The public commentary and congratulatory yelping over one man's "elimination" has been like a primitive dance around a camp fire at the mouth of a cave.
Putting yet another face of a dead enemy on the front pages of all the papers of the country is the technological equivalent of putting a head on a pole - or hanging bodies from a bridge. This is history and evolution stuck in low gear - or idling very high.
What Zarqawi is a result of seems to be of no interest - not even scientific interest. A question about how someone becomes what he became is not a sentimental question - it's a serious question - the way one needs to ask how Tim McVeigh became what he became - or how Harris and Klebold emerged from Columbine.
A child during the Beslan siege asked one of the terrorists why he was doing this and he replied to the child - "Because the Russian army killed my family." His response and his actions are part of that dance at the mouth of the cave.
To his peril and ridicule Michael Berg does a different step. Asked if he were pleased that the man who killed his son was dead, he replied, "How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead?" Take a few more steps from the mouth of the cave and try to answer that question.
Michael Berg observes that "with news of atrocities committed by Americans in Iraq, everyday people who tried to hold out who tried to be peaceful, lose it and join the insurgency." In other words, they are being pulled into the vacuum of the cave. As are we all.
"Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" is the subtitle for the framed picture of the dead Zarqawi. This is how we are being infantalized. And yet there is a curfew in Baghdad - there is a ban on cars during the holy day. Why shouldn't all be well now? Doesn't this death mean we've turned another corner? If this man's execution means Iraq, and, by extension, we are safer - why the heightened security? Shouldn't things now relax? The signal from the bearers of glad tidings is exactly the opposite.
The judgment on this man is obvious, but the assessment of what he actually said and believed is as important and more to the point, helpful. If he's just a religious fanatic who believes as he said, "There is no life but the life in the world to come." not much we can do about that. We've heard that from all stripes of religious fanatics.
But then there's this quote from Zarqawi's final taped diatribe of April 26, 2006 as he addressed the Bush administration - "You are like someone who tries to cure his drunkenness with alcohol." This adds a new dimension to the notion that Bush is the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. Michael Berg might see these two as drinking buddies - both using violence to stop violence - to expel the evil.
There was another quote from Zarqawi in which he claimed knowledge of our soldiers there. He exhorted the Americans in charge - "Why don't you tell your people about the suicides of your soldiers? Why don't you tell them how they take sleeping pills and hallucinatory drugs which make them lose their minds and then become like beasts?" Odd for someone so committed to the sword to observe beastliness in others. Or not. But did he know something? Are our troops being given drugs? Speed - amphetamines - chrystal meth? Above and beyond the basic foundation of the war, could this explain Haditha, Abu Ghraib - and whatever other atrocities might emerge?
It sounds bizarre - and yet - the entire footage from this administration has been surreal. One can imagine in ten years - maybe sooner - a confessional expose from a soldier in Iraq who took or were given drugs to get through - to pump himself up for the tasks at hand. And many will ask Condoleeza's question - "Who could imagine such a thing?"
Another arresting quote from Zarqawi - addressing America's leaders: "You have not been honest with yourself or your people for a single moment. Your forefathers had an integrity you lack." And of course - we'll be told anything a psychotic like this has to say isn't worth repeating or listening to. And of course - at the mouth of the cave that makes complete sense. Walk away from the rubble and the cave and this quote from Michael Berg makes more sense - "As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence."
Bill C. Davis is a playwright. www.billcdavis.com