The Bush administration stared down a new wave of international condemnation of Guantánamo yesterday, dismissing the suicides by three inmates of the prison camp as a "good PR move" on their part and an "act of asymmetrical warfare".
The deaths of two Saudis and a Yemeni, who used knotted bedsheets to hang themselves in their solitary cells, brought renewed calls from European governments and human rights organisations to bring the 460 inmates to trial, or close down the camp. But Bush administration officials rejected suggestions that the three had killed themselves in despair over their indefinite confinement.
"It does sound like this is part of a strategy - in that they don't value their own lives, and they certainly don't value ours; and they use suicide bombings as a tactic," Colleen Graffy, the deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told BBC's Newshour yesterday. "Taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good PR move."
On Saturday, the camp's commander, Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris, said the suicides were an al-Qaida tactic. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us," he said.
The hard line from an administration official comes at a time of increasing international criticism at the handling of terror suspects at Guantánamo. The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a staunch ally of the US in Iraq, said that Guantánamo was damaging America's image in the world, and undermining the global war on terror. "I think it would be to the benefit of our cause, and our fight for freedom and for democracy, if the facilities at Guantánamo were closed down," the Danish leader told CNN.
In Stockholm, Sweden's foreign minister, Jan Eliasson, voiced similar concerns about the lack of due process. "It shows the importance of letting the prisoners free or giving them a statutory trial."
In Saudi Arabia, officials at the semi-official human rights organisation accused the prison administration of torturing the men to death. "Even if the suicide story is true, I have no doubts that they were pushed to it by torture and the lack of attention paid to the health of the detainees," said Saleh al-Khathlan of the Saudi human rights group.
Lawyers for the detainees called the comments by administration officials deeply offensive. Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer for the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represents most of the detainees, said: "It's very clear that any human being who is kept in indefinite detention over four years, not given any kind of hearing, and whose life and fate is subject to such uncertainty, inevitably will contemplate suicide, and the fact that three of them finally succeeded comes as no surprise. This is not an act of warfare, it is a consequence of inhumane and immoral treatment of human beings by the United States."
In Britain, Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said of the US officials' remarks: "This is the sort of statement that SS officers in Nazi Germany would have been envious of." Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, deplored the "incredibly insensitive and callous" comments. "The deaths of these three people was not an act of war, it was an act of desperation."
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The suicides were in fact an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us .
sheez now that's some spin and a half for you all .If it was not human lives we were talking about it would be a a scene from a comedy show.
Where the heck is Mr Orwell when you need him.