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Abu Nidal mystery solved
October 27, 2008 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Remember Abu Nidal? The "Bin Laden" of the 70s and 80s, he mysteriously committed suicide in Baghdad on the eve of the 2003 invasion. New documents have come to light suggesting Nidal was working for the USA "trying to find evidence linking Saddam and al-Qa'ida."

After the Iraqis discovered his collusion with US intelligence he was initially "interrogated". His end is recorded bleakly: "Upon being asked to accompany those charged with guarding him to a more secure location to continue the interrogation procedures, he requested that he be allowed to change his clothes. On entering his bedroom, he committed suicide. Unsuccessful attempts were made to resuscitate him ..."
posted by stbalbach (17 comments total)

 
This can't be right, because the President said we don't negotiate with terrorists.
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well then DU, he was obviously not a terrorist (yeesh what a moran).
posted by Mister_A at 7:16 AM on October 27, 2008


Bin Laden is on the payroll trying to find evidence linking Obama and al-Qa'ida.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:16 AM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


It may simply be that the Iraqis believed he might be a U.S. spy, without him actually being one.
posted by delmoi at 7:20 AM on October 27, 2008


I would love if this were true, because it would suggest that the US intelligence services are immensely more competent than they actually are. However, reading the article reveals that the only source Fisk has for this is a report by the Iraqi secret police of a torture session in which he admitted to be working for Eurasia Eastasia the US. I don't know what world a report like this would be deemed credible in, but it isn't this one.

After stuff like this, I don't think Fisk really has any credibility left.
posted by SamuelBowman at 7:46 AM on October 27, 2008


hmm, anti-american story by robert fisk. Totally credible.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2008


"After stuff like this, I don't think Fisk really has any credibility left."

That article strikes me as very even handed. One can challenge both the accepted, official version of an incident and the raving lunatic tinfoil-hat-wearing version. That's pretty much precisely what Fisk says in this story, and it represents a very healthy and ethical skepticism fundamental to professional journalism.

I don't know much else about Fisk, he may be a complete idiot, but I find that article to be remarkably succinct, professional, and objective.
posted by Xoebe at 8:42 AM on October 27, 2008


This can't be right, because the President said we don't negotiate with terrorists.

I think he meant tourists. Who the hell would negotiate with a tourist?
posted by grounded at 9:23 AM on October 27, 2008


Bin Laden is on the payroll trying to find evidence linking Obama and al-Qa'ida.

Actually, Obama is on the payroll trying to find evidence linking Bush and Bin Laden. Oh, wait a minute; that's already been done.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:59 AM on October 27, 2008


This is not passing my bs detector. The Iraqis may have believed that, but a handler who was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family? The US gov. using Egypt and Kuwait as proxies against Iraq? It just doesn't smell right.
posted by QIbHom at 10:42 AM on October 27, 2008


I'm just sad Oliver North never got to go mano a mano with him.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:00 AM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Abu Nidal, whose real name was Khalil al-Banna Was his grand father the guy who founded the Muslim Brotherhood?
posted by hortense at 11:27 AM on October 27, 2008


“Who the hell would negotiate with a tourist?”

Yeah, they don’t haggle properly. Ten for this you must be mad. Are you trying to insult me? Me, with a poor dying grandmother? Ten? etc.
And who buys gourds anymore anyway? Ah, don’t get me started.

Nidal tho. Ok, this story is pretty convenient. I’m not saying he couldn’t be seduced by the U.S. He tended to eschew the united muslim/arab world view that The Base has. He was a bit more Palastinian nationalist. I wouldn’t call him treacherous per se - but pretty mercinary at heart, so if he was working against Saddam - not surprising.

He was no visionary, but he was a paranoid mofo. I mean he wouldn’t have survived as long as he did otherwise. And Iraqi intelligence captured (ok, arrested) three of his guys a week before raiding his house.
Just kind of fishy there. Why wouldn’t he split?

Now I’m not saying he wasn’t killed. But I distrust motives of simple revenge. It’s unprofessional. (F’rinstance - the Iraqis arrested three more of Nidal’s men later, then released two of them. Why not just kill them? Well, why then kill Nidal?)
I’d think more that Nidal would take his own life. Seems closer to his M.O.
Visionary types, guys who are invested, fanatics, et.al, will take you on forever in an interrogation. They’ll interrogate you. Punks like Nidal roll over and try to pay you off. If that doesn’t work, they typically see “no way out.”

And it’s not rare for suicide to involve multiple gunshot wounds. It’s odd on first blush. But you’re talking about someone who wants to die - right now! Well, people don’t die that way. Takes a bit. And you can do some things before you die. One of them is pulling a trigger a few more times.

If I’m Saddam, and I know this guy is in collusion with the U.S. to overthrow me - why would I kill him?
Why wouldn’t I parade him before the world? Remember what was going on at that time? The U.S. pressure, the weapons inspectors saying they couldn’t find anything. etc. etc.
What better story than the U.S. working with a known terrorist to overthrow my (if I’m Saddam) government to show the illegitimacy of their position?

Hell, why place him under house arrest in the first place if I’m going to clip him? If I’ve got him in hand I could make it look like an accident. He could choke on a soup bone or get into a car accident.

I’d posit there were infiltrators there other than Nidal. Just speculation tho.

I distrust stories about motives just on GP.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:44 AM on October 27, 2008


(pretty much just longhand for me saying ‘I have no clue’)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:44 PM on October 27, 2008


Abu Nidal, whose real name was Khalil al-Banna
Was his grandfather the guy who founded the Muslim Brotherhood?


He was born in 1937.
Hassan al-Banna was born in 1906, so it doesn't look likely.

al-Banna appears to mean 'builder' or 'mason', so I'd guess it's a common name.
posted by lukemeister at 7:33 PM on October 27, 2008


hired to find links between Saddam and al-Qa'ida

Mission: Impossible
posted by BinGregory at 7:58 PM on October 27, 2008


The US gov. using Egypt and Kuwait as proxies against Iraq? It just doesn't smell right.

I'm not sure I believe it myself, but it smells better if you recall that Saddam Hussein was an asset of Egyptian intelligence when he tried to assassinate Qasim in 1959, and we have certainly used Egypt during the extraordinary rendition program.

Using Nidal seems an unlikely choice, especially if he suspected who really set it up. But maybe he was given Hobson's choice in the matter, or maybe the payment offered was necessary to him, or maybe he really was neutralized by then. He would certainly have been, in retirement, a wealthy source of information on the folks he'd cooperated with and worked for. But would he have wanted to work for or with the Americans?

But I like Smedleyman's read. If Saddam knew or suspected, it seems like it would have fed his penchant for grandstanding.

I think my read is that Nidal had many enemies and fled to Baghdad to escape them, where he may have committed suicide on belief that it hadn't helped, or that Iraq was not going to protect him.
posted by dhartung at 1:36 AM on October 28, 2008


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