Thursday, April 23, 2009


One thing that seems to have motivated the logic of torturing suspected al Qaeda detainees is that they were supervillians, who could resist normal techniques and might even escape detention. Which is preposterous.

But there is one sense in which some al Qaeda suspects are indeed supervillains: their capacity to disappear just as the dragnet is about to close, and even rise from the dead.

First we had the botched anti-terror operation in northern England with an alleged link to the allegedly deceased Rashid Rauf. But even more bizarrely, Iraqi police now claim to have detained Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. This person proved so frustrating to US forces in Iraq (after several reported captures and deaths) that they eventually declared him to be imaginary.

Except the Iraqis now have him in custody [alternative link]. What precautions does one need to take when detaining an imaginary figure?

UPDATE: The Iraqis are sticking to their story; Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP that Baghdadi's real name is Ahmed Abed Ahmed and that he is a 40-year-old former officer in the Iraqi army. The depiction of him as fictitious came when the US was desperate to show that the insurgency was mostly driven by foreigners.

FINAL UPDATE: The Islamic State of Iraq releases a tape with a voice consistent with earlier Abu Omar al-Baghdadi tapes saying that he is still at large.

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