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behind the bars: guantanamo bay

Colonel John Bogdan Has No Nose

A fable about the former Guantánamo warden by Shaker Aamer, a British detainee.
November 10, 2014, 10:00am

This is Guantánamo detainee Shaker Aamer's short story about Colonel John Bogdan, the man who effectively ran the camps at Guantánamo Bay from June 2012 until June this year. Bogdan's tenure was an unpopular one with detainees; the mass hunger strike that broke out at the start of 2013 was reportedly triggered by an aggressive crackdown ordered by Bogdan, which included intrusive genital searches and the use of rubber bullets to quell outbreaks of unrest in the prison.


In this fable, Shaker claims that Colonel Bogdan is a man without a nose.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful kingdom far away. The land was ruled by a kind king, filled with fine people, and everyone lived very nicely. The king loved his people and took care of them.

Then, one day, something bad happened: The king was stung on his nose by a wasp. His nose became so infected that the doctors had to cut it off in the hope that the infection would not spread, first to his face and then to his whole body. They did not want the king to die from a wasp sting.

The king was so upset to be without a nose and didn't want to be seen, so he started to hide from everyone in the kingdom. His ministers hated to see the king they loved so upset, so they held a meeting without him. They decided to cut their noses off too, so they would look like him. The king was surprised, and he asked them what had happened. They told him the truth, and the king became very happy, his spirits lifted because he had such loyal ministers.

But this was not the end of the story. When the people saw that their king was happy again, and learned what the ministers did on his behalf, they all decided to cut off their noses, too. The entire kingdom did the same thing for the sake of the king. They would cut the noses of all the children off, so no one had a nose and no one was different from anyone else. From then on, whenever a baby was born, his nose was cut off.


The years rolled on by, the king eventually died, and new generations followed him. There were more kings, over more generations. Like everyone else, they had their noses cut off. Everything was fine, and everyone was without a nose. Nobody remembered the era of the nose.

One day, a caravan of merchants came from far away to do business. They had heard that this kingdom had good people, but they were very surprised to see so many people without noses. As they drove through the city they were shocked—no one had a nose!

At the same time, the people of the kingdom were shocked and surprised to see this thing on the merchants' faces. They didn't even know what it was. They had forgotten that it was even called a nose. The merchants looked at the people and wondered why they didn't have noses because that was not normal. The people of the kingdom looked at the merchants and wondered why they did have noses because that wasn't normal. Who was normal, and who was abnormal?

No matter how hard the merchants tried, they could not convince the people that it was normal to have a nose. They could not convince them that cutting off their children's noses was barbaric. The people knew differently, and so merchants left them alone and stopped trying to change their minds.

And so it is with Colonel Bogdan, the Admiral, the Guantánamo administration, and even the US Government. They believe what they are doing in the name of the "War On Terror" is normal and that everyone should act exactly the same.

But it is time to tell the people of No Noseland that they should not cut off the noses of their children. It only spites them, and makes their world a nastier place. The world must tell the US Government that they are not normal, that they have lost their direction and are driving the rest of the world away from justice as well.

Illustrations by Molly Crabapple

About Shaker Aamer: