This post examines the video ‘A Message to the Allies of America’ which features the apparent beheading of David Cawthorne Haines, a British citizen, by the Islamic State. The video was ‘discovered’ by the SITE Intelligence Group on September 2, 2014, who released it ahead of the media wing of Islamic State. Imagine that. Rita Katz explains how here.
As with previous posts on this topic, I focus on what is in front of us—the video itself—rather than what we have been told the videos ‘mean’. Are there any signs to help us separate emotional authenticity from emotional deception? Are these videos what they seem? This is a question we should each ask of these videos, and it’s a question that has effectively been silenced by the self-censorship of corporate news media and the virtual disappearance of these videos from the Internet. Two things are for sure: no one dies in these ‘beheading’ videos and an image of headless torso is not evidence of a death. They are easy to simulate. This is not to say that these ‘detainees’ are not dead by other means, but I suspect not.
When I have worked my way through these videos I will explain what is going on—and it is something far more diabolical than anything we have been told of ‘Islamic State’.
The Opening News Clip: Cameron on ‘this appalling organization’ IS
The video opens with a statement by David Cameron the British prime minister. He is being interviewed by the BBC’s Nick Robinson in what looks like Downing Street. A video of the complete interview, with transcript, is here.
Prime Minister Cameron is being asked to respond to news of the beheading of an American citizen by a British citizen. As with other IS videos, the opening clip is Exhibit A. It is evidence of the ‘crime’ IS is about to punish with the death of a citizen of the offending country. So let’s look at the relevant part of the transcript.
Q: Will it [A British citizen beheading an American citizen] change the government’s policy, specifically foreign policy. Do you still rule out military action in Iraq to target Islamic State?
CAMERON: “We will stick to the very clear foreign policy and strategy that we have, which is to work with the new Iraqi government to help make sure the Kurds get the arms they need to fight off these brutal extremist militants, to work with our allies, and as I’ve said to use everything we have – our aid, our diplomacy and our military prowess – to make sure with allies we do everything we can to put pressure on Islamic State – this appalling organisation …”
Here the clip ends abruptly (just after ‘this appalling organization’). Cameron looks and sounds serious, measured and determined. He is in control of himself. He is diplomatic. He sees the existence of ‘these brutal extremist militants’ as due to the sectarian politics of the recently deposed Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki, who, it is said, persecuted the Sunnis and provoked them into the present revolt. Working with ‘the new Iraqi government’ will end the sectarianism and deflate support for Islamic State according to Cameron. It is, of course, purely incidental that al-Maliki refused to give American troops immunity from prosecution, forcing their withdrawal (to Kuwait) in December 2011; and that his replacement Haider al-Abadi is happy to sign a Status of Forces Agreement which grants such immunity and opens the way for their return on a permanent basis. The sudden appearance of the evil Islamic State, which provides an irresistible motive for their return, is entirely coincidental.
Act One: In which Haines mistakenly equates IS with the Iraq resistance
Next we are presented with a by now familiar scene: a prisoner in orange attire kneels, his hands behind his back, as if tied. To his left, our right, is the man-in-black, brandishing a knife in his left hand. We now know that this tableau was lifted root and branch from a Turkish television series (see The Secret of Islamic State’s Beheading Videos Revealed). They are situated at the bottom of a stony desert slope which stretches upward to the horizon. Beyond is a brilliant blue sky. Haines’s tunic billows in the wind: the executioner’s does not, but we scarcely notice this. There is no vegetation this time, so we do not see that the wind does not trouble it.
The prisoner introduces himself:
“My name is David Cawthorne Haines. I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution. You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State, just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend amongst our British prime ministers who can’t find the courage to say no to the Americans. Unfortunately, it is we, the British public that, in the end, will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”
Haines speaks with a pained voice, but the pain is social, not physical. He sounds like a member of the gentry who has been dragged before a revolutionary court and cannot quite believe how he has been reduced to his present plight. Haines sounds as if he is speaking more quickly than he ordinarily would. There is an impression of barely suppressed anger. But did a genuine anger cause his speech to quicken or did his quickened speech give an illusion of anger? I suspect the last.
Let’s pay attention to what he says.
- He equates Cameron with Blair, who is widely hated in the UK. ‘Do you want to be hated too?’
- He equates the Islamic State with the resistance to the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq. (This, of course, is nonsense). ‘And doesn’t the whole world know that was a monstrous disaster and crime? You want to repeat that!’
- This sleight of hand converts Islamic State into freedom fighters and the Kurds as their oppressors. Cameron is about to arm oppressors and crush freedom.
- To this conceptual slipperiness is joined a basic truth, as if to make the entire package more palatable: prime ministers and their cabinets cannot find the courage to say ‘no’ to the Americans. Many in Britain would agree with that. I suspect that Haines would agree with that. What he would not agree with is his depiction of the Islamic State.
If one accepts these premises then one must also accept the conclusion they entail, i.e., the beheading of David Haines must logically follow. This is Jihadi John as Reason. It’s bad reasoning though. The only people who would accept these premises are those who are ignorant of the causes and effects of the Anglo-American occupation.
Act Two: In which Jihadi John chides Cameron ‘the obedient lapdog’
Jihadi John is in his usual form: dark ebullience. He is full of himself. It must be a lot of fun to call Cameron an ‘obedient lapdog.’ He addresses the canine Cameron with these words:
“This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State. Ironically, he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force responsible for delivering those arms. Your evil alliance with America which continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq and most recently bombed the Haditha Dam, will only accelerate your destruction, and playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only draw you and your people into another bloody and un-winnable war.”
The ‘bloody and un-winnable war’ refers to Iraq. ‘Peshmerga’ is a Kurdish word meaning ‘those who confront death’. They are Kurdish fighters and it is these Cameron has promised to arm. This promise is why Haines ‘has’ to die.
Haines is grim-faced throughout.
Act Three: In which Haines’ beheading is simulated
Haines’ face wears a look of resignation as the executioner goes through the motions. If we try real hard we can imagine that this is how a man behaves when he’s about to be beheaded—it’s not how I would behave though. You? His eye lids flutter and his mouth opens briefly. He looks stoic and brave. His head tilts back at the touch of the right hand on his chin. After several bloodless cuts of the knife, the scene fades to black.
Act Four: In which we view the lack of evidence of Haines’ death
The camera pans right to left, from the feet to the bloody mess where his head should be. That head has been placed in the small of the torso’s back, where it is almost cradled by fingers of the two constrained hands. A nice touch that. You will notice that the crime scenes are responding to their critics. It’s nice to see that those fingers and their nails are spotlessly clean and relaxed. How do hands and fingers behave when forcibly separated from the head that moves them? They do not resist? The scene is impressively gory and the shock of seeing the head we have recently seen talking now in an improbably location is dramatic. But, as I have explained before, the special effects department of any professional theatre or opera company can create something similar. Even personalized beheaded heads can be made to order. The production company behind the television series from which this scene is stolen could do the same. Incidentally, have the authorities interviewed them yet?
Act Five: In which an innocent man, Alan Henning, is collared
If you Cameron persist in fighting the Islamic State then you like your master Obama will have the blood of your people on your hands.
We scarcely notice that Henning seems not to notice his would-be executioner’s presence. This is the case with all of these execution videos. He blinks twice but does not act as if he is effected by these words. He stares straight at the camera. He looks as if he can’t quite fathom what he has got mixed up in. He is the most innocent of these ‘innocent victims’. Those who meekly submitted to the censorship of these videos—they too are innocent. Nor do they understand what they have got mixed up in.