The savage murder of a second US journalist, Steven Sotloff, combined with threats to kill a British hostage are a stark reminder of the monster our governments have created in the Middle East.
Few groups historically match the nihilist barbarity of the so-called Islamic State (Isis), the terror group responsible for so much death and destruction in Syria and Iraq.
Their vicious sectarian ideology, taken from the Wahhabi sect whose Western-sponsored dominance in Saudi Arabia has made that country the least free on Earth, encourages the wholesale slaughter of anyone — including Muslims — who does not share it.
As with the Saudi regime, a medievalist fantasy rooted in a fictional view of the past inspires the grisly beheadings they are so keen to project onto our TV screens — those rightly shocked by the footage of the deaths of James Foley and Steven Sotloff should recall that Riyadh has beheaded 45 people so far this year.
Isis’s contempt for human life is matched by its contempt for civilisation — again like the Saudis, its forces have razed, exploded and demolished countless ancient monuments, shrines and mosques which they deem heretical.
This extremist ideology has been nurtured and sponsored by Western powers for decades in their cynical bid to direct the fortunes of the Muslim world.
Just as Israel sponsored Islamist extremists in order to weaken the secular resistance of Palestine’s Fatah, the United States bankrolled and armed Osama bin Laden and his henchmen to undermine Afghanistan’s socialist government and drag the Soviet Union into a crippling war in defence of its ally.
More recently, encouraging extremist Sunni Muslim groups has been seen as a way of countering Shi’ite organisations linked to Iran.
In Iraq the US and British occupiers promoted sectarian terror as part of their divide-and-rule strategy after the 2003 invasion.
In Libya it was a stick to beat the secular regime of Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, despite this one-time anti-imperialist having long before made his peace with the West.
As for Isis specifically, it is a product of Western-backed efforts to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria. Now that Washington and London have noticed that Isis poses a threat to their own interests there is talk of air strikes.
No-one can blame Iraq, Syria or the autonomous Kurdish forces — including the socialist authorities in Rojava — for calling for international assistance against their genocidal foes.
But Britain’s Communist Party leader Robert Griffiths is right to warn that any action should be under the aegis of the United Nations, not of the warmongering Nato alliance which has done so much to cause this crisis in the first place.
An effective UN response will mean talking to Russia, which in turn means the US and EU need to work to ensure the ceasefire announced yesterday in eastern Ukraine lasts.
The fascist-backed government in Kiev must be made to negotiate seriously with separatist forces which sprung up to defend their communities from battalions of neonazi thugs. Nato’s military build-up in eastern Europe should cease.
The West must also stop bankrolling and arming the chief promoter of international terror — the Saudi Arabian dictatorship.
It’s late in the day for trigger-happy imperialist powers to try to reverse their agenda of destabilisation and war. It’s also unlikely. Nothing suggests that the heads of state gathering for the Nato summit in Wales this week have seen the light.
But many lives depend on it. All pressure must be brought to bear on the British government to this end.