Monday, July 19, 2004

Which Side Are We On Anyway?

Look at this photo. Just look at it. Some sports hero advertising the latest isotone drink? A flamenco dancer's album cover? The latest contestant in the Spanish version of Idols?

Wrong. This is Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, fresh out of Guantanamo and recently released on a €3000 bail by Judge Garzón, after he ensured to him in an interview that he denounced terrorism. And if he gave him that look, who could have said no?

Disgusting, I keep seeking a decent expression of the revulsion I felt reading this interview in El Mundo newspaper (in Spanish, local copy kept here) with the unlawful combattant picked up by the Pakistani army in November 2001. We reported on his release here, mentioning back then that the press seemed to be celebrating, rather than reporting facts.

And that seems to be true, reading the interview in El Mundo. Writer Juan Carlos de la Cal interviews the man on route to his home in Spanish Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco from which Abderrahman hails, making every effort to 'humanize' the 'Spanish Taliban' as he's known in the press.

Hamed Abderraman Ahmed, Hamido para su familia, tenía 26 años cuando bajó el empinado callejón por el que se llega a su estrecha casa, en el laberíntico centro de la barriada ceutí del Príncipe.Era una soleada mañana de junio de 2001, víspera de San Pedro para los cristianos. Bajó la mirada al despedirse de su enfermo padre. Contuvo las lágrimas cuando besó a su madre. Esbozó una forzada sonrisa cuando acarició las cabezas de algunos de sus sobrinos.

Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Hamido to his family, was 26 years when he went down the steep alley which led to his small house, in the labyrinth of the Ceuta Principe quarter. It was a sunny morning of June of 2001, the eve of San Pedro to the Christians. He lowered his head while saying goodbye to his sick father. He held back his tears when he kissed his mother. He forced a smile while caressing the heads of some of his nephews.
And it goes on like this. Ahmed tells of his journey from Madrid to Afghanistan, and the reporter interjects that he flew out of Madrid to Tehran on July 4, the American national holiday, which 'surprised Ahmed'.
No tenía ningún contacto ni nadie me organizó el viaje. En Ceuta conocí a algunas personas que habían estado en la zona y que me dieron algunos consejos. Nada más. Desde el mismo aeropuerto de Teherán cogí un taxi para la frontera que me costó muy barato: unas 1.500 pesetas por un trayecto de un par de horas, casi como desde Málaga a Algeciras”. Hamido habla todavía en pesetas porque cuando se marchó el euro no existía.

I didn't have any contact and nobody organized the trip. In Ceuta I knew some people who had been there [Afghanistan -V-Man] and they gave me some tips. Nothing else. From the same airport in Tehran I took a taxi to the border, which was very cheap: 1.500 pesetas [about 12 dollars -V-Man] for a trip of a couple of hours, about from Málaga to Algeciras". Hamido still speaks of pesetas, because when he went, the Euro didn't exist.
Note that the reporter calls him by his family-given first name, which he does for the entire interview. Habderrahman tells of his reception at the Afghanistan border, where he was welcomed by Taliban border guards, accustomed to receiving foreigners, and got him a taxi ride to Kandahar, where he stayed in a Madrassa, with other, mostly Asian, foreigners. He notes that the Taliban have brought peace to the country, and well, HE never minded the women in Burkas.

But he tells this, after the reporter's insistence to his audience that 'now comes the hard part' of the interview:
Llega el momento de las preguntas incómodas. Aún con la presencia de su solvente abogado, no queremos entrar en juicios de valor.Hamido está especialmente sensibilizado sobre el tema. No olvidamos que estamos ante un hombre que ha sido interrogado cientos de veces por policías, militares y jueces de varias nacionalidades.

The moment comes of the uncomfortable questions. Still in the presence of his court appointed lawyer, we don't want to pass value judgements. Hamido is very sensitive on the whole subject. We must not forget that we are before a man who has been interrogated hundreds of times by police, soldiers and judges of various nationalities.
Follows his description of 9/11, leaving Kandahar for the Pakistan border with a group of fellow students of the Madrassa he was at. On the Pakistan side of the border, they were picked up by the Pakistan army and after being detained for some time, handed over to US forces, who took him back, first to Kandahar, and then saw fit to move him on to Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo (you know, where all religious students were sent to).

He tells of the evil Americans guarding them, the humiliation, the horror of it all, down to the depression he suffered, yada yada yada. And then he gives us this little gem:
- ¿Es verdad que les dijo a los representantes consulares españoles que cuando le liberaran quería ir a luchar con los chechenos?

“Sí, pero lo dije siguiendo una consigna que funcionaba entre los prisioneros del campamento. Allí pensábamos que como los americanos son enemigos de los rusos, les iba a gustar esa relación”.

- Is it true that you told the representatives of the Spanish consulate that when they let you go, you wanted to go and fight with the Chechens?

"Yes, but I told them that following advice which was going around among the prisoners at the camp. There we thought that because the Americans were the enemies of the Russians, they would like that story".
Sounds like lawyers talking to me. This guy is still under investigation for pertaining to Al Qaeda in Spain, and we have reporters from all over celebrating his freedom from the clutches of Evil America.

We have buried the dead of the Madrid bombings, and with it our heads it seems. We pulled out of Iraq, we are sanitizing terrorist suspects, Wahhabi mosques in our midst are treated as 'moderate', we insist upon prosecuting terrorists as criminals and we'll do generally whatever it takes to show the Islamofacsists that we have learned our lesson, and please don't bomb us again. Thereby converting Spain in precisely the type of target for any future 'quick fix' success they need to keep the Jihad going.

Remember, there's Spanish troops in Afghanistan. And over the horizon is the never forgotten pain over the loss of Al Andalus.