Sunday, February 10, 2008

Horror has a face

I like to present myself as pretty resistant to horror. It is difficult, after all, to maintain my crusty persona (The Crusty Polemicist, after all) if I am constantly being brought to outbursts of pubescent blubbing by the endless smorgasbord of mundane nightmares that life serves up to us with such seeming gusto. So I’m surprised at how horrified I was – and how horrified I remain, days later – by the latest outrage out of Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two mentally disabled women were strapped with explosives Friday and sent into busy Baghdad markets, where they were blown up by remote control, a top Iraqi government official said.

The bombs killed at least 98 people and wounded more than 200 at two popular pet markets on the holiest day of the week for Muslims, authorities said.

As the parent of a mentally-disabled child, this incident has got hold of me, and I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. For several days, I've also been unable to shake the feeling that this reminded me of something. And this morning, I remembered what it was, and I remembered the words of poor, mad, doomed Colonel Kurtz.

It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that. These were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that.

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