I wondered in January if Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a/k/a Abu Dujaanah al-Khorasani, the al-Qaeda double agent who killed seven CIA & Blackwater operatives at FOB Chapman in Khost Province, was tortured by the Jordanians during his crucial moment in their custody in early 2009. According to a new as-Sahab “martyrdom” video of Khorasani — basically his last propaganda testament before the December attack — probably not.
Evan Kohlmann translated the video [see second update] and emailed his findings to reporters. (Thanks, Evan.) Here’s how the doctor, extremist-web-forum enthusiast and soon-to-be-murderer describes his experience in a Jordanian prison:
In truth, it all began with the Jordanian security organs entering my house at 11:30. They came and knocked at the door of my house. My wife came to me terrified, and told me, “There are police outside.” I knew that the moment of arrest had arrived. They came in, searched the house, confiscated my computer, and arrested me. The arrest warrant had written on it “Possession of prohibited materials,” which is a lie. They always lie and use this or any other allegation to arrest a Muslim. So they arrested me and sent me to Wadi as Sir, to the intelligence bureau there. I swear by Allah, the only thing that I was worried about was that I was in contact with the brothers through the forums, and I was afraid that Muslim brothers – my beloved Mujahideen – would be attacked from my flank. This is what I was concerned about, but – all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds – this didn’t happen, because Allah blinded their sights. They could have gotten their hands on some extremely valuable information about Jihadi work, but Allah decreed something else. After they arrested and interrogated me, especially during the second night, I sat and prayed to Allah. No human power can prevent a slave from calling on his Lord. So I sat and prayed to Allah to deliver me and protect the Mujahideen from any danger which might emanate from me, and I prayed that I not cause harm to any Muslim. I prayed to Allah thus: “O Lord, I would rather die in my cell than be a cause of harm to any Muslim.” So all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds: the intelligence officer – whose name was Abu Zaid [Ali bin Zaid], and who works with Abu Faisal in the Counter-Terrorism Division – was an idiot, and Allah made His plotting manifest itself by way of this idiot, who asked me to work with the security organs in spying on the Mujahideen in Waziristan and Afghanistan. So this step began with this proposal. They proposed that I go to Waziristan and Afghanistan to spy on Muslims. But the amazing thing which I could hardly believe is that I had been trying to mobilize to Jihad in Allah’s path but had been unsuccessful, then this idiotic man comes along and proposes that I go to the fields of Jihad. All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds: it was a dream come true!
At a separate point in the interview, Balawi/Khorosani describes himself as “a broken prisoner in the prison of Jordanian intelligence,” but that’s it, along with the oblique reference to his “second night” of interrogation. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that he didn’t even claim to be tortured. The point of the video is to deride and humiliate the capabilities of Jordanian intelligence, which Balawi/Khorosani successfully manipulated into believing he was going to penetrate al-Qaeda in Waziristan. He gives very detailed information — I have no idea whether it’s true — about the layout of the offices of the Jordanian intelligence apparatus, and calls it a “hired dog” of the CIA. This is how he describes his handler, Abu Zaid:
Abu Zaid used to say to me in his letters, all of which I still have with me, “You’ve lifted our heads! You’ve lifted our heads in front of the Americans.” Allah is the Greatest! I swear by Allah the Magnificent, everyone who works in Jordanian intelligence, even their cooks and drivers…everyone who works in Jordanian intelligence, even if he works in the garden or carwash, is an apostate from Allah’s religion [I'm not going to quote this next part, which is mere incitement]. These are the hired dogs.
And still he doesn’t call them torturers.
One last thing. Balawi traces the road that led him to become “Khorosani.” For instance: “My trip with Jihad began a few years ago, after the American invasion of Iraq. I made many attempts to join the Jihad in Iraq, but Allah decreed something else for me.” So he becomes basically a top commenter on the extremist forums. Then, during the Gaza invasion he sees an al-Jazeera report not just about the deaths of civilians in Gaza but featuring “the daughters of Zion… watching Gaza as it was being bombed by F-16 fighter jets. They were using binoculars and watching the Muslims get killed, and it was as if they were just observing some natural phenomenon.” Then he writes an impassioned blog post and the Jordanians pick him up fairly soon after.
The matrix of sick motivations that leads a professional man — not the wretched of the earth, but a doctor — to become a murderer is a complex one. But neither the Iraq war nor the Gaza war was a necessary war for either America or Israel. If
neither had taken place, seven CIA and Blackwater operatives would still be alive, and al-Qaeda could not claim this propaganda success.
Update: I sort of contradict myself between those final two sentences, so I’ve taken out what I consider an overly simplistic counterfactual conditional. Who knows, really, what other pretexts Khorosani would have seized upon for his murderous action. At the same time, just because we can’t precisely quantify the opportunity-cost radicalization effect of given policies doesn’t mean we have the luxury of pretending no such costs exist. There’s something between all and nothing in terms of how policies impact people, and just because I went too far in one direction doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still keep that caution in mind.
Update 2, 8:23 a.m., March 1: A couple of you guys emailed/commented/tweeted at me that the translation I’ve posted appears to be the official one. I haven’t actually seen the official one, but I do see that I read Evan’s email sloppily. He provided a translated version of the video, but doesn’t actually claim to have done the translation himself. Don’t know whether he did or didn’t, but either way: my apologies to Evan, to whom I’m grateful for alerting me to the video, and to you for making a claim of dubious provenance.