Yesterday’s two suicide bombings at markets in Bagdhad not only claimed “at least” 99 lives, they demonstrated anew the perverted savagery of those orchestrating the mayhem. Granted, your common or garden-variety suicide attack is a pretty horrible affair. Even worse was the innovation of recruiting children into the suicide club, a situation that sees families competing to get young Mohammed not into Yale or Harvard but into his first (and, as it usually happens, his last) explosive-filled waistcoat.
But what happened yesterday introduced a further wrinkle that, if possible, is even more brutish and dehumanizing. The first wave of news stories about the bombings noted that the perpetrators were females.
I know, of course, that there is a certain sort of feminist left-winger who insists that the sex of a suicide bomber is irrelevant to the quota of horror and disgust that the action elicits. Those are the people Edmund Burke spoke of when, in Reflections on the Revolution in France, he noted that “all homage paid to the sex . . . is to be regarded as romance and folly.” (Burke went on to castigate “this barbarous philosophy, which is the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings, . . . as void of solid wisdom, as it is destitute of all taste and elegance.”) For most of us, though, there is a special horror that attaches to the spectacle of suicide attacks carried out by women. And there was an extra-added dollop of disgust to be wrung from this latest atrocity when it was revealed that the women in question were mentally handicapped, sufferers from Down Syndrome. It is now thought that they were sent unwitting to their doom and that the explosives they carried were detonated by remote control.
What does this tell us? Two things, anyway. One, it reminds us of the depths to which Islamic fanatics will descend in pursuing their orgy of hatred and destruction. Joseph Conrad, in The Secret Agent, endeavored to limn the depths of evil in his portrait of the anarchist Mr. Verloc. Pursuing a plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory, Verloc enlists his wife’s brother, the mentally defective youth Stevie, to deliver the bomb. On the way, he trips and accidentally detonates the device, killing himself. Verloc was undoubtedly a nasty piece of work. But even he “never meant Stevie to perish with such abrupt violence. He did not mean for him to perish at all.” How much more callously depraved are the al Qaeda bureaucratics overseeing the mayhem in Iraq!
Then there is second, and potentially a cheerier, lesson in this repellent episode. It has to do with clothes. As one concerned Baghdad citizen put it, “We need really thorough checks, especially of women wearing black abayas who could hide something underneath.”
Hear, hear! It’s about time the women in Baghdad gave up on those ghastly sack-like coverings and acquired some proper togs: attractively tailored skirts, dresses, and other flattering feminine couture (they could try, here, for a start).
An explosion of haute couture might not solve the problem of suicide bombings, but would do wonders for feminine morale in that part of the world, which in turn would make it a bit more difficult to enlist the distaff side into the game of self-incineration. Having been to a blow-out sale at some fancy upscale boutique, what self-respecting woman would opt instead for a blow-up sale at the local pet market? There would be a collateral advantage, too, since my Peace-Through-Improved-Couture movement would also do a lot to improve the general comeliness and aesthetic appeal of the world’s burqa-sporting regions. I mean, really, given a choice of walking down the street and seeing (let alone being) this:
and seeing this:
What would you say? Not much of a choice, is it?