Ash Wednesday


Today is an international day of mourning, and it is because we are fully human that we need to wear the ashes on our brow.

Only forty non-shopping days to Easter, one recalls, on this, the most solemn fast of the Christian year, except Good Friday. The thought being: What would happen to the economy if, by some miracle of repentance, all the descendants of Christians were suddenly recalled to faith?

This is the flip side of an argument I have often made in conversation, when learning of millions of dollars of receipts from some gross horrible vicious obscene and cynical product, often as not from the entertainment industry. “We never thought the collapse of Western civilization would be good for the economy.” It would be dishonest to continue repeating this remark: for by now, the thought is perfectly familiar.

Familiar, and of course, bitter in the mouth, as befits Ash Wednesday.

Since Saturday, I have been intending to write about a passing event, of no great significance to the history of the world. A friend said I should use it to grab people's attention. It was the latest successful suicide bombing in Iraq — “successful,” in the sense that a hundred people were killed, enough to earn mention in the world press. Bombs went off in two crowded markets, scattering heads and limbs all over the stalls. What made this any different from the standard Islamist atrocity in New York, Madrid, Bali, London, Kabul, Jerusalem, Baghdad, or anywhere? Certainly not the final total of corpses, or the number of mutilated survivors (more than twice that hundred).

I have a list before me of confirmed Islamist terror attacks since 9/11/01, in Iraq and all over the world. More than ten thousand of them. In Iraq, the number peaked at 478 bombings in 2005 — an understatement, because multiple bombings in a single approximate location were counted as one event. With point-form brevity, the list goes on like a telephone directory.

Two bombs went off, last Friday morning in Baghdad. The first was at the al-Ghazil pet market, the second, 20 minutes later, at the bird market in New Baghdad. Friday is the Muslim holiday, and with people in Iraq feeling, lately, much more secure, these markets were crowded. They are, according to one of my Iraqi correspondents, especially popular among the poor, who take their children to look at the animals. And indeed, part of the confusion after the large explosions was sorting through the remains to distinguish parts of the children, from parts of their mothers and fathers and aunts, from parts of the animals.

For the bombs were concealed on the persons of two exceptionally innocent-looking ladies.

Still, nothing special in that, for the Koran-reciting zealots choose the defenceless by preference, not only in Iraq but all over the world. It is so much easier to kill defenceless people — as psychopaths of non-Muslim persuasion realize, even when hitting campuses and shopping malls in North America. For the big death tolls are invariably achieved at locations where guns have been publicly banned, and they know they'll have the leisure to continue the massacre until armed police finally arrive. (That is why crime rates suddenly climb wherever “gun control” triumphs.)

Not that any armed affiliate of the NRA could have prevented what happened last Friday in Baghdad. For the bombs were concealed on the persons of two exceptionally innocent-looking ladies.

Both were Down's Syndrome. Quite obviously, they did not know what they were carrying, or why. They were detonated by remote control, using cellphones. The detached head of one of these ladies was among the first of the body parts that Baghdad police were able to identify.

Down's people can be extremely suggestible. They are like children, in many respects, and especially, trusting like small children, even as adults. As the father of a Down's child myself, I can tell you just how innocent they are, and how loving. God made them without guile, and utterly in need of our protection. And in return for that demand upon our decency (Down's children in Canada today are usually aborted), He made them a light in this world. O Lord.

My friend, who told me to write about this, is himself a man with long experience working for people with mental disabilities. He told me I had to write about this case, because it was the final abomination. He said, “we should have an international day of mourning.” He said, “I give up my membership in the human race if these Al Qaeda terrorists are human.”

Yet the truth is, that the use of the mentally disabled to carry explosives — and of children, too — is a standard Islamist practice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and elsewhere. So in this respect, too, the bombings at al-Ghazil and New Baghdad were nothing new. An even stranger truth, is that the Al Qaeda terrorists are human, like us. Like their victims. Like the two Down's ladies.

Today is an international day of mourning, and it is because we are fully human that we need to wear the ashes on our brow.


David Warren. "Ash Wednesday." Ottawa Citizen (February 6, 2008).

This article reprinted with permission from David Warren.


David Warren, once editor of the Idler Magazine, is widely travelled — especially in the Middle and Far East. He has been writing for the Ottawa Citizen since 1996. His commentaries on international affairs appear Wednesdays & Saturdays; on Sundays he writes a general essay on the editorial page. Read more from David Warren at David Warren Online.

Copyright © 2008 Ottawa Citizen

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