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Zarqawi's Face: Invitation to a Sanitized Beheading
Zarqawi's face looks peaceful in death. He resembles Pavarotti. His death face portrait has been broadcast in two versions. The first shows him pacific, just slightly bruised, like a medieval Russian icon, somber, slightly fleshy, still. In the second he's more battered and slightly bloodied, less poised, awkward. We see only his head.
Major General Caldwell in his military press conference pointed out that we cleaned him up. We wouldn't defile and flaunt bodies as they did, the Major General said. In response to reporters' questions, the military allowed Zarqawi had been cleaned though not Photoshopped for viewing. Caldwell noted there were horrific unviewable pictures unfit for televising.
The picture not only demonstrates Zarqawi's death, as did the bizarrely iced and displayed bodies of Saddam's sons, it gives us only the head and reminds us of Zarqawi's barbaric beheadings. Our government figures didn't gloat by holding up his head or sending it down the Euphrates. They were sober steadfast and demure in framing the meaning of his death: 'a great evil purged' (Blair) 'a murderer who won't murder again' (Bush), 'the bloodiest-handed man of our time [sic] dealt with' (Rumsfeld).
Severing heads was one of Zarqawi's barbarisms. Brandishing genitals or ears has often been a warrior boast, or scalping or drinking defeated blood. In the Indian epic The Mahabharata, Draupadi, the noblest person of her family, swears she will bind her hair until she washes it in the blood of those who have shamed her. She does. Our ritual in Baghdad looks tame by comparison, civilized.