Monday, April 20, 2009

Not a leg to stand on

In recent articles, I've evoked the terribly grave subjects of torture and the assassination of civilians in the context of the disastrous crusade instigated by the former president of the USA. Today, I'm tempted to evoke this domain in a more flippant manner, through an anecdote that is funny in a macabre way.

That beautiful photo of the village of Herat in Afghanistan was taken by a US photographer in 1978, when that archaic land was imagined by foreigners as a place of a thousand and one exotic charms. In Paris, at that time, I used to eat regularly in a splendid little Afghan restaurant, and I imagined the country through its cooking: in a word, delicious.

Today, the press informs us of the extraordinary operation of a suicide bomber in that village. A disabled man, with an artificial leg, stumbled towards the governor's residence. His lurching steps were aggravated by the presence of a weighty pile of explosives packed into his hollow prosthesis. To call a graveyard spade a spade, the villager had decided to be a suicide bomber. But word gets around quickly in a village: faster, in any case, than the limping speed of a one-legged would-be terrorist. He was still within a few hundred meters of the governor's residence when security staff received a message concerning the impending attack. So, the police simply acted in a way that would be considered, in normal circumstances, as in very poor taste. They took aim at the artificial leg and fired. The blast produced a death toll of one. The disabled villager was henceforth more disabled than ever, in that the governor's compound was showered with a shrapnel mix of human body parts and fragments of what was once an artificial leg.

The press article informs us that there has not been any claim for the intended attack. That leaves the way open for doubt. Rather than condemning the perpetrator for planning to kill people, I prefer to imagine that he was fed up with strutting around on an artificial leg, and that he merely wished to commit suicide in as spectacular a way as possible. To go out in fireworks, as it were, along with his damnable leg, in an open place where he was not likely to hurt other villagers. If ever I learned that his act was recorded by a friend for YouTube, I'll attach the video to the present post.

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