So goes the fist-pumping, official version of the titanic struggle between America and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, purported Number 3 of al-Qaeda and architect of 9/11. Arrested in 2003, KSM is in Guantanamo prison; his much-awaited trial is expected to start soon.
In order for the fist to be pumped to the max, KSM had to be built up, made into a villain with super powers. The Miami Herald interviewed Marc Thiessen, former Bush speech writer, who
quoted an unidentified interrogator as speaking admiringly of KSM's ability to withstand the waterboard: "For a psychopath, you have to give him his props. He's tough," ...
KSM was reportedly waterboarded 183 times. The bigger they come, the harder they ... well, here's the official Happy Face version presented in The New York Times of what happened:
By , whether it was a result of a fear of waterboarding, the patient trust-building ... or the demoralizing effects of isolation, Mr. Mohammed and some other prisoners had become quite compliant. In fact, according to several officials, they had become a sort of terrorist focus group, advising their captors on their fellow extremists’ goals, ideology and tradecraft ...“It was to understand the mind of a terrorist — how a terrorist would do certain things,” the foreign official said of the discussions of hypothetical attacks [with KSM]. Thus did the architect of 9/11 become, in effect, a counterterrorism adviser to the American government he professed to despise.
A terrorist focus group: the end. It's just like Walt Disney would have done it.
A. B. Krongard was the No. 3 official at the CIA from 2001-2004. In 2008, he forthrightly told The New York Times in the same article presenting Happy Face KSM, that as late as 2002, when Guantanamo opened, the CIA was incapable of handling terrorist prisoners. “I asked, ‘What are we going to do with these guys when we get them?’ ”
What a difference a six-year period made!
Or did it? Did our CIA come to successfully "understand the mind of a terrorist" or is KSM royally tricking not just the CIA but the entire U.S. government -- "playing a game" as New York Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches succinctly put it?
Somebody is right. That means, somebody is wrong.
Please see my prior posts on KSM, Part 1 (4/22/2011) and Part 2 (4/28/2011). The latter ventured a peek at KSM's game plan:
Catch 23. Here it is not the individual who suffers on account of convoluted, governmental bureaucratic reasoning; rather, it is the individual who twists and ratchets up that reasoning in order to cause the government to undergo deprivation, isolation, humiliation, viz., extreme stress.
Here are three reasons why, along with Chief Riches, I think KSM is running a scam:
1. After he was supposedly "turned," KSM made a pre-trial appearance on June 5, 2008. The Guardian reported the outcome:
The alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks told a US military tribunal yesterday that he would welcome being "martyred" by the death penalty.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the one-time No 3 leader of al-Qaida, and four other accused co-conspirators were arraigned on war crimes charges at the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He refused legal representation.
Laughing and murmuring with his fellow defendants, Mohammed defiantly embraced the prospect of capital punishment.
"Yes, that is what I wish," he told the tribunal judge, US marine colonel Ralph Kohlmann. "I am looking to be martyred for a long time."
When the judge inquired about Mohammed's appointed military lawyer, the defendant rose to his feet and sang in Arabic, translating his words for the court. Stroking his bushy grey beard, he said his religion required him to decline a lawyer and represent himself. "My shield is Allah most high," he said. "God is all-sufficient, understand?"
This KSM is anything but the "quite compliant" official Happy Face KSM who turns into a "counterterrorism adviser to the American government he professed to despise." Note that the official version was published June 22, viz., 2 weeks after KSM's "martyr" court appearance.
Makes you wonder if Catch 23 is well underway and spin doctors in a secret operating room somewhere in Maryland or Virginia are busy nipping polyps of deprivation, isolation, humiliation.
2. In The Source of Terrorism: Middle Class Rebellion, I defined terrorist as a syndrome consisting of 12 checkpoints:
A terrorist is most often a middle class rebel (1) experiencing magnified marginal and/or transitional conditions, who (2) voluntarily (3) goes through certain rites of passage, among which are (4) clique membership and (5) a deliberate decision to commit a criminal act which is almost always (6) violent and usually (7) murder, in (8) the name of higher intentions or convictions without (9) retaining consciously the ambiguity of his criminal act and his higher intentions/convictions. He manifests powerful, unconscious, ambivalent emotions in two ways: (10) converting his intentions/convictions into idées fixes or absolute truths, the opposite extreme from ambiguity, and (11) wielding uncertainty as a weapon. That uncertainty is total, as demonstrated by the fact that (12) everybody -- allies, non-combatants, even himself -- is a potential victim.
By not admitting what he cannot admit, the terrorist guards his secret, even from himself.
By not admitting what he is, the terrorist shows the gravity that admission holds for him. To my knowledge, no terrorist or other middle class rebel ever said what he is.
What he is, is the secret he keeps: he is a middle class rebel.
I have run a number of men accused of terrorism -- from Luis Posada Carriles to Harry Truman -- past the check points. There is no need to do so with KSM; he passes all of them with flying colors.
However, let's look closely at checkpoint 9: the terrorist does not retain in consciousness the ambiguity of his crimes and the higher intentions/convictions with which he commits them. That unawareness is the telltale heart of KSM. Could it be that the CIA, Department of Defense, FBI, and Homeland Security failed to detect its unrelenting pulse? Or, if they detected it, is it simply that they don't know what it means?
A few clarifications are in order. Consciousness of one's own crimes/intentions ambiguity is not the same thing as remorse. KSM (Part 1): "I'm not happy that three thousand been killed in America. I feel sorry even. I don't like to kill children and the kids." It is also not a question of KSM writing poetry to the wife of Deuce Martinez, the CIA's nice-guy "Jeff" interrogator of KSM who fed KSM sweet dates. And it is not a question of issuing moralistic pronunciamentos such as KSM's "Killing is prohibited ... The Ten Commandments are shared between all of us. We all are serving one god." Finally, it is not a question of helping out the CIA by occasionally telling a truth or two on rainy afternoons.
Consciousness of a crimes/intentions ambiguity entails seriously questioning one's own values and actions. There is no sign anywhere of KSM engaging in any rigorous self-examination. That omission goes with the territory of not only a terrorist but also of the worst sort of scammer:
Marc Thiessen's source characterized KSM as a psychopath. My post on psychopaths (2/17/2011 -- "A Creepy Story") observed, "Behind their charming exterior lies … another charming exterior. Nothing permeates them; they are tone-deaf to guilt and serious self-reflection."
Cleckley and Hare developed checklists of psychopathic traits. Manipulative and conning, superficial charm, pathological lying, shallow emotions, irresponsibility and unreliability: the official Happy Face version of KSM shrugs off each and every one of them. One can of course claim that disregard is part of a clever government maneuver. I sure hope that is true, because the alternative explanation is nothing short of shattering: KSM's handlers have little or no idea whom they're dealing with.
You will see and hear a lot about KSM in the coming months. As his trial proceeds, keep in mind the psychopath's Number 1 Operating Principle: Me First. And, just in case things don't pan out, there's Operating Principle Number 2: Behind Every Great Man, There's An Exit.
3. Unawareness. Let's look deeper into KSM's telltale heart.
I wrote extensively why a freedom fighter, e.g., a member of the French Resistance in World War II, is not a terrorist. In a nutshell, unlike the terrorist, the freedom fighter engages in continuing self-questioning and evaluation:
The adjustment of thought to action and vice-versa was never final in the French Resistance. The essential ambiguity surrounding crimes committed in the name of liberty and dignity was not denied, disowned, lost, excused. The Resistance fighter did not escape the moral burden of his act by appealing to ideals such as Self-Evident Truths or a Divine Law above human law. The ideals were there, but so was the burden. If you blew up a train transporting Nazi munitions and innocent people were killed, you killed innocent people: how do you live with that fact? The terrorist, on the contrary, does not preserve in consciousness the ambiguity of his act. He is honest consciousness personified, justice and and justification confounded. The terrorist's intentions and convictions are, for him ... absolute truths outside time and space, above all questioning. The dilemma of too much knowledge that Shakespeare's Othello experienced, does not exists for the terrorist. He is past Othello; he is beyond Hamlet. Beyond any doubt, he does not suffer from doubt. (Source of Terrorism, pp. 142-3.)
So, when KSM lectures us that "God is self-sufficient, understand?", we do understand -- only too well. No freedom fighter there. KSM's finality, his absolute certitude, gives him away.
For those who want concrete examples of self-doubt in French freedom fighters, Source gives numerous examples (p. 163) from Resistance leader Rene Char. Jean-Paul Sartre, another Resistance member, uncompromisingly portrayed the anguish and inner conflict of Resistance fighters in "Morts Sans Sepulture." Written in 1945, when memories of World War II and the Nazi boot were still fresh, the play is distressing to read, much less watch, which may explain why it is rarely presented.
According to the official Happy Face version, the KSM show is over; we won; Elvis has left the building. I disagree.
Get ready -- another disturbing play, "The Showdown," is about to begin. The first warning bell has sounded; the doors will close. On stage, a door will open. KSM will amble into a military courtroom. The gladiators will face off.
One of three things will happen:
(i) The official version, Happy Face KSM, will be validated. He will be compliant, denounce his past, denigrate his fellow terrorists, praise his captors for showing him the true way. He wants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Go to Disneyland. Eat hamburgers. Write a book. Play a part in an action movie with Bruce Willis. Have toys, age 4-6, modeled on him. He has an idea for a video game and a board game like "Monopoly." In short, he wants to do his part to help our national economy by becoming a commodity. On top of that, become a Baptist. Appear on bumper stickers and talk shows from coast to coast, condemning al-Qaeda and praising Israel with all the zeal of a recent convert. In sum, be a role model. God Bless America.
If you believe validation of Happy Face is absurd, impossible, ridiculous -- that I am being facetious -- think again. As I discussed in Source, deep inside every raging middle class rebel there is a die-hard conservative. I am unconvinced, however, that KSM's captors have the tools to make manifest what is latent. Which is tragic, because when a middle class rebel like KSM returns home, he lands hard, with both feet.
(ii) KSM will laugh, sing, rip off and toss away the official Happy Face. He will play to a worldwide audience another role: The Mocker, incorrigible, defiant, insolent. In other words, flash the manifest face of the middle class rebel.
We will more likely see The Mocker than Happy Face. In 2008, KSM served notice when he released a promo movie trailer with his "martyr" proclamation. Laughing, murmuring ...
If The Mocker shows up, the essence of Happy Face will also appear: unabashed spin. As did "Mission Accomplished," it will circle around itself, lose momentum, wobble, topple. Talk about extreme stress for our government security forces ...
(iii) A combination of (i) and (ii). A basic point developed in KSM Part 2 is that, as a middle class rebel, KSM's chief weapon is what he simultaneously knows so well and dreads too much: ambiguity. Being incorrigible-but-not-really would be the apex of ambiguity; in fact, it would make even ambiguity ambiguous.
KSM would love to play this complex, hybrid role. If he lands it -- in spite of his incapacity for empathy, his unawareness of his unconscious ambivalence, his shallow emotions and reasoning, and in general his tone-deafness to a universe of nuances -- it will be the role of several lifetimes.
We whooped him! I suspect that, in the end, the official Happy Face version of KSM is an attempt to fool others in order to fool oneself.
Happy Face may not be the only thing exposed in the upcoming "Trial of The Century." Namely, you cannot colonize others without colonizing yourself.