young men interested. Fired up. The hard ones have a different cause. They are fighting for what they believe is their very life. A life that has slowly been encroached on by the western world. A life of extravagance and luxury. No true belief in God or respect for each other. Like animals to be killed. And they must kill them if they are to succeed in their plans. The plans to carve out this small area and re-instate the way of life that has been theirs for so long. They can see no good in mingling with the westerners and being contaminated by their ideas. This just means a softer destruction of their way of life.

Like the native Indians, the hard warriors, who have a cause that the younger men cannot yet see.

Like the native Indians, there are things above even them. People above them, who have their own reasons for war. I remember the stories of the great meetings of the tribes, where the leaders tried to bring the tribes together to repel the "whitemen". But there was always in-fighting amongst themselves. Who would be the supreme leader? Who had claims against the other tribes for their actions against them and wanted those settled first before this could take place?

And like those Indians, these men will continue to throw themselves against the brick wall that is the advancement of civilization. Because they want to hold it back. Keep it from moving forward. If only in their own areas. Let the westerners stay on their side of the world and let them keep their place, live the way they want. They don't see that it is already, too late. Their way of life is the way of disasters, of plagues, of inter-tribal warfare, of children dying of diseases long conquered by man. They don't see how their culture can peaceably be melded with civilization. Still exist. Because even the smallest change must mean total destruction for them.

Don't their tactics remind you of the native Indians? Hit and run tactics? Attack a small homestead. Scalp the victims. Mutilate their bodies. Kidnap and torture the enemy. All in an attempt to horrify the others. The enemy. To make us think that they are some sort of magical, invincible people?

These men are oftentimes educated, but have submitted that to their faith. They may have read Plato, but they have forgotten what history instructs. Evolution of civilization cannot be stopped. Cannot be turned back.

Then, there are those above them, those with greater plans. The ones that see this movement, this desire to retain their culture, as the vehicle for their own power. They want to harness this desire and use it for their own. Planning to group together these people and hold them in a state. Militarize them and use them as the army they need for their plan to take over whole states and countries. And if they succeeded, those boys on the corner, if they lived, would find what they were fighting for was a dream that turned into a nightmare.

But today, it is only right now. The young men are anxious to prove themselves. It is right now that matters. Living is real, but dying is just flickering thought that barely touches their minds. Dying is for the old. They are young and immortal. Besides, they are sure if they die, they will be welcomed in heaven with cheers for the hero. But, they won't die. They can't.

So they get ready in the morning and begin their ghost dance. Chanting "Allahu Akbar" as they prepare. Then they get to the corner and they talk amongst themselves. Who is the bravest? A few step forward, "I will go." "No, I will go, it is my turn." The ones that don't volunteer feel relief, some envy and a little fear because what they are about to do is the real thing. The brave one is selected amongst them and takes the RPG. He has some fear, but tries to overcome it. His fellows begin chanting their ghost dance song, "Allahu Akbar" and he chants with them. It gives him courage. Today he will be a hero. Nothing can touch him. He will kill the enemy.

The watch on the roof signals that the enemy approaches. A Bradley with soldiers. The brave one is surrounded by his comrades still chanting, "Allahu Akbar". He looks around the corner to see how far the enemy is. They seem close enough so he runs into the street as the shouting continues, "Allahu Akbar". Today, he is invincible. His adrenalin is so high he forgets the simple drill the hard ones had taught him. It is hard to site in the enemy, but he finally has them and places his finger on the trigger. Just then, the magic bullets break through the chanting. The forcefield of "Allahu Akbar". He's stunned. What happened? This is not the way it's supposed to be.

His friends are stunned, too. As he drops to the ground, the reality sets in.

Their ghost dance will not protect them from the magic bullets.

3 comments:

Robert said...

Can you make the man too human?

No, I don't think so.

Its sad- we've got more in common with the poor men, then they with their leaders.

Death, and killing is shocking for everyone. I hope it always stays that way.

Tom said...

Kat, do you have the link? Can you send it to me if you do and get a minute?

One of the saddest aspects of this war are the warped young minds that the terrorists are creating. If a leftie wants to disagree with me, fine. But to teach a child such hate, and that to fling himself forward in a suicide mission, that it is all for the glory of God, that is a crime.

~Jen~ said...

Incredible post Kat. Truly frightening.