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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The banality of evil (a continuing story)

The horror of last night's Dispatches on the massacre in Mumbai didn't come from shots of the station concourse covered in brains, first-person accounts of those who were lucky to escape with their lives or even security camera footage of the gunmen cutting down guests at the luxury hotels. It came from recordings of the phone conversations between the murderers and their controllers back in Pakistan.

The squaddies with their fingers on the triggers may have been country boys who were temporarily distracted from their bloody work by the size of the computer screens in the buildings they moved through but they were being issued with their instructions by people far more frightening. Anyone inclined to believe acts like these are organised by people temporarily setting aside their finer feelings in pursuit of a sane political goal should hear this monster as he choreographs each move in his own personal festival of carnage. A slit throat here, a bullet in the back of the neck there, capricious mercy for a Turkish muslim followed by words of comfort for a Jewish woman (each Jew, he tells his team, is worth fifty ordinary corpses) who in due course he intends to have despatched.

He's sitting in a room with a bunch of fellow mobsters who are watching the events on live TV. Occasionally he has to seek advice from the rest of his management team and we hear him calling over his shoulder "should they kill them now or later?" At one stage a gunman answers the phone with the words "peace be with you." It's the kind of thing no scriptwriter would dare hand in for fear of vulgarising an event so terrible and writing a role no actor would dare play.