As far as I'm concerned, anything Nick Kristof writes is required reading. I can hardly say the same for the increasingly self-important Thomas "Six Months" Friedman, but today's column reminds us how he got his cushy gig in the first place.
Kristof's "A Prison of Shame, and It's Ours" chronicles the stories of several innocent people locked up in Guantanamo Bay, providing a compelling argument for why we need to close the place yesterday:
Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American woman of Afghan descent who worked as an interpreter, has written a book to be published next month, "My Guantánamo Diary," that is wrenching to read. She describes a pediatrician who returned to Afghanistan in 2003 to help rebuild his country -- and was then arrested by Americans, beaten, doused with icy water and paraded around naked. Finally, after three years, officials apparently decided he was innocent and sent him home... The new material suggests two essential truths about Guantánamo:
First, most of the inmates were probably innocent all along, but Pakistanis or Afghans turned them over to America in exchange for large cash rewards. The moment we offered $25,000 rewards for Al Qaeda supporters, any Arab in the region risked being kidnapped and turned over as a terrorism suspect.
Second, torture was routine, especially early on. That's why more than 100 prisoners have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo...
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.
Both Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates have pushed to shut down Guantánamo because it undermines America's standing and influence. They have been overruled by Dick Cheney and other hard-liners. In reality, it would take an exceptional enemy to damage America's image and interests as much as President Bush and Mr. Cheney already have with Guantánamo.
January 20 can't come soon enough. 261 days left...
In "Who Will Tell the People?", Friedman looks at America's crumbling power and economy, and suggests that it will take bold leadership and vision to restore us to our previous heights.
We are not as powerful as we used to be because over the past three decades, the Asian values of our parents' generation -- work hard, study, save, invest, live within your means -- have given way to subprime values: "You can have the American dream -- a house -- with no money down and no payments for two years."...
A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York's Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.'s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore's ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children's play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. If all Americans could compare Berlin's luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.
How could this be? We are a great power. How could we be borrowing money from Singapore? Maybe it's because Singapore is investing billions of dollars, from its own savings, into infrastructure and scientific research to attract the world's best talent -- including Americans.
I leave you with this third insightful commentary, Friday's "Get Fuzzy" courtesy the funny papers.