Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Callous Conservatism

The regime has done it again: the Emperor and his minions have managed to say the worst possible thing at the worst possible time. In this case, the comment came from a State Department official. The State Department is, allegedly, the place where diplomats hang out and collect their paychecks. The comment made was not particularly diplomatic, and, once made, it caused some scurrying in the executive chambers in an attempt to soften the language. Alas, the bell had been rung and would not be unrung, at least in this reality. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The Bush administration distanced itself Monday from remarks by a U.S. diplomat that the weekend suicides of three Arab detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison were a "good PR move."

"I would just point out in public that we would not say that it was a PR stunt," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, using the abbreviation for public relations. "We have serious concerns anytime anybody takes their own life."

Colleen Graffy, deputy assistant U.S. secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the deaths at the U.S.-run camp in Cuba were a "good PR move to draw attention."

Graffy also told the BBC the deaths were "a tactic to further the jihadi cause."

Graffy's unscripted remarks threw a monkey wrench in the administration's careful plan to demonstrate concern over the deaths and respond to rising criticism of the U.S. operation of the prison.
[Emphasis added]

Like most other decent people, I was first stunned and then outraged when I first read Ms. Graffy's comments. How could any human being utter anything so callous in the face of death? As I got to thinking about it, however, something occurred to me. In a sense, she may have inadvertently been telling the truth. This also occurred to the editorial board at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as witnessed by their editorial in the same edition:

Colleen Graffy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, was callous to term the suicides of three Guantanamo Bay detainees as "a good PR move to draw attention." Sadly, she may be right.

That three young men would take their own lives rather than face another day in what Amnesty International calls America's "legal black hole" offers damning testimony.

...The deaths will intensify the global attention on and criticism of the way the Bush administration has used the facility to deny basic legal and human rights.

The administration has applied a cruel Catch-22 at Guantanamo. Were the men there considered prisoners of war, their detention and treatment would be covered under the Geneva Convention. The president says they're not prisoners of war but "unlawful combatants." Were they criminals, they would be covered by U.S. and international criminal justice systems. But the president continues to hold them without charges.

Calls for the mere closure of Guantanamo miss the point. The problem lies not with the facility itself but with the political leadership that would allow it to be put to such use.
[Emphasis added]

Perhaps for these three men, hopeless after three years in this black hole of ever being freed, living under appalling conditions, suicide was not only their only escape, but also their only way to show the world who the real criminals were in the situation they found themselves in.

I doubt this is what Ms. Graffy meant. I also doubt that Mr. Bush could possibly understand this. Neither his Imperialness nor his minions do nuance.



Blogger Lisa W. said...

While I think there may be some truly guilty people in Guantanamo, this was truly disgusting and does nothing to further the International image of the US. Sad.

5:18 AM  

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