The Horror Before the Beheadings

Rukmini Callimachi:

They were the ones who had called him “naughty” during the worst torture. They were the ones the hostages called the Beatles.

They instituted a strict security protocol.

When they approached the cell holding Mr. Suder, the Polish photojournalist, they called out “arba’een”: Arabic for the number 40.

That was his cue to face the wall so that when the guards entered, he would not see their faces. Several hostages were given numbers in Arabic, which appeared to be an effort to catalog them — not unlike the numbers American forces had assigned to prisoners in the detention facilities they ran in Iraq, including Camp Bucca, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, was briefly held.

“When the Beatles took over, they wanted to bring a certain level of order to the hostages,” said one recently freed European captive.

It seems that The New York Times has taken to releasing their big Sunday pieces on the web on Saturday night to drum up some click buzz. This is one time, at least, that the buzz will be warranted.

There were several times while reading, before the section that I quoted above, when I was was taken back to the brutal interrogation scenes in Zero Dark Thirty, to the details that were leaked about Iraq and Afghanistan after the fact about the real thing. This is why the way we conduct ourselves as a nation is important. The world—the good and bad parts of it—is always watching.