In a 'world democracy of ignorantly autonomous peoples and nations' -the United States included, Saddam Hussein is not ours ('Dubya' here) to punish -Iraq not ours to bring 'democracy' to -Iran and Korea not ours to dictate to
-the ignorant peoples of the world, those of the US included, not ours to manipulate to American 'consumerism': mind-fucking game-boys and subspeciating cellphones -an ignorant, posturing, drone-burden society unable to wipe its own ass.
-oops! -there go the polar bears!
Jun 17th 2006 Economist Magazine
Yasser Talal al-Zahrani
Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a prisoner in Guantanamo, died on June 10th, aged 21
NOTHING much distinguished Yasser Talal al-Zahrani from the 500 or so other prisoners held by the Americans at Guantánamo Bay, in Cuba. In his loose-fitting orange clothes and flip-flops, he spent the long days sitting or lying in his wire-mesh
cell. He washed with water from one bucket, made water in another.
Five times a day, when the call to prayer came over the camp PA system (sometimes overlaid, or garbled, with announcements in English), he would spread a towel on the cement floor and pray. At least it was not hard to determine Mecca's
direction. The sun blazed in through the mesh and baked the roof of corrugated iron. If he left his cage to be escorted, in leg shackles, to interrogation or the hospital, humidity quickly soaked his shirts with sweat.
In his letters home, Mr Zahrani told his father he was behaving well and had memorised the whole Koran. Guantánamo's guards, however, said he was troublesome, surly and a rule-breaker. Unlike some other prisoners, he was angry rather
than depressed. He did not have a lawyer, indeed refused to have one. If there were points to be made about conditions and legalities, he would make them himself.
He was young, having come to the camp at 17. Whether he was innocent was a different question. Though born in Saudi Arabia, at 16 he was in Afghanistan: working for charities, his family said, or running guns for the Taliban, according
to the Americans. After his capture, in Pakistan in 2002, he got involved in a prison riot in which a CIA agent was killed. As a dangerous element, he was flown to Guantánamo and kept there.
Like all but a handful of the detainees, he was not charged with anything. He was not, therefore, a proven criminal. But nor was he a prisoner-of-war. The conflict he had fought in had not been between states, but part of the amorphous
war on terror that America had been prosecuting, against brutal but shadowy jihadist networks, since the attacks of September 11th 2001. Mr Zahrani himself had never been a soldier, wearing insignia or a uniform and carrying weapons openly; the label
“unlawful enemy combatant” therefore seemed right, in American eyes. It also seemed right to them that neither the Geneva Conventions nor the usual American rules of legal process should apply to him. He was to be confined without charge indefinitely;
for, if released, it was clear that he would try to kill more Americans.
Mr Zahrani's ways of getting attention were fairly limited. One was to go on hunger strike. When the plastic pouch of breakfast came round—a pastry, cream cheese, an orange—he would refuse to open it. When lunch came—cereal bars,
peanuts—he would push that aside, too. Once the guards realised he was on hunger strike, they would make him sign a waiver form to show he was aware that he might die. But Mr Zahrani apparently had no interest in dying, just in being a nuisance.
Means of martyrdom
He was not alone. A hunger strike last September involved more than 100 prisoners. Most of them, like him, went back to eating fairly quickly, rather than be strapped in restraint chairs and force-fed—the usual practice in American
prisons—with liquid supplements or Gatorade through tubes inserted in their noses.
Others were more determined. Mr Zahrani was in touch with Ali Abdullah Ahmed, said to be a mid- to high-level operative for al-Qaeda, who had been force-fed after eight months on hunger strike. Together with another Saudi prisoner, Mani
Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi, allegedly a member of a jihadist recruiting group, they began to consider a different way of drawing attention to the cause.
That way was suicide—forbidden under Islam, but reinterpreted, by bombers and others, as a glorious act of martyrdom. Since Guantánamo had opened, in January 2002, there had been 41 suicide attempts, most of them, according to the
military authorities, “manipulative, self-injurious behaviour”. In mid-May, Mr Zahrani would have heard of the “suicide attempt” that had been used to lure guards to a cell where, as they slipped on a floor slicked with excrement and soap, they were set
upon by prisoners.
He himself, according to his family, was not the least suicidal. He did not wish to die, but to make a statement. Not just ideology lay behind it: a myth had taken hold in Guantánamo that if three prisoners killed themselves, they would
all be released. Yet suicide was tricky. Mr Zahrani was not on medication, so he could not hoard pills for an overdose, as some others did. He was not in a cell—as in Camp 5, the new highest-security wing—where fans and electrical fittings could be
fashioned into blades. But he had sheets and clothes from which, thread by thread, he could make a rope.
Since his cell could be easily seen into, discretion was essential. On June 10th, near midnight, he made his bed to look as if he was in it, wrote a suicide note, pushed a wad of cloth into his mouth, then hanged himself among the
laundry drying from the ceiling. His colleagues did the same.
As he had hoped, his death led voices around the world to demand that the camp be closed. One senior American official, immovable, called his suicide “a good PR move”. She may have been right; Guantánamo, alas, remains wrong.