Until now the mere thought of viewing it has filled me with disgust. Why give the murderers the satisfaction? When CBS news aired a snippet last month -- which did not include the reporter's decapitation and the grisly gloating that ensued -- the Pearl family objected. Even if I had been tempted to watch, that would have dissuaded me.
Jeff Jacoby's June 13 Boston Globe column, "Pearl Video Brings the Horror Home," changed my mind. Jacoby called the three-minute production "a piece of Islamist pornography" that nonetheless "does something for Daniel Pearl that has been done for virtually none of al Qaida's other victims: It makes him real."
Pearl's beheading "conveys with a force no words can match the undiluted malignancy, the sheer evil, of the enemy we are fighting," Jacoby wrote. "Yes, it is a horror. Yes, it is barbaric. But we are at war with barbarians, and what they did to Pearl, they would gladly do to any one of us. This is no time to be covering our eyes."
Jacoby explained that video became available to the American public only recently, when the Boston Phoenix, a weekly newspaper, supplied a link on its home page. I respect Jacoby's judgment and therefore forced myself to watch. The shock came not from the brutality, which I had expected, but rather from something else.
The video is edited down from an apparently lengthy series of interrogations. The captive says: "My name is Daniel Pearl. I'm a Jewish American from ... Encino, Calif., USA. I come from, on my father's side, a family of Zionists. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I'm Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We've made numerous family trips to Israel." The reporter says that a street in an Israeli town is named after Chaim Pearl, the reporter's great-grandfather, one of the founders of the town.
That's more information than I would have volunteered under the circumstances, but OK. It's always difficult to predict exactly how one would react in extremis.
Then came the shock.
"Not knowing anything about my situation. Not being able to communicate with anybody. And only now do I think about some of the people in Guantanamo Bay must be in a similar situation," adds Pearl, possibly thinking this will save him.
"And I've come to realize that this is the sort of problems that Americans are going to have anywhere in the world now. We can't be secure. We can't walk around free as long as our government policies are continuing and we allow them to continue.
"We Americans cannot continue to bear the consequences of our government actions, such as the unconditional support to the state of Israel -- 24 uses of the veto power to justify massacres of children.
"And its support for the dictatorial regimes in (the) Arab and Muslim world, and also the continued American military presence in Afghanistan."
We next see the gruesome deed -- Pearl's head being cut off. We hope that he's already dead and that death came swiftly. His pitiless murderers hold the head aloft, and the titles read:
"The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistan Sovereignty
We still demand the following:
The immediate release of all U.S.-held prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The return of Pakistani prisoners to Pakistan.
The immediate end of U.S. presence in Pakistan.
The delivery of F-16 planes that Pakistan had paid for and never received.
We assure Americans that they shall never be safe on the Muslim land of Pakistan.
And if our demands are not met, this scene shall be repeated again, and again and again."
The value of watching the video is to see the utter futility of trying to placate the West's self-declared Islamist enemies. It doesn't matter if a case can be made for some of their grievances. Don't give an inch. Any concession is like blood to a shark.