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William Fisher: And the Oscar Goes To ...

And the Oscar Goes To ...

By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 13 June 2006

You can only be bemused by the title of the lady at the US State Department who called the suicides of three prisoners a "good PR move to draw attention."

Her name is Colleen Graffy, and her title is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy. That's Public Diplomacy.

Her official State Department bio says Ms. Graffy "coordinates efforts with Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes."

One has to wonder if she coordinated her suicide remarks with Ms. Hughes, the longtime Bush spinmeister whose job it is to "win hearts and minds" for America throughout the world, and especially in the Muslim world.

My brain tells me she didn't consult Ms. Hughes, but my gut tells me it's not beyond the realm of possibility. That's because since President Bush asked Ms. Hughes to take on this impossible job, she has also suffered from foot-in-mouth disease.

Like telling upper-class Saudi women that they ought to be able to drive cars, only to hear that, thank you very much, they'd much rather use their drivers.

But the Graffy gaffe takes the foot-in-mouth malady to a whole new level. In fact, if there were an Oscar for the dumbest remark made since 9/11, this lady's words would rank right up there with "bring it on" and "Mission Accomplished."

And even if she doesn't go home with the award, I predict her words will become as iconic as Rummy's comments that "stuff happens," "you go to war with the army you have," and all the people at GITMO are "the worst of the worst."

But wait - there's more. Apparently not content with one foot in her mouth, Ms. Graffy stuck the other one in as well. She told the BBC the suicides were part of a strategy and "a tactic to further the jihadi cause," but taking their own lives was unnecessary. The three men did not value their lives or the lives of those around them, she said.

Then she went on to explain that the three detainees had access to lawyers, received mail and had the ability to write to families, and so had other means of making protests. She said it was hard to see why the men had not protested about their situation.

Evidently she hadn't heard about the hunger strikes and the many previous suicide attempts.

We don't know a lot about these three men. They may indeed have been among the "worst of the worst.Ó One, we have since learned, was scheduled to be released but hadn't yet been told. And none of them were among the ten - out of close to 500 prisoners - who have ever been charged with a crime or had a trial.

Along with 460 others, they were in a legal black hole, charged with nothing but facing indefinite imprisonment. So exactly who would they protest to?

But wait - we're in luck! Guantanamo's commander, Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., mercifully brings a bit of clarity to the confusion. He explains that the suicides were "not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Asymmetrical warfare. Got it now?


William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world for the US State Department and USAID for the past thirty years. He began his work life as a journalist for newspapers and for the Associated Press in Florida. Go to The World According to Bill Fisher for more.

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