I think it started during World War II, once the brutality of the Japanese army became known. It was the claim that, "they don't value life like we do." Not only the mass murders committed by the Imperial Japanese Army induced this observation, so did the mystifying willingness of Japanese commanders to send their troops to certain death in banzai charges. So did the willingness of ordinary Japanese soldiers to die as did their habit of committing suicide in often-gruesome ways rather than submit to capture.
At the time, the statement seemed nothing more than an empirically-verifiable fact. It was true that Bushido-driven Japan, with its cult of a divine emperor, valued human life differently than the Enlightenment-nourished West.
Before long, it was also claimed about North Korean communists that they don't value life like we do, again as witness to the North Korean invasion of the south and the brutalities inflicted upon the south's people. Considering the tragic state of life in North Korea today, and the tens of millions killed or perished from starvation there, I'd have to say it's still true, for the communist power holders, anyway.
The claim was repeated by some during the Vietnam War, but before war's end, "they don't value life like we do" had become a club of America's intellectual Left with which to beat the military-industrial complex. It was later used to derisive effect in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 Vietnam movie, Full Metal Jacket, uttered by a one-dimensional Marine colonel who sees the war as an extension of America's Manifest Destiny.
In September 2002, President Bush said in a speech in Arizona, referring to al Qaeda:
These people don't have tanks, they don't have ships. They've got hate. These leaders are the ones that hide in caves, or the dark recesses of some cities, and the send youngsters to their suicidal death. These are the folks who hijacked a great religion, and take innocent life without any hesitation. See, they don't value life like we do. In America, everybody counts. Every life has worth, every life is precious. That's not the way the enemy thinks. The enemy doesn't care. They've got these designs on America, because we love freedom.Needless to say, he came under attack from other quarters for that. I'll not enter into that debate. I'll only point out what just happened Baghdad, as reported by CNN:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two mentally disabled women were strapped with explosives Friday and sent into busy Baghdad markets, where they were blown up by remote control, a top Iraqi government official said.Did you get that? The terrorists sent mentally-disabled women, wearing explosive belts or vests, into pet markets where the terrorists blew the bombs by remote control, indiscriminately killing as many innocent victims as they could - young or old, men, women, children, doesn't matter. Kill them all.
The bombs killed at least 98 people and wounded more than 200 at two popular pet markets on the holiest day of the week for Muslims, authorities said.
In both bombings, the attackers were mentally disabled women whose explosive belts were remotely detonated, Gen. Qasim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad's security plan, told state television. ...
"By targeting innocent Iraqis, they show their true demonic character," said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, spokesman for the Multi-National Division-Baghdad.
"They care nothing for the Iraqi people; they want to subjugate them and forcefully create a greater Islamic sharia state," he said, referring to Islamic law.
Anyone care to argue with the proposition that al Qaeda does not value life like we do? Anyone wish to deny that al Qaeda would do the same thing here in American if they could?
And what has al Qaeda wrought with this kind of unspeakable brutality? A police chief in a small city in Iraq's Anbar province put it this way after Anbar had suffered through similar brutalities at al Qaeda's hands:
"In 2002 and 2003, we thought Al Qaeda was just another Muslim group. Now, you can go far out into the desert and talk to even a shepherd, and he will tell you that he hates Al Qaeda. One hundred years from now, you will be able to go into the desert and talk to a shepherd and he will still tell you that he hates Al Qaeda."I told Norman Geras back in 2004 (when he ran a Normblog profile on me):
Q: What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?So say I still. For these enemies, brutality and mass murder are not means to an objective. They are the objective.
A: At present, Islamist absolutism potentially armed with atomic weapons.