"The murder of Paul shows the evil nature of the enemy we face. These are barbaric people. There's no justification whatsoever for his murder. And yet they killed him in cold blood."
I guess there are a number of problems.
- One has to do with Bush's framing of the issue in terms of evil. In Bush's eyes , the beheading was not just an immoral act; it was an evil act, committed by evil people--people who are not only evil (and barbaric as well), but our enemy to boot.
There is a major difference between condemning an act as immoral and condemning the people who did it as evil.
The terms evil, evil nature, enemy, and barbaric clearly demonize the killers. It's the same sort of thing as using the terms axis of evil and evil empire. It establishes an absolutistic good-vs-evil view of the world, with no possibility of mutual understanding or accommodation. We are human; they are not.
I suppose it's unreasonable to expect Bush to ask himself such a question, but why, I wonder, does Bush suppose Johnson's killers did what they did. Does he think they were simply carrying out their destiny as evil beings? Does he think they were psychopaths or sociopaths? What did he think was going on in their heads (and even in their hearts) when they did the deed? Is he even willing to consider the possibility that they have hearts?
This is not to say that whatever was going on in their heads and hearts is justification for what they did. But it is to say that they are not simply non-human devils. Something was driving them, and it is important for us not to forget that.
Bush claims to be a Christian. As I understand it, it is fundamental to most Christian sects that anyone can be saved. Does Bush agree? Can people with an evil nature be saved? How would one approach doing that? I doubt that the best first step is to pin a label of evil on the person you are trying to save.
- Then there is the line about justification. It suggests that the same act would have been ok in Bush's mind had there been justification. At least he is consistent. Since Bush is a believer in capital punishment, he can't honestly be critical simply of killing in cold blood. After all, that's what capital punishment is: killing someone in cold blood.
Of course, Bush is not known for his intellectual honesty and consistency. But like most of us, he probably does want to avoid cognitive dissonance. So for his own peace of mind, he has to distinguish between acceptable cold-blooded killings and unacceptable cold-blooded killings.
But in acknowledging that he does believe that some cold-blooded killings are acceptable, the issue shifts from evil to justification. (Clearly Bush is not aware of having made this shift, though.)
Did Johnson's killers have justification? They thought so. Johnson worked on Apache helicopters. The killers issued the following statement.
"Let him taste something of what Muslims have long tasted from Apache helicopter fire and missiles."
Again, this does not justify the killing--at least as far as I am concerned. But it does show that the killers knew what they were doing and had thought about it. They believed they were justified in their acts.
- The line about the killing having been done in cold blood raises additional questions. Where was Bush's outrage at the way we treated some of our prisoners? Those acts were also done in cold blood. I'm not saying that the two are comparable. Murder is the not the same as abuse. But the cold-bloodedness aspect is the same. Bush has not talked about the perpetrators of the abuse as evil. Some prisoners have apparently been killed. How does Bush distinguish one cold-blooded murder from another?
The point of all this is simply that by expressing such a warped view of the world, Bush is making it much more difficult for the American people to understand what is going on. That may be his intent. Or more likely, he himself doesn't have a clue about what is going on in his own mind.