Reaction to the murder of Paul Johnson

Matt Lefebvre

The Middle East has been a place of turmoil for most of the lives of my generation. There have been two wars, both waged by Presidents named Bush, countless terrorist attacks and mass murders and ethic cleansing by Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of Serbia.

The greatest tragedy to ever happen on American soil, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, were plans carried out by Middle Eastern terror organizations. All of these events have touched people from coast to coast along with nations across the world.

The latest news to break from this modern day powder keg has touched me the most however. Paul Johnson Sr., an Apache helicopter specialist, was abducted in Saudi Arabia on June 12 by al Qaeda soldiers. Johnson, who was 49, had been living in Saudi Arabia for over a decade working for the United States military.

On Tuesday June 15, the self proclaimed leader of the al Qaeda organization in Saudi Arabia, Abdel Aziz Al-Muqrin, threatened to kill Johnson in 72 hours unless the Saudi Arabian government released al Qaeda prisoners and Westerners left the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Muqrin was killed shortly after Johnson’s body was discovered. He, along with two other men which were possibly involved in Johnson’s murder, were gunned down by Saudi security forces 20 miles south of Riyadh at a Arab satellite station.

Two days later, Johnson’s son, Paul Johnson III, along with Johnson’s sister and daughter appeared on NBC’s The Today Show and CNN to make a heart felt appeal to the American people and President Bush, whom Johnson III named specifically. Johnson III asked for his father to be brought home for Father’s Day which was a mere three days away at the time. Later that night in Johnson’s hometown in New Jersey, a candle light vigil was held by friends and family in hopes of the release of the P.O.W.

As 72 hours came and went, news broke from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capitol, that Johnson had been beheaded by the militant group. Photographs of the body and severed head along with anti-American messages were posted on a Muslim website.

Al-Muqrin claimed responsibility for Johnson’s kidnapping and the death of another American, Kenneth Scroggs, on Saturday on behalf of a group called the Falluja Squadron, which claims to have ties to al Qaeda.

It was later confirmed that the photos were of Johnson. His remains were later found in the eastern part of Riyadh, his head placed on top of his body.

American officials have said they are ready to help Saudi Arabia find the people responsible for the murder.

This story had a more personal feeling then others which have been reported. I got to see Johnson’s family plead for his life on national television. I got to see, real emotion, got the see the real victims. I felt bad for Johnson III as I watched him break down to tears when speaking of his father. I was saddened to see the news flashes today on every cable news outlet of what had occurred.

This is a situation which could have been prevented. I was a supporter of President Bush when he decided to go against the United Nations and invade Iraq. It appeared to be the right thing to do at the time. Pictures of a burning Baghdad were broadcasted 24/7 on every news outlet and pictures filled the front page of every paper in the country.

As the war waged on, Americans started to die, and suddenly the war started to lose support. Stories came back of gun battles in Baghdad neighborhoods against Hussein loyalists where American soldiers were wounded and killed.

Too many Americans have died in this campaign. Before Johnson’s death, we would hear of other American victims, sadness would come over us and then dinner would be ready, and the television would change channels to the Simpsons or Friends. This soldier actually has a face and story which was brought to the American public. To know about the victim and see his face stirs real emotion and makes you feel as though you know the victim.

Johnson’s country failed him. The same country which he had fought for over the past 10 years. The United States could have come to his aid through the release of the al Qaeda soldiers which were held captive in Saudi Arabia. Now President Bush wants justice. “We must pursue these people and bring them to justice before they hurt other Americans,” said President Bush. “They are trying to get us to retreat. We will not be intimidated.” Where is the justice for Paul Johnson Sr.? Where is the justice for his family? The same family who now has to live with the thoughts of what their beloved soldier went through during his six days in hell.

The President’s inability to see through his agenda and realize that Americans are dying has made him very unpopular. The American people still do not know why we invaded Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction were never found and it has been concluded the Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. Control over oil output does not seem to be the reason for our forced take over of Iraq because gas prices have been on the rise since we arrived in Baghdad.

It has been said the President Bush wanted to settle the vendetta with Hussein after the former Iraqi dictator tried to have President George Bush Sr. assassinated during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990’s. So President Bush sent innocent men and women half way around the world to settle something they never should have been involved in. If the president wanted Hussein so badly, then he should have suited up in desert fatigues and waited on the outskirts of Baghdad for three weeks to get the go head to invade. He should have been on the front line fighting. Instead he sits in his office.

So now Johnson III and his sister want revenge for their father’s death. Who do they really blame for it, al Qaeda or President Bush?