Dangerous Bones


We note the recent exhumation of the remains of Yassar Arafat, inside the mausoleum at Ramallah. Three separate teams of scientists will now test the remains for traces of  plutonium-210 and other lethal substances. Plutonium-210 has already been detected on Arafat’s clothing, keffiyeh and toothbrush.

Last week, a series of declassified emails disclosed details of the treatment of another (and historically related) dangerous body, that of Osama Bin Laden. In these messages, the body is referred to as “the package”, and is reported as being delivered to the deck of the USS Carl Vinson by “Fedex”.

Carl Vinson served as a congressman for over fifty years. He is known as “the father of the two ocean navy”; Vinson was also a staunch segregationist. He is buried at Memorial Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia. As far as we know, his remains have never been exhumed nor tampered with in any way.


According to one email sent by Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette:

“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was {sic} followed. The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”

There were no witnesses among the sailors on board, and no permanent record of the event was recorded. Again in the words of Admiral Gaouette, “The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed on operational security during the execution of this phase of the operation.” We note that burial at sea without independent verification was planned from the beginning as an integral part of Bin Laden’s obliteration; there must be no possible shrine for future pilgrimages.

As has been amply discussed elsewhere, the code name for “the package” prior to its ultimate delivery had been “Geronimo”, a name taken from a dangerous body from another century. The Chiricahua Apache known as Geronimo was not executed, but captured alive and relocated, first to Florida and then to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

In 1905, hoping to persuade the newly-elected Theodore Roosevelt to grant him the right to die – peacefully – in his own homeland, Geronimo agreed to participate in the inaugural parade, together with other displaced chiefs. When asked why he permitted a savage like Geronimo to participate in the presidential pomp, Roosevelt responded ““I wanted to give the people a good show.”


Yet there was also a second motivation. In the above photograph, the chiefs appear to be “leading” rank after rank of uniformed cadets from the Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Such schools were intended to rebirth indian children into white european culture: kill the indian, save the man. Pedagogical features included rape and other forms of abuse and exploitation.

Though his grave at Fort Sill is well marked, the precise disposition of Geronimo’s physical remains continues to generate controversy, above all given the presence of Prescott Bush within the narrative.


Finally, we have recently finished the extraordinary book by Thomas Powers, The Killing of Crazy Horse. Powers brilliantly reconstructs the murderous circumstances of Crazy Horse’s death, and the exact location where he was killed, yet we know next to nothing about what became of his bones.


The last stanza of a poem by Lucille Clifton reads:


Update, November 7, 2013: The dangerous bones of Yassar Arafat appear to confirm that he was murdered. 

Comments are disabled.

%d bloggers like this: