It was reported yesterday that a 59-year-old British woman was executed by Iraqi jihadists. Her name was Margaret Hassan. She was the head of the humanitarian organization CARE International in Iraq and spent the last 30 years providing food, medicine and humanitarian aid to Iraqis. She chose to remain in Iraq even after Doctors Without Borders and the International Rescue Committee left. What’s more, she was an outspoken critic of U.S. policy and opposed sanctions, the war and the occupation.
Was she killed because she was a Westerner? In fact, she was married to an Iraqi, spoke fluent Arabic, held dual Iraqi-British citizenship and was a convert to Islam. When Hassan was first kidnapped, her husband went on Al-Jazeera to plead with “Arab brothers” and “fellow Muslims” for her release, but to no avail. Last night, he tearfully went on the air again to ask for the militants to only return her body so both he and his wife “can rest in peace.”
It is hard to imagine a truer testament to the boundless cruelty of the perpetrators than by reflecting on how even a lifetime spent in the service of Iraq’s poor and hungry could not spare her their bullet. She died alone, in fear and blindfolded. But in the eyes of the perpetrators, the execution of an aged aid worker demonstrates their courage, and so pleased are they with their bloody handiwork that they proudly distribute a video of it.
Often it seems that the terrorists seek ever more outrageous acts of barbarity in order to retain the shock value that they dearly need to draw attention. The world’s first suicide bombing may have been stunning, but today it brings only shrugs. For once an act becomes yet “another” plane hijacking — almost 700 occurred between 1967 and 1986 — or “another” kidnapping — over 150 kidnappings have occurred since the occupation began — the terrorists lose because they can no longer inspire public fear.
The world should be realigning: no more “First World/Third World,” “North/South” — but “Terror” and “Non-Terror.” America had its 9/11, and now so has Australia in Bali, Russia in Beslan and Spain in Madrid. In Iraq, Macedonians, Nepalese, Turks, British, Americans, Italians, Pakistanis, Bulgarians, Lebanese and South Koreans — all civilians – have been kidnapped and killed.
Are Americans obsessed with terrorism? No, it is the terrorists who are obsessed with us. Will it take another 9/11 to prove that there are militant ideologues out there who will seek to destroy Western civilization and are willing to sacrifice as many innocents as necessary, like Margaret Hassan?
Adam Tartakovsky is a junior political science and environmental studies major.