Nicholas Kristof's Sunday column on Guantanamo prisoners, "A Prison of Shame, and It's Ours," makes the case, in typically arch prose, that his New York Times colleague Barry Bearak got off easy. The Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe imprisoned Bearak in disgusting conditions for four days, but Kristof thought it could have been worse: It could have been Guantanamo Bay.
My Times colleague Barry Bearak was imprisoned by the brutal regime in Zimbabwe last month. Barry was not beaten, but he was infected with scabies while in a bug-infested jail. He was finally brought before a court after four nights in jail and then released.
Alas, we don't treat our own inmates in Guantánamo with even that much respect for law. On Thursday, America released Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman for Al Jazeera who had been held without charges for more than six years. Mr. Hajj has credibly alleged that he was beaten, and that he was punished for a hunger strike by having feeding tubes forcibly inserted in his nose and throat without lubricant, so as to rub tissue raw.
"Granted, it can be hard to figure out what version to believe. When I started writing about Guantánamo several years ago, I thought the inmates might be lying and the Pentagon telling the truth. No doubt some inmates lie, and some surely are terrorists. But over time -- and it's painful to write this -- I've found the inmates to be more credible than American officials."
On his nytimes.com blog, Kristof was even more reductive. Calling Guantanamo Bay a "national disgrace," he wrote:
One reason is simply the injustice of keeping innocent people in abusive conditions....I think many Americans are troubled by Guantanamo but are willing to overlook some of the abuses because of the belief that the inmates are, in Don Rumsfeld's words, "the worst of the worst." In reality, it seems increasingly clear that they are just the unluckiest of the unluckies.
The Times' Alissa Rubin reported Thursday on one of those "innocent...unlucky" people held in Guantanamo Bay: An inmate released from Guantanamo in 2005 was one of the bombers tied to recent suicide attacks in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
A former Kuwaiti detainee at the United States prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was one of the bombers in a string of deadly suicide attacks in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last month, the American military said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, urged American and Iranian officials to return to talks about Iraqi security, but said he understood that it was a difficult moment for reconciliation between the countries.
Cmdr. Scott Rye, a spokesman for the American military, identified one of the Mosul bombers as Abdullah Salim Ali al-Ajmi, a Kuwaiti man who was originally detained in Afghanistan and spent three years at Guantánamo Bay before being released in 2005. "Al-Ajmi had returned to Kuwait after his release from Guantánamo Bay and traveled to Iraq via Syria," Commander Rye said, adding that the man's family had confirmed his death.
Mr. Ajmi is one of several former Guantánamo detainees believed to have returned to combatant status, said another American military spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon. "Some have subsequently been killed in combat and participated in suicide bomber attacks," he said.