Patriots: For over 25 years, your generosity has made it possible to offer The Patriot Post without a subscription fee to military personnel, students, and those with limited means. Please support the 2022 Independence Day Campaign today.

Jonah Goldberg / March 13, 2009

The Gitmo Five’s Burn Notice

“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

That’s a line from the movie “The Dark Knight.” Maybe it’s because I’m just a comic-book-loving fool, but that’s the first thing that popped into my mind when I read the Gitmo Five’s statement.

“We are terrorists to the bone,” the Guantanamo detainees proclaimed. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, and his four comrades consider the charges that they slaughtered nearly 3,000 Americans to be “badges of honor, which we carry with pride.”

In a six-page document released by a military judge, the men swear that America will fall like “the towers on the blessed 9/11 day.”

Back to “Dark Knight.” In that movie, The Joker – brilliantly played by the late Heath Ledger – isn’t interested in mere criminality. In an ingenious scene, he pours gasoline on an enormous pile of cash and sets it ablaze. Why? Because he doesn’t need money. The things he needs – guns, dynamite, gunpowder – he can get cheaply enough. The Joker wants to send the message that he’s not just a criminal, that “everything burns.”

In November 2000, when America was still enjoying the last days of the tech boom and was still confidently treating terrorists like bank robbers and counterfeiters – i.e. run-of-the-mill criminals with all the rights and lawyers and rules and talk that entails – Louis Pepe, a prison guard at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, was doing his job. He was watching Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a top lieutenant for Osama bin Laden, held on charges that he was one of the conspirators behind the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

Salim wasn’t just a criminal. He sharpened a plastic comb into a stabbing fang and shoved it into Pepe’s eye and 3 inches into his brain. An elite member of the MCC Enforcers Disturbance Control unit, the 300-pound Pepe was nonetheless overwhelmed. Salim and his partners beat Pepe to death, or at least they thought they did. Using his own blood, they painted a Christian cross on his torso – a message less subtle than The Joker’s.

Brain-damaged and nearly crippled with injuries, Pepe and his story received little attention because, in those pre-9/11 days, he wasn’t a casualty of war, he was merely a victim of criminals.

Of course, we have bad men in prison who aren’t terrorists and who are just as evil, just as unredeemable, just as willing to take pride in the suffering and fear they dole out.

But for these men, it isn’t an ideology. It isn’t a war. It isn’t a sacred cause.

The Guantanamo Five aren’t gangsters, and they aren’t criminals. Criminals usually kill people to get cash. Terrorists get money so they can kill people. Criminals do evil to get pleasure. Terrorists eschew worldly pleasure to do evil. Bank robbers may strap bombs to themselves, but they do it to terrorize tellers into handing over the money. Terrorists skip that part and go straight to blowing themselves up.

Al-Qaida isn’t full of cartoonish nihilists like The Joker. They don’t want to see the world burn; they want to see the world in a burka. But burning the world is preferable to not getting their way.

“We shall continue the Jihad no matter how long the way, until the last breath and the last beat of the pulse – or until we see the Islamic state established,” proclaimed Abdullah Azzam, one of the spiritual founders of al-Qaida.

No doubt Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul shares that sentiment. He was an inmate at Guantanamo until he was released to Afghanistan in 2007. Now he’s overseeing Taliban operations against U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan, where violence is on the rise.

Though he didn’t ask Louis Pepe’s opinion, President Obama has concluded that the criminal justice system can handle terrorists just fine.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler is the chairman of the House Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee. The hole where the World Trade Center used to be is in his district. Yet he says that people like Mohammed Atta, who led the 9/11 attack, should be treated like any other criminals. Vice President Biden has offered exact percentages of Taliban members who can be negotiated with or bought off. Obama is closing Guantanamo Bay, and the White House is looking for prisons, including on American soil, to hold the Gitmo Five and others like them.

We’ll see how that works out.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc. 

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2022 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.