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Home > War On Terror

"The family that kills together gets to burn together."

The devil is a busy little fellow. Flitting about the place on his dark wings, from New York to Baghdad, weaving his evil magic. It's a wonder God doesn't do something about it...

28 July 2003

Beelzebub is having quite a renaissance. According to today's NY Daily News: Juan Batista, a fitness instructor from Queens, is accused of killing his 22-month-old son by hanging him from the rod of a shower curtain. The suspect's mother thinks Satan had a hand in this terrible crime:

"He adored that child," said Gricelda Fernandez. "God would not make him do something like that. I believe he fell to the Devil's temptations."

So, did the Devil make Juan do it? Or was that merely the archaic thought process of a distraught and devoutly-Catholic grandmother? I'm not about to start criticising the beliefs of Grannie Fernandez, but what I find incredible is that this is *exactly* the kind of medieval rhetoric that blossomed around the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein:


(Bob Gorrell, AOL News).

Not surprisingly, a lot of this rhetoric came from Iraq. Muwaffak al-Rubaiei, a doctor on Iraq's Governing Council, said: "They went to hell. Their bodies are here but their souls went to hell." Likewise, the Al-Shams daily newspaper ran the headline: "Tyrants Uday and Qusay sent to Hell".

But we also heard it from the US. Here's John Foley's comment in The Day: "Pity the devil. With Saddam Hussein's hideous sons killed, he now has two more mouths to feed." And popular columnist Cal Thomas is crystal clear on the subject: "Hell has surely welcomed them with open, flaming arms. The family that kills together gets to burn together."

And in the UK, the Sun said the brothers had been "blown to hell". While in the Daily Mail, the ever-awful Mac gave us this cartoon:


This is hardly an original gripe, but I do find it astonishing that everything gets metaphysical as soon as we get out toward the fringes of human behaviour. If someone is extremely good, then he or she is a saint; if extremely bad, then we're dealing with a minion of Satan, or Satan himself, or (at the very least) someone who is going to fry in the eternal hellfires.

The big problem with all of this is that the evilness of Saddam & his regime is all part of the populist justification for the war:

"This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, on all of us. There is a very powerful moral case for regime change."

(Condoleezza Rice, speaking on the BBC in August 2002)

- this nexus of ideas (employed by everyone from the Daily Mail cartoonist to the National Security Advisor of the US) simply reinforces the idea that there is something other than normal human badness going on here. The Iraqi regime becomes alien, inhuman. It grows horns. It is against nature. Therefore it must be stamped out, and the people doing the stamping are fighting the good fight - the Angel Gabriel leads them into battle - they are DOING GOOD. Therefore every single act of the coalition is pre-justified. It's the most basic piece of propaganda in the book, but it's still being rolled out. And we keep buying it. It's sick.

It's rather different when Gricelda Fernandez uses the devil to explain the killing of her grandson. She's not trying to justify a $100 billion military campaign.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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