The Magazine

It's Hard Out Here
for an Iraqi

The story of "Pimp Daddy," an Iraqi detainee at Guantánamo.

Mar 27, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 26 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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FOR MORE THAN FOUR YEARS NOW, critics of the Bush administration have warned that the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is fueling the Muslim street's hatred of America. The purportedly unwarranted detention of hundreds of Muslims, coupled with the allegedly unjustified invasion of Iraq, these critics argue, will only add to the rage that leads to terrorist attacks.

Following this line of thinking, you might suppose that an Iraqi national at Gitmo would be especially angry. And thanks to the March 3 release of more than 5,000 pages of documents from Gitmo, we can now hear the story of one such Iraqi detainee. His name is Ali Abdul Motalib Hassan al-Tayeea. Or, if you prefer, "Pimp Daddy"--a nickname Gitmo's guards gave him, for reasons that become obvious from the transcript.

Ali was brought before the military tribunal that is determining whether he and the several hundred other Guantánamo detainees should continue to be held as enemy combatants. At the outset of his hearing, Ali thanked America for getting rid of Saddam's "cruel regime," which he said killed one of his uncles. Ali claimed he had escaped service in Saddam's Republican Guard and decried the Butcher of Baghdad's poor treatment of his fellow citizens. He even professed a desire to become an "American person."

So far so good. But then, something odd happened. Ali launched into an obscenity-laden rant that takes up much of the 24-page record of his tribunal proceeding.

He is clearly a very angry man. But why? Is it the occupation of his native Baghdad? His detention at Gitmo?

No. Ali explains:

My problem isn't just that I am poor, or that Saddam's government killed my second uncle. My problem, I'm sorry to say in front of the two ladies, but I want the Judge to know everything about me. I was never a "homo" or gay, but I have a problem. I can't get married because my penis is small-sized. I went to the doctor and they said there is no help. They said I couldn't have an operation or surgery of any kind because I'm poor. I want to get the operation or drugs in America or Europe. Who can help me? . . .

This problem has taken all of my life and my thinking. For example, when I was in school, a lot of my friends were married. I look at my friends and say they have a good life. I can't stay in my house, because my father and mother are waiting very anxiously for me to get married. She says she has a nice girl for me to marry, because she says this is my goal in life. I run away from these questions from my mom. I told her that I want to go to college and be a good person. My family said it was a bulls--reason and that I'm Arab and I can marry and complete my life. I can't stand the sight of my mom, because she says, "my son, I want to see your kids." I just kiss my mom and I say "maybe someday."

In America this is only a little problem, but in my home and in my life, it's very difficult when the days get dark, because I hate running from my people. I feel someday I'll go back to my home and I'm sure that all of my friends are married now. This is not just me in my family; it's also my younger brother. He was born in 1980. He's big and is a nice guy, but has the same problem. I know about my brother, but my family doesn't.

The transcript of Ali's tribunal session is by no means typical. From a terrorism-researcher's perspective there are far more interesting pieces of information contained in the newly released Gitmo documents. There is a secret deal between Iran and the Taliban in 2001, and there are details of a suspected terrorist who was almost smuggled across the Mexican border.

But like a good episode of the Jerry Springer show, there is something compelling about Ali's "candor." He describes a run-in with his commander in the Iraqi military, a Major Abdullah:

He once called me "Kiki"; it means "homo"; . . . it means nice boy. I'm sorry, but he's a motherf--. If I was there, I'd f--ing kill him.

Major Abdullah is not the sole focus of Ali's ire. It seems that virtually everyone in his life has done him wrong. When Ali left Iraq on December 16, 1998, he first made his way to Jordan. He quickly ran out of money, though, and decided to call an uncle in Holland for help:

I charged it to the hotel's phone, because I didn't have any money to go outside to make the call. My uncle never even sent me one Jordanian Dinar. He's an asshole and a motherf--, but he's my uncle and I miss him.