It’s a deeply disturbing thought, but there was a time when the man accused of having played a key role in the killing of Cpl. Jamie Murphy was briefly on our side.
That would have been some time in the 1980s, when a young Iraqi major by the name of Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbaqi in Saddam Hussein’s army packed his ideological bags and went north to join the mujahedeen of Afghanistan and their armed cause to drive the Soviets out of their country.
World politics was simpler back then.
The Soviet Union was still the enemy No. 1, and anybody giving the Soviets a run for their might was on our side. The mujahedeen were so much on our side, according to one estimate, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia alone pumped some $50 billion in arms and other logistical support into their cause. (That’s not including all the encouragement and help the mujahedeen got from Pakistan, which loves to meddle in Afghani affairs.)
The Soviets were driven out. Maj. Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbaqi could have retired from the fighting a hero in the eyes of the West, and a friend. But like so many other mujahedeen fighters he didn’t because things simply (in hindsight quite predictably) spun out of control.
Somewhere in the process, Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbaqi became the jihad fighter Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.
Not much information about al-Hadi has reached the public in this part of the world except for a few sketchy facts released over the years by the U.S. State Department. Here, combined with what Wikipedia has put together, is the picture.
Abd al-Hadi was born in 1961, an ethnic Kurd, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. He’s said to speak five languages covering the depth and width of the Middle East. He’s also described as a skilled, intelligent and experienced military and para-military commander. The only photograph available is a mug shot, likely taken around the time of his capture.
In it, he comes across as the standard version of the handsome Arab you might encounter in any bazaar, on any dusty road, in any sun-baked village of his part of the world. He has dashingly thick black hair and an equally thick black beard. At first glance his face strikes you as hard yet not unkind. Looking closer you can, if you want to, find brutality in the probingly squinting eyes and the firmly set mouth. All put together the face let you know he’s used to being in control. Of course he no longer is. He’s been a detainee in Guantanamo Bay for the last seven years.
So, what spun out of control?
Well, what hasn’t spun out of control in that part of the world?
Today's enemy, yesterday's ally
The Pentagon’s charges against al-Hadi accuse him of, among other things, perfidy and treachery.
The Pentagon should know what perfidy and treachery are all about. There’s no way the current Muslim jihad could have gone as viral as it has without the Western and other powers fanning the flames of Islam extremism to further their own interests in the Middle East. The British have been in on it, as have the Russians, the French, the Soviets, the Pakistanis, the Americans, and the Arabs themselves.
Perfidy and treachery have been current coin in this game for as long as it’s been on.
It’s not keeping peace that’s called the shots on Middle East politics over more than a century; it’s keeping your interests alive by whatever means possible. Perfidy and treachery have been current coin in this game for as long as it’s been on.
Let’s not forget who some of our past allies have been in the region. Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the shah and butcher of Iran. Saddam Hussein, the dictator and butcher of Iraq. Gulbuddin Hekmatyr, the opium warlord and butcher of Afghanistan and others like him. Plus the military of Pakistan, which has quite successfully pursued its own game of taking money from the West while sponsoring the kind of militant jihadism that brought down the Twin Towers.
Something happened to al-Hadi somewhere along the way; we don’t know what and when. Some kind of awakening if you look at it from his perspective; some kind of a perversion if you look at it from ours.
The Pentagon’s rap sheet against him runs over 12 pages presenting a timeline of the criminal moments that justify the charges against him.
In August 1996, Osama bin Laden declares holy war on American forces still stationed in Saudi Arabia after the invasion of Kuwait six years earlier. At that time, al-Hadi is already running al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
Two years later, bin Laden issues a fatwa against the United States, basically stating that to kill Americans and their allies is the duty of every Muslim able to do so in every country possible.
Inner circle of al-Qaeda
One year later again, al-Hadi swears loyalty to bin Laden, and by 2002 he’s a member of the inner circle of al-Qaeda’s leadership and responsible for the terrorist organization’s operations in and around Kabul.
And here the lines intersect. On Jan. 27, 2004, just days before the end of his tour of duty, Cpl. Murphy drives the second jeep of a Canadian convoy making its way through Kabul.
A suicide bomber — allegedly hand-picked by al-Hadi — jumps onto the hood of the vehicle and detonates his vest.
Two worlds collide, each as convinced of the justice of its cause as the other. But in the high court of Western politics there can be only one justice.
Cpl. Murphy didn’t want to kill anyone, he just wanted to keep peace. Al-Hadi regarded peace as the enemy and didn’t care whom he killed to disturb it. It doesn’t take Solomon to figure out who’s guilty and who isn’t.
A troubling question
And yet, there remains one troubling question.
What is the evil that turns people into such brutal killers? Is it strictly of their own domestic making, or did we, the West, have a hand in shaping it?
There’s an old saying that you reap what you sow, though it’s getting harder and harder to tell who sowed what in the complex drama that’s been unfolding in the Middle East for well over a century. It's a drama that is still obviously far from over.
Maybe in his most private moments, al-Hadi wishes he’d quit while he was still ahead and on our side. Maybe he wanted to but the siren song of Islam fundamentalism was more powerful than the cold, self-serving promises of the West.
We’ll never know unless he tells us, and everything about his mug shot says that’s unlikely.