The captured toy story could be pretty significant. The terrorists need, more than anything else, to be seen as awesome, terrible figures. If they stop inspiring fear, they are finished. So the one thing they cannot stand is ridicule. I would think that by tomorrow, their pathetic effort to pass a doll off as a captured American soldier will have made them laughingstocks throughout the Arab world.
This doesn’t mean, of course, they they won’t carry off future atrocities, maybe spectacular ones. But, coming on the heels of Iraq’s triumphant election, widespread perception of the terrorists as ineffectual figures of fun could well be another nail in their coffin.
By the way, have they carried off any successful attacks since Sunday’s election? Not that I’m aware of.
UPDATE: Roger Simon has some interesting thoughts about who might have been dumb enough–or smart enough–to post the hostage toy photo. All I can say is: we’re innocent!
UPDATE: Of course, some news outlets hang on to the dream more tenaciously than others. Tomorrow’s Guardian, amazingly enough, reports the story of the captured toy, straight:
A militant group in Iraq claimed last night to have kidnapped an American soldier and threatened to kill him if Iraqi prisoners were not released within 72 hours.
The group posted on the internet what appeared to be a photograph of a soldier sitting in front of a black banner with a gun pointed at his head.
Well, actually it appeared to be a doll with a toy gun pointed at its head, held by someone just off camera with (relatively speaking) extremely large fingers. But the Guardian’s left wing readers will be the last to know. As usual.