July 1, 2006  

To Colleen Graffy

Deputy assistant secretary of state for “public diplomacy” — we are not making this up — for characterizing what might be described as the “assisted suicides” of three Guantanamo detainees as a “good PR move to draw attention.” Almost as tone-deaf was Rear Adm. Harry Harris’ analysis that the deaths were an act of “asymmetrical warfare.” The underlying point that Graffy and the admiral were attempting to make, that the deaths were much more a political act than the act of desperation that activist lawyers claimed them to be, is certainly true but got lost, thanks to the inept way it was made. Graffy’s gaffe, in particular, was public diplomacy of the most self-defeating sort. The incident, though minor, reinforces our belief that, in the “war of ideas,” the first rule should be to prevent fratricide.