I suggest you think long and hard before clicking on this link about the extreme barbarism with which the terrorists at the Nairobi mall treated their victims, because it contains some of the most disturbing information you will ever read.
I should also include a caveat that it has not yet been corroborated, and I suppose it could turn out to be false.
I would like for it to turn out to be false, because the alternative is exceedingly harrowing. But so far I will assume it is true, because I’m not sure what motivation the Kenyan soldiers reporting these details would have to lie about them, and because we’ve already seen a similar sadistic strain among some Islamic terrorists (slow beheadings,
The behavior of the terrorists in Nairobi conjures up an archaic past in which torture was commonplace: the Inquisition, the Roman Coliseum, the fates of other Christian martyrs, and all the many novel ways that ancient marauders had of massacring defeated civilian populations. It also brings to mind a more recent past, one that continues to haunt us to this day: the Nazi concentration and death camps.
What could be done to protect a population against predators of such savagery? When I asked myself that question, I came up with very similar suggestions as those of John Hinderaker, although I hadn’t yet read his article:
First, al Shabab should be destroyed. It would make sense for an international force to invade Somalia and hunt down all members of that group. Second, with hindsight, Kenyan authorities waited too long to take definitive action to kill the terrorists. They allowed the siege to stretch out over four days. That may have made sense on the assumption that they were dealing with a “normal” hostage situation, but in the future, terrorists should not be allowed to work their evil deeds for so long. Third, far more civilians need to be armed.
Will these things happen? I very much doubt it. The entire world seems to have become exhausted with the struggle and to have less energy for it than it had a decade ago.
Back in 2006 I wrote a piece about the barbarism exhibited by so many terrorists. It still seems relevant (alas), and so I’ll reproduce a portion of it here:
…[T]he…word “barbaric” caught my eye. Like many familiar words, ordinarily we hardly think about what it really means.
barbarian, barbarous, boorish, brutal, coarse, cruel, fierce, graceless, inhuman, lowbrow, primitive, rough, rude, tasteless, uncivilized, uncouth, vulgar, wild
The word is the essence of cultural non-relativism. Its origins are in antiquity:
…from Latin barbaria, from Latin barbarus, from the ancient Greek word βάρβαρος (barbaros) which meant a non-Greek, someone whose (first) language was not Greek. The word is imitative, the bar-bar representing the impression of random hubbub produced by hearing spoken a language that one cannot understand, similar to blah blah or rhubarb in modern English.
Many cultures traditionally have had terms for “the other.” Even if those appellations don’t start out as pejorative, they usually wind up that way. And so it is with “barbarian” and “barbaric,” which have come into general use to mean especially vicious, cruel, and sadistic.
It’s really that last definition–sadistic–that seems to be the most important element here. When a soldier kills, there is always violence, no matter how the killing is accomplished. But barbarism implies a gratuitous level of mayhem, a sort of overkill, which indicates an emotional element that drives the perpetrator towards inflicting the maximum amount of pain for personal enjoyment and sensations of power.
One of the hallmarks of jihadi violence has been this element of barbarism–or, perhaps more correctly, sadism. There is a practical and strategic goal as well, which is to instill fear. Sadism and strategy are not mutually exclusive, however; they can coexist, and both may be driving this particular behavior. No one who has watched the beheading videos–or even read descriptions of them–can avoid the sense that those doing the deed are reveling in their own barbaric power, unleashed…
The bottom line is that barbarism and sadism are possibilities for all human beings. But some societies and some historic times seem to encourage their fuller expression. And the task of a “civilized” military is to reduce the elements of sadism, while preserving the ability to kill.
I’ve written previously about how US soldiers are trained to kill without sadism, here. It’s not an easy task, but it’s the goal of the US military to reduce combat stress and make atrocities far less likely to occur (read the post for the details of how this is done). In contrast, the goal of the Nazis was to maximize the expression of sadism in their concentration camp guards. Likewise, this seems to be the goal of the jihadis, or at least many jihadi elements.
Another word for it, of course, is evil.