The Other Gulf War
By R. D. Flavin

Wall of Skulls at Templo Mayor, Mexico City, MX.

     What’s the difference between Mexicans and Pit Bulls?  Beheadings.  Over two hundred Mexicans have been beheaded so far this year.  Such violence in any other country might be considered an explicit plea for international assistance, but for a neighboring country which shares our border, our history, our people and culture to experience such ongoing horrific criminal tragedies and be relatively ignored is a sad testament to our conceit.  We posture truth, justice and the American way overseas, often sincerely as with the struggle against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and with the sectarian and ethnic conflicts which have intensified in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, yet we balk at recognizing the insidious injustices being committed in the United Mexican States.  There’s another Gulf War being fought and, truthfully, our American way perpetuates the killing.

     Since Pres. Richard Nixon began the modern “war on drugs” by irrationally and unscientifically declaring (“illegal”) drug addiction our domestic “public enemy No. 1" and increasing federal spending on the problem to $600 million for the fiscal year 1973 (Markham 1972), it’s become the American way to throw money at all aspects of (“illegal”) drug use, abuse, manufacture or harvesting, and its distribution and sales.  We sent Tommy Chong to prison for nine months for selling glass bongs!  It’s now thirty-six years into the “war on drugs” and the American way isn’t working.  Under the possible pretense of assistance to Mexico, the so-called Mérida Initiative (H.R. 6028) proposed in 2007 and passed by Congress on June 10, 2008, is now stalled in the Senate.  Apparently the Cheney/Bush administration believes Mexico’s promised $400 million would be better spent as part of the proposed $700 billion endowment to the Wall Street stock exchange.  I think it was Ernie Franklin who said, “A penny invested is a penny in someone else’s pocket...”

     The expression “war on terror” has similar antecedence, as with the April 2, 1881 New York Times front-page headline usage of “THE WAR ON TERRORISM” as referring to actions taken
as a consequence of the Nihilist assassination of Emperor Alexander II of Russia the previous month and the threat of more political murders.  Its current application began with the Sept. 20, 2001 “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People” by Pres. George W. Bush delivered in response to the 9/11 attacks.  Terrorism (a. F. terrorisme > f. L. terror dread + 'ism' or system)  has come to be conventionally applied with antonymy as the opposite of patriotism via Public Law 107-56, the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001."  ...And while there have been too many abusive misapplications of the term “patriot” by post-9/11 Americans, “traitor” had currency with Benedict Arnold critics, and “commie” sufficed in 1950's McCarthy witch-hunts, the purpose of the Patriot Act was to combat Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.  Betrayal from within became combined with betrayal from without.  America (with some international support) took out the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bin Laden moved to Pakistan and on February 1, 2002, one hundred and forty-three days after 9/11, the Wall Street Journal writer, Daniel Pearl, was beheaded and the video soon became an Internet sensation (read: watched by many, many very sick people).  I watched it and sincerely regret it.  I’ll never willingly view another.  I should have juxtaposed, extrapolated and re-worded secondary sources – watching an innocent man’s beheading still haunts me.  I’m sorry I did it, I’m sorry for playing into the murder as an audience, I’m sorry I momentarily forgot respect, and I’m angry that it’s going to be a while before others opt out of the audience role and such tactics are ineffectual.  I’m going to be angry for a long time.

Medusa by Caravaggio, ca. 1597; Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

     Any recent study of ancient interpersonal violence is likely to include decapitation as a significant component (Walker 2001).  It became included in Greek myth and astronomy, as Prof. Jerome Lettvin (M.I.T., Electrical and Bioengineering and Communications Physiology) has demonstrated with his work on the Medusa as both a Mediterranean octopus and the Blinking Demon Ghoul star, Algol, in the constellation Perseus (Lettvin 1977).  The Italian Baroque artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 - 1610), used his own face as a model for that of Medusa in an especially life-like and gruesome imagining.  Caravaggio also painted the beheading of Holofernes from the deuterocanonical Book of Judith which inspired many similar portrayals of the Apocryphal event.  Though Judith only makes it into scripture with Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, most everyone can agree on an early date for the popular story of David and Goliath.  Some, with an eye on such details as attention to armor, a ritual of single combat, and certain other contributory factors, suggest that 1 Samuel 17 was likely rewritten or amended at some point (Deem 1978).  Regardless, beheading has been practiced enough to establish itself in myth, scripture, and the edge of town where the monsters warn us.  Such fables and legends as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Moll 2002), along with various Celtic and European precursors, have used decapitation as a plot device.  Some say “life imitates art,” but no one really believes it.

Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, ca. 1598; Galleria Nazionale dell'Arte Antica, Rome.

      Beheadings do happen.  The guillotine was invented with economic considerations masquerading as humanitarian relief in 1792, the same year Switzerland executed Anna Göeldi for being a “witch.”  A starved summery of immediate background might afford a journal mention (Wiltschke-Schrotta & Peter Stadler 2005) with:

“Beheading was used in Britain up to 1747 and was a standard method in Norway (abolished 1905).  Sweden (up to 1903), Denmark and Holland (abolished 1870), and was used for some classes of prisoner in France (up until the introduction of the guillotine in 1792) and in Germany up to 1938.  China also used it widely, until the communists came to power and exchanged it with shooting in the twentieth century.  Japan used beheading up until the end of the nineteenth century too, prior to turning to hanging.  Thus, beheading was widely used in Europe and Asia until the 20th century, but now it is confined to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen and Iran.  Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded 52 men and one woman for murder, rape, sodomy and drug offences in 2003 (10).  Sadly, today beheading of foreigners in Iraq is a cruel daily method of terrorists blackmailing western countries (19).”
(10) Clark, R.  Behaeding (sic) [Online]. [cited Oct. 2004] Available from: (19) Daniel S. Enthauptung funktioniert. Profil. 34.  Vienna.  16, August, 2004: 68-70.

And, acknowledging effective zombie dispatching (beheading or delivering a severe brain wound), with Kevorkian-chic we causally stumble through easy associations and trip over self-decapitation with farm machinery (Racette, Vo & Sauvageau 2007), and remember there haven't been any significant periods in either prehistory or in historical times when humans have not been victims of beheading.

     Canadian Greyhound bus service believed they had a clever advertising slogan with “There’s a reason you’ve never heard of bus rage,” but sadly the campaign had to be discontinued after a passenger on his way to Manitoba, Vince Weiguang Li, turned without provocation to a fellow passenger, Tim McLean, stabbed him repeatedly, cut off his head, and was seen eating some of the victim’s flesh as the Canadian Mounties arrived.  The old slogan, “Leave the driving to us” seems safe enough, but one ever knows for sure.

     To be appallingly fair, the body count in the Other Gulf War this year is over 2,700 with more added every day.  It’s the two hundred-plus beheadings that’s got to me and especially because of the temporary postings to YouTube my stomach has taken a turn for the worst.  It seems because America won’t decriminalize drugs and a powerful and murderous group of cartels have formed to profit from America’s prudishness.  To further their financial ends, they’ve studied the terror tactics of Al-Qaeda and begun to post their beheadings of innocent civilians on the Internet.  It’s Darwinism in its carelessness that our Alpha Males mark their turf with decapitation, defecation, deforestation, and if the late De Forest Kelley was here, speaking in his Star Trek role as Dr. McKoy, "In plain, non-Vulcan English, we've been lucky."  Earlier, when I claimed that America was perpetuating these killings, I meant it.  We owe Tommy Chong an apology.

Deem, Ariella.  1978.  “...and the Stone Sank into His Forehead". A Note on 1 Samuel XVII 49.”  Vetus Testamentum.  28, Fasc. 3: 349-351.
Lettvin, Jerome.  1977.  “The Gorgon’s Eye.”  Technology Review.  80, 2: 74-83.  Reprinted in Astronomy of the Ancients edited by Kenneth
  Brecher and Michael Feirtag (1979, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).  See also, Elworthy, F. T. 1903.  “A Solution of the Gorgon Myth.”
  Folklore.  14, 3: 212-242.
Markham, James M.  1972.  “President Calls for ‘Total war’ on U.S. Addiction.”  New York Times.  Mar. 21, 1972; pp. 1, 2.
Moll, Richard J.  2002.  “Frustrated Readers and Conventional Decapitation in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”  The Modern Language
.  97, 4: 793-802.
Racette, Stephanie, Truong Tho Vo and Anny Sauvageau.  2007.  “Suicidal decapitation using a tractor loader: A case report and review of
  the literature.”  Journal of Forensic Sciences.  52, 1: 192-194.
Walker, Phillip L.  2001.  “A Bioarchaeological Perspective on the History of Violence.”  Annual Review of Anthropology.  30: 573-596.
Wiltschke-Schrotta, Karin and Peter Stadler.  2005.  “Beheading in Avar Times (630-800 A.D.).”  Acta Medica Lituanica.  12, 1: 58-64. 

Hoping that Kris was wrong and that Freedom is more than “nothing left to lose,”

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