Chris strains too hard in second guessing the motives of the hostage takers, seeing a missed opportunity on their behalf in beheading Ken Bigley:
If they had issued a statement along the lines of "Due to the thousands of requests received, and because we have no quarrel with the ordinary British people, we are releasing this prisoner as a gesture of good will", they would have floored Tony Blair's and President Bush's (and my) portrayal of them as crazed monsters
But what if their aim was to be portrayed as "crazed monsters"? Instilling fear into the hearts of all infidels. Wouldn't it then make sense to cut off Mr Bigley's head? I posted before about the dangers of homomorphism. It can be useful up to a point to "get inside the mind" of a terrorist, particularly in assessing his likely actions. Game theory can be useful in this regard. But, we should not allow such exercises to delude us into thinking that the terrorists share similar aims to those we might have. It is popularly understood that terrorists' actions are carried out only in the furtherance of their cause. But in the case of the likes of Zarqawi, the actions are inextricably linked with the cause. The cause is the destruction of what we understand as civilisation, liberal democracy and all infidels converted or killed. One at a time, if necessary.