Answer to Martyrdom Bids: Oblivion in An Idaho Cell

The Pentagon's claim that five of the
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay want to put an end to their legal
proceedings and confess to their alleged roles in the 9/11 attacks made
me think of a few lines in Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran,"
her memoir of living under the ayatollahs' regime of McCarthyism with a
veil: "The worst crime committed by totalitarian mindsets," Nafisi
writes, "is that they force their citizens, including their victims, to
become complicit in their crimes. Dancing with your jailer,
participating in your own execution, that is an act of utmost

The case of the Guantanamo prisoners is a variation
on that perversion. Both the accused and their jailers are
orchestrating the totalitarian mindset, abetting each other in their
complicity. There is no victim between them, certainly not on the part
of the American government that created the monstrosity of Guantanamo's
Orwellian "Camp Justice." Difficult as this is to concede, the accused
are still, according to any law that calls itself civilized, innocent
until proven guilty. Strictly speaking, they should be considered
victims, maybe not for their sake but for that of the judicial system
fouled in their name.

Those five angling for a confession make it
almost impossible to see them as anything more than a 9/11 tumor. The
confession is their latest ploy. They dread the possibility -- the
shame -- of innocence, or at least of finishing their lives without
their names forever plaqued to 9/11, preferably as martyrs executed by
the "Great Satan." That's what they want most, that immortalizing
execution, which the Bush administration, in what would be a supreme
act of complicity, would be happy to grant them.

My guess is that
the American public would love to see these men executed, too. End the
legal games, for all their sham. Grant the accused their wish. The
public would then be playing its part in the farce, maybe as the
closest thing to a victim in the triangle. It was victimized first by
the attacks, then by the federal government's transformation of
American society into a fearful fortress within its borders, a lashing
one beyond them (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan). Complicit, too, by
swallowing whole the fiction that freedom and justice can be preserved
by their obliteration where, when and regarding whom the president
decides they must be obliterated.

To accept these five men's
confessions, and the Pentagon's ridiculous reasoning that it's a plea
like any other, would be the ultimate act of swallowing the lie. But
isn't that what made the last seven years so successful for Osama bin
Laden? What enabled al-Qaida to make a playground of American fears and
a garrison of American freedoms? In the Old Testament, the whale
swallowed Jonah. In the "war on terror," the American public swallowed
the whale.

There is also the matter of capital punishment. The
accused want to join the other Infamous Nineteen, the 9/11 hijackers,
in that Hall of Flame that poses for their death cult's terminus.
Killing them would grant them their ultimate wish while reminding the
world that the United States remains, almost unique among western
nations, a place where state-sponsored murder is still enthusiastically
practiced with grisly frequency. Taliban and Saudi executioners like to
kill their wards by chopping their heads or felling concrete walls on
them. We do it with amperes and lethal injections, then delude
ourselves about the difference. Do we really want to underscore that
affinity with the Middle East by obliging the death fantasies of five
maniacs again, and with inexcusable irony, on our own soil?

this sought-after confession by these five men accused of plotting 9/11
is more than it appears. It's an opportunistic lunge at immortality by
the accused, an equally opportunistic lunge out of the infernal
machinery of totalitarian justice the Bush administration boxed itself
into with Guantanamo. To satisfy either is to grant both sides
victories they don't deserve, vindicating their brutality by
whitewashing it.

It won't be enough to close Guantanamo. The
Guantanamo prisoners should be transferred to federal courts'
jurisdiction, the five confessors among them. The system should be
opened, the federal government's case against the accused made within
the absolutely conventional rules of the judicial system, and before
juries of -- well, not peers, exactly, but you get the idea. If the
accused are found guilty, the best fate that can await them is not the
favor of martyrdom, but a long and healthy oblivion in a forgotten
prison somewhere in the recesses of an Idaho crag. They should get good
health care too, to ensure that they live long enough to appreciate
their irrelevance: It's the best salve humanity can give itself to
repair the fanaticism the men of 9/11 brought, and their accomplices in
the Bush junta, still unpunished, let bloom.

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