Insha’Allah is an Arabic phrase that translates into “If God wills it.” I once had a brief phone conversation with an oud builder from Aman, Jordan, who invoked it several dozen times in just a few seconds, a series of staccato bursts that left my ears ringing. Now the blood of journalist James Foley leaks into our comfort zone, flows across Iraq and seeps into the ground. Do you suppose God willed it? The world of combat journalism is clogged with brave souls willing to risk their lives in exchange for a handful of great photos. Several hundred of them die every year, and most of their names simply vanish.
There’s nothing for it but to view the bad news glowing from my computer screen. Before youtube began carefully editing its content, I’d watched at least a dozen live beheadings of hapless American contractors and assorted victims who simply vanished, their heads snatched up and displayed to the world by hirsute men who looked as though they were capable of having sex with goats. But we live in a darker world now. It’s obvious to me that the blood will never stop flowing.
I dug through a cardboard box and found my old checkered black-and-white Kafiya and unfurled it around my neck, and for just a few moments I was hurtling toward the Gulf of Aqaba along with T.E. Lawrence’s ragged Arab brigade, destroying a Turkish army caught with its collective pants down. But I’m just an old man with a long memory, waiting for the next head to roll.