Mona Charen

He seems to have achieved a kind of religious exultation by decapitating Daniel Pearl. That's what emerges from a new report from Georgetown University and the Center for Public Integrity. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 "mastermind" whom the Obama administration abortively planned to try (with the full protections of our Constitution) in a civilian court in Manhattan, was the man who did it.

By studying the videotape of Pearl's unbearably cruel and barbarous murder (in a more innocent time -- 2002 -- Americans became nauseated just hearing about it), U.S. investigators were able to compare the vein structure of the hand that appears in the video with KSM's. Though Mohammed had acknowledged being the killer, some had doubts. This report should quiet them.

The exhaustive examination, like a postcard from Hell, provides new details that reveal the pornographic pleasure the murderers took in their brutality. The videographer apparently failed to capture the initial throat slashing. KSM accordingly re-enacted it, this time decapitating the 38-year-old Pearl.

Though the disorganized kidnappers had considered releasing Pearl at the start of his confinement in Pakistan, they changed their minds when they learned that he was Jewish.

"My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California, USA," they forced him to say on tape before cutting his throat. Al-Qaida later released the video titled "The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl."

They weren't finished with him, though. After Pearl's head had been sawed off his neck, Mohammed and his accomplices cut the rest of the body into pieces. They then washed the bloody floor and knelt down in the same spot to pray -- perhaps moved to religious ecstasy by the smell of American blood.

The video was intended as a recruiting tool -- but its appeal has likely waned with time. Lately, perhaps reflecting its diminished position after nearly 10 years of American counterattacks, al-Qaida has been resorting to more conventional propaganda. The fourth edition of Inspire, the English online magazine of AQAP (al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) was released Jan. 15, and while the brutality is undiminished, al-Qaida's encouragement to its followers seems strained.

For one thing, the magazine devotes a great deal of space to emphasizing the compulsory nature of jihad -- it is the duty of every Muslim to wage jihad, they exhort -- perhaps suggesting that they are having trouble finding willing suicide bombers. Hoping to shame Muslims into becoming recruits, they heap praise on Roshonara Choudhry, a British Muslim woman who, after listening to tapes by Anwar Al-Awlaki, calmly stabbed MP Stephen Timms with a kitchen knife on May 14, 2010.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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