It’s difficult for me to understand why the New York Times would allow a suspected terrorist a coveted editorial spot in its op-ed section that doesn’t involve purposeful shilling for our enemies in the War on Terror.
I realize that’s a severe charge and I do not level it lightly. There are other ways to relate the story of Mourad Benchellali, a man who spent two months in an al-Qaeda training camp and who fled Afghanistan with a group of other men over the treacherous Hindu Kush (in close proximity to Tora Bora, a well-known hideout for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda). Benchellali, of course, says that he was completely innocent. Better yet. Let me quote his account of his time in Afghanistan.
In the early summer of 2001, when I was 19, I made the mistake of listening to my older brother and going to Afghanistan on what I thought was a dream vacation. His friends, he said, were going to look after me. They did — channeling me to what turned out to be a Qaeda training camp. For two months, I was there, trapped in the middle of the desert by fear and my own stupidity.
As soon as my time was up, I headed home. I was a few miles from the Pakistani border when I learned with horror about the attacks of 9/11. Days later, the border was sealed off, and the only way through to Pakistan and a plane to Europe was across the mountains of the Hindu Kush. I was with a group of people who were all going the same way. No one was armed; most of them, like me, had been lured to Afghanistan by a misguided and mistimed sense of adventure, and were simply trying to make their way home.
I was seized by the Pakistani Army while having tea at a mosque shortly after I managed to cross the border. A few days later I was delivered to the United States Army: although I didn’t know it at the time, I was now labeled an “enemy combatant.” It did not matter that I was no one’s enemy and had never been on a battlefield, let alone fought or aimed a weapon at anyone.
So we are to believe that after being tricked into living in an al-Qaeda training camp for two months, he did nothing, learned nothing, spoke to no one? He merely sat in the corner while the rest of the campers were studying Infidel Beheading 101 and Restoring the Global Caliphate 201?
He then wants us to believe that he had no other option but to join up with a group of complete strangers (and completely undescribed men) on whom his life would depend as he traveled over some of the most forgiving territory on the planet and the home turf of al-Qaeda?
And once he reached the relative safety of Pakistan, we are to believe that despite his desperation to return home (the reason he risked life and limb to cross the Hindu Kush with a bunch of men he did not know), he tarried for a short while for a quick sip of tea in a mosque instead of moving without delay to a city from which he could contact his family and get a flight home to France?
And then, once he was in Guantanamo Bay, he was subjected to repeated interrogation and undescribeable “suffering and torture” for no reason at all?
I’d print my unvarnished reaction to this, but I’ve been trying very hard lately not to curse nearly as much as I used to.
This, folks, is a story full of half-truths and misdirection and the Times ought to be criticized by every American for printing it. They have allowed a man who spent months consorting with would-be mass murderers weave a skein of falsity that quite honestly slanders our whole nation. The Times did this uncreitically and without apology and they need to be called into account for it.
Think about it. Since Benchellali later says he holds no animosity toward America and was horrified about 9/11, why couldn’t he see fit to spend a few words to let us know that while he was in Guantanamo, he spilled everything single thing he knew about the training camp where he spent two months, who was there with him, and what they tried to teach him. Why could he not take a moment to tell us that he told our soldiers everything he could about his fellow travelers into Pakistan? Why did he not tell us that he supplied impeachable witnesses to his story like, say, his brother, who would be able to vouch for the shiftless “friends” who stranded him at the camp? Ah, that’s a problem. You see, his brother Menad was arrested in France in 2002 for plotting to blow up the Russian Embassy. When they searched the bedroom where he stayed in his parents’ house, they found jars and jars of ricin. Some information the French shared from his arrest allowed this:
In January 2003, prompted by French discoveries in the Benchellali case, British police raided apartments in London, Bournemouth and Manchester and apprehended 13 North African men suspected of ties to al Qaeda and an affiliated terrorist group, Ansar al-Islam. In one of the London apartments authorities found castor beans, traces of ricin and equipment for making the toxin. Later that month, Spanish police arrested 16 North Africans and seized additional equipment, chemicals and false passports.
French officials believe the Spanish, British and French cells were communicating with one another and coordinating their activities, especially those related to obtaining toxins and poisons. Members of all three groups had spent time at the same Pankisi Gorge camp. Yet, more than a year after Benchellali’s arrest, European and U.S. counterterrorism officials are not convinced that all members of the network have been identified.
How about his parents? Another brother? Ah, well, no. They are under arrest for helping the elder Benchellali with his plot.
If he had done any of that – gave our soldiers any useful scrap of information willingly, he surely would have told us because it would have made him appear even more piteous. Why, he could say, I told the Americans everything I knew in excruciating detail and provided good character references even before they asked and still they tortured me and held me in bleak despair! Who but the most hardhearted could have criticized him for speaking out? Wasn’t he doing what we wanted the detainees to do? He would have been hailed as a hero here and elsewhere for being brave enough to stand against his murderous jihadist brother. He would have been lauded as the public face of what we are told over and over that Islam really is.
But he didn’t because he couldn’t. He held back what he knew. He revealed nothing unless it was coaxed out of him.
Think about that. This man, who writes so freely in a place where you could never write, had information about men who were training relentlessly to kill you and everyone you love. He, who purports to be an innocent naif, kept that information to himself until, after some time and great effort, professional interrogators extracted from him every bit they believed they could. Then, this same man comes before us with wide and teary eyes telling us a tale of despair and EXPECTS US TO WEEP FOR HIM. Worse, his cock and bull tale is printed in the PREMIERE NEWSPAPER IN THE WORLD WITHOUT A SINGLE HINT OF CRITICISM.
I can not even begin to tell you how disgusted I am by this. I am honestly trying to remain composed enough not to launch into a string of epithets that would strip the paint off of the walls in a ten-mile radius, a series of curse words so vile that God Himself would close Heaven and the Devil would start taking notes.
How gullible to they think we all are? How stupid? How pliable?
Yet Benchellali continues. Read on, if you have the stomach for it.
In the outside world, I thought, the difference between telling the truth and lying, between committing a crime and not committing it, is the difference between being in jail and being free. In Guantánamo, it is a box of candy.
I was eventually released and I will go on trial next month in Paris to face charges that I’ve never denied, that I spent two months in the Qaeda camp. I have a court date, I’m facing a judge, and I have a lawyer, unimaginable luxuries in Guantánamo. I didn’t know the three detainees who died, but it is easy for me to see how this daily despair and uncertainty could lead to suicide.
If Benchellali were detained for committing a crime, I might be slightly inclined to agree with him. This is his second misdirection. Benchellali was not imprisoned for committing a crime nor was he part of any criminal justice system. He was imprisoned because he spent several months of his life willingly and directly consorting with those who declared war against us and who have killed thousands of us. The thing is HE KNOWS THAT!
He knows he wasn’t arrested for a crime. He knows that he wasn’t detained and interrogated because he committed a hostile act against America. He knows exactly why he was detained and chooses to lie about it. He knows that the reason he spent years in Guantanamo undergoing interrogation is because he gave our soldiers absolutely no reason in the world to believe he wasn’t a terrorist.
Come off it. Would you believe that a man who spent the months doing what Benchellali did wasn’t somehow involved with al-Qaeda and had fresh information about their personnel, equipment, training, and the operatives who fled over the Afghan border into Pakistan (and do not believe him for a second. He did not flee with a passle of deluded innocents), especially given what we were learning about his family’s activities back in France? You would not and neither would I.
Yet he expects us to swallow every ounce of his twaddle because he was handed one of the biggest bullhorns in the world. That is unconscionable.
I do not expect men like Benchellali to tell us the truth. I do not expect them to tell us of their long and enduring connections to al-Qaeda. I do not expect them to do anything but lie as they are trained to do.
I expect better of the New York Times. I expect that they will not uncritically print propaganda from the enemy. After today I will expect much less of them. I will expect that they are not on my side in this war.
UPDATES: Apparently, Bill O’Reilly was all over this story on his show tonight. Alas, I was at church and didn’t get to see it, but Ace covers the ground well and says what I was sorely tempted to say. And he takes a whack at pretzel-logician Andrew Sullivan, which is always a bonus.
Gateway Pundit dials up the wayback machine to give you chapter and verse on our sainted victim (yes, my friend, “miffed” is probably the kindest word to use for what I feel about this).
Roger L. Simon hits us with the story that Benchellali’s family was sentenced to prison yesterday. The elder brother that he followed with such wide-eyed naivete to the al-Qaeda training camp? He got ten years.