Amid Iraqi Violence, Barbarism Can Still Shock NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr reflects on the apparent killing of two U.S. soldiers by Iraqi insurgents, and the barbarism that has become part of our daily lives.

Amid Iraqi Violence, Barbarism Can Still Shock

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NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr, has been following a big story from Iraq this week, the killings of two American soldiers by Iraqi insurgents. He's been listening to what's being said about the incident and what isn't being said.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

The American military command is understandably cautious about releasing details of the reported killing of captured PFC Thomas Tucker and PFC Kristian Menchaca, whose remains may no longer be identifiable by visual inspection. The killers have no such compunction.

Indeed modern technology enables them to compound the impact of their atrocities. On the internet they posted boastful word of their deed. They speak of having carried out a nahar, and Arabic word which can mean beheading or throat slitting, in reprisal for the bombing of their leader, Abu Musab all-Zarqawi.

Don't be surprised if video of the killing turns up on the internet. American contractor Nick Berg was famously shown being beheaded in a video shown on the internet in 2004. The idea of publicized executions may have started with the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 in Pakistan.

It is perhaps because such publicized atrocity makes such a profound impression on families that they have become a terrorist weapon of choice. The abduction of two GIs in this way seems to have a deeper effect than the word that 2,500 Americans have been lost in the Iraq war. America may have to brace itself for more atrocities for the simple reason that the Americans are seen as sentimental about their loved ones and thus vulnerable.

And so the nation waits to learn exactly what happened to the two GI's and meanwhile, an Iraq defense official, Major General Abdul Aziz Muhammad, tells a news conference they were killed in a barbaric way. Today the Associated Press quotes an unnamed American military official as saying that one of the soldiers, possibly both, were beheaded.

I am usually as interested as anyone in knowing the inside story, but in this case I'm willing to wait for the official account.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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