Saturday, February 1, 2014


There is a quite remarkable piece of writing featured in the current Washingtonian 

Entitled THIS IS DANNY’S PEARL’S FINAL STORY, it is written by Asra Q. Nomani—and it will move you, even if your heart is made of stone.

I would like to think that anyone who reads this blog stops short of that fate. 

The Danny Pearl piece is written with unsurpassed elegance, simplicity, and sincerity—and it recounts a terrible event, and its consequences, with a truly remarkable candor.

I have rarely read a piece of non-fiction that moved me more. It is also, it is clear, a love story—and despite the horrendous way Danny Pearl died, it is told with tenderness and enough humor to pay a tribute to the man himself. He emerges as an admirable, lovable, man. As for Asra Nomani, I can’t find the words to do her justice. Her writing talent aside, she has a beautiful spirit.

Danny Pearl, you will recall, was the highly regarded Jewish journalist who was decapitated on Pakistan a few months after 9/11. His killer was KSM—Khalid Sheikh Mohammed—who carried out the deed personally. Though there is clear evidence of his guilt, KSM has never been charged. Instead, the U.S. prosecution have felt it sufficient to charge him with planning 9/11.

You can see their point, but after reading an account of how Danny Pearl died, your may feel that KSM should have been charged with that death too—if only to give closure to those who loved him.

The following is a brief extract from this extraordinary piece.

We all respond to trauma differently. For a decade, I subsisted by dissociating, by putting up a barrier between my emotions and the trauma of the murder. I took an analytical, clinical approach to it, investigating and absorbing every detail of Danny’s case but never grieving him.

Seeing KSM’s hand, I so badly wanted him to be charged with the crime. But I knew it wasn’t likely. In 2006, a group of federal officials had recommended trying KSM for 9/11, not Danny’s death, even though they believed they had a strong case for murder.

“Looking at the two photos, there was nothing that stood out to me to contradict that conclusion,” Morris Davis, the chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commission from 2005 through 2007, told me. “I have no reason to doubt that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed killed Daniel Pearl.”

From a procedural perspective, as it was explained to me, federal officials felt that bundling Danny’s case with the 9/11 charges would make KSM’s prosecution more complicated.

And so it became clear, at Guantánamo, that the only work left for me to do was to heal my wound.

“What is grief?” I recently asked psychologist Steven Stosny, posing the obvious question I’d avoided for so long.

“It’s an expression of love,” he told me. “When you grieve, you allow yourself to love again.”

“How do you grieve?” I asked him.

“You celebrate a person’s life by living your life fully.”

No better advice. Go read the full story. It is heart-rending and wonderful—and gives me hope about the human condition. It also makes me conclude, and not for the first time, that women have a great deal more understanding of humanity than we men. 

Men are an aggressive and violent lot with a propensity to posture. I am reminded of my egomaniacal bantam hen, Yul Brynner, who liked to strut around my cottage when I was writing my first book, GAMES OF THE HANGMAN.

He was adorable—but a cock of little sense. That said, most cocks have little sense –and it was hard not to deny his energy. He would screw a rivet into place—and his harem gave every sign of being satisfied.

An odd detail: Yul Brynner sent his son, Roc Brynner, to my old university, TCD—Trinity College Dublin—and he ended up dating a former girlfriend of mine. I know nothing about Roc at all except to note that he showed good taste.





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