Suicide Out of Spite
Don't fret over the deaths of three irredeemable jihadists.
BY JAMES TARANTO
The Australian Online, Thursday, June 15, 2006
On September 11, 2001, 19 Muslim fundamentalists committed suicide in an act of war against the US. Last week three of their comrades-in-arms did the same thing. Fortunately, unlike the 19, the three were in no position to murder anyone in the course of taking their own lives. Unfortunately, this has led some elite opinion-makers to sympathise with the enemy, which was precisely the enemy's goal.
The US Department of Defence identified the three, all inmates at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, as Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi, who belonged to a terror group that recruits for al-Qa'ida; Yassar Talal Al-Zahrani, "a frontline fighter for the Taliban" who was part of a 2001 prison riot in which the US suffered its first casualty in Afghanistan; and Ali Abdullah Ahmed, a "mid to high-level al-Qa'ida operative" with close ties to Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qa'ida figure also in US custody.
Yet even as westerners celebrated the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, some hearts bled for these three terrorists.
Jennifer Daskal, of Human Rights Watch, claimed the suicides resulted from "the incredible despair that the prisoners are experiencing" because they had been "completely cut off from the world".
Never mind that, as The New York Times reported, Zahrani had sent his father a recent letter in which, according to the newspaper, "he sounded in good spirits".
The paper's editorial page echoed Human Rights Watch's plaint, calling the suicides "the inevitable result of creating a netherworld of despair beyond the laws of civilised nations".
So did The Sydney Morning Herald, which described the suicides as "despairing acts" that "contradicted the Islamic faith these alleged fanatics are said to be pursuing". Never mind that the September 11 murderers were far from alone in using suicide as a tactic of war.
We are expected to believe, then, that these three terrorists, who killed themselves on the heels of a hunger strike that at its peak involved 89 detainees, all took their lives spontaneously, driven simultaneously by despair to the breaking point, after four years in captivity.
Camp commander Harry Harris had a more realistic interpretation: "I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." As Harris observed, they "have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own". After September 11, no reasonable person could disagree. Yet The New York Times editorialists did, denouncing Harris for "a profound disassociation from humanity".
"More than half of the battle is taking place on the battlefield of the media," Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, wrote in a letter to Zarqawi last year. "We are in a media race for . . . hearts and minds."
The West's enemies advanced a bit in that race via these three suicides, which have prompted renewed calls for shutting down Guantanamo, which in turn presumably would entail releasing many of the terrorists held there to return to the battlefield. To call this an act of despair reflects credulity, bad faith or both.
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