Reaction to the Beheadings

June 22, 2004 

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Night duty, thanks to an eight-hour time difference with NY. A large box of quality snack food has appeared in the newsroom coinciding with the appearance of the Geraldo Rivera team. Among the items is a previously unknown version of Orville Redenbacker® microwave popcorn known as "Ultimate Butter." There is so much oil inside that the paper bag cannot contain it. Once you remove the plastic seal the grease stains your fingers. It makes the Butter Light seem pedestrian.

There are four computers on the main table in our hotel room that serves as an office space. Geraldo was sitting at the terminal diagonal from me. The report on the TV overhead was about the first private flight into space. Geraldo looked up at it for a moment then said softly, almost as if making a note to himself, "I want to go to space before I die." Then he continued working at the computer.

It looked for a while like they were going to let the South Korean hostage go free. Then they cut off his head and threw his body out of a car west of Baghdad. Soon the pictures were up on the Arab satellite news channels, the standard scene of men in masks in front of the camera, reading demands that would never get met. The big man in the black mask had a large knife in his belt. A smaller man was doing the reading and the gesticulating. Yesterday the hostage pleaded for his life. He screamed in English to be set free. Today he was silent.

Kim Sun-il was 33 years old. He worked as a translator but one day hoped to become a minister. I guess what baffles me is not the abstract question of evil in the world, but those very four or five men standing behind him, behind this poor guy who studied Arabic well enough to become a translator and who hoped to save souls. When the pictures came up we crowded around the screen to see them, then people walked away and the mood in the room changed. Something was sucked out. These beheadings, these filmed acts, three of them now, are dispiriting acts of evil that weigh on everyone who watches. I went to ask the Arabs in the hotel what they thought. Moyed was agitated and upset. The one point he tried to make was that this has nothing to do with Islam, that a small group has a fanatical wrong-headed view of what Islam is. Ahmed was smoking — and he doesn't smoke. He said we are getting out of here, we are getting out of here July 4 and we are not coming back to this country. Then I asked Tariq the driver, and he said one word: "disgusting."

I've seen three beheadings now but it does not get any more comprehensible even though the video, the gestures, the orange jumpsuits are the same in each of them, which worries me. How can you defeat an enemy if you cannot understand him? Those men standing there behind the Korean — where they come from, how they think, how they got there — I don't see it. It is beyond my experience.


Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.