Gitmo, Families at War, and Chasing the �Bubba� Vote

Leaping into the Guantanamo story, Time devotes its cover feature to a secret interrogation log of the man known inside Gitmo as Detainee 063, but whom intelligence officials believe is the so-called “20th hijacker,” a Saudi deported from the U.S. before 9/11.

In tones often breathless and occasionally over the top, Time quotes a Pentagon official as declaring that the log is the “kind of document that was never meant to leave Gitmo.” Time reporters Adam Zagorin and Michael Duffy tell us that the “log offers a rare glimpse into the darker reaches of intelligence gathering, in which teams that specialize in extracting information by almost any means match wits and wills with men who are trained to keep quiet at almost any cost.”

Yet, they note, “the log reads like a night watchman’s diary.” And, significantly, “the log doesn’t make clear how effective the interrogations were.” For good measure, the reporters quote anonymous Pentagon officials (them, again) who say “most of the intelligence gleaned from those sessions was recorded in other documents.”

By and large, the Time “exclusive” reads like it made a detour to the marketing department before hitting print. For all the magazine’s hype over scoring the 84-page log, we didn’t find much of interest, except for the fact that the interrogators think a dose of Christina Aguilera may cause a terrorist to tell all. They may be onto something.

Newsweek too seems to be reaching with its cover story, “Fathers, Sons and War.” “The father-son tradition of inherited sacrifice and honor goes on and on, and now includes some mothers and daughters as well,” write T. Trent Gegax and Evan Thomas.

Incongruous as it may seem for the millions whose closest brush with battle is on cable, soldiers and Marines on the front line are proud to be there and willing to serve again. The overall effect is to heighten the sense that the military is becoming a proud cult that fewer and fewer outsiders want to join.

For some terrific writing, we heartily recommend Matt Labash’s travels with Dave “Mudcat” Saunders in “Hunting Bubba.” How can you not get sucked in with a lede like this: “You’re slower than cream rising on s—. Haul ass down here so we can get this piece knocked out, Brotha!” It just gets better, because Saunders, Labash confides, is “like some force of nature sent my way by the Color Gods of Feature Writing.”

Mudcat, along with partner Steve Jarding, is also the political strategist upon whom Democrats have pinned their dreams of winning the Bubba vote. Saunders and Jarding have teamed up on a book, Foxes in the Henhouse, due to be released next spring. Writes Labash: “It is probably the first pox-on-both-parties manifesto to come with a companion CD.”

And, as usual, The Economist weighs in with a thoughtful analysis of the recent talks on Africa between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. While the two leaders agreed to up funding for African aid, the U.S. commitment was less than the British leader sought.

But catering to selfish American voters is not the only reason that Mr Bush — and many analysts — are reluctant to endorse Mr. Blair’s bold new vision for Africa. Critics of such grand plans argue that the continent does not need … “a new Marshall Plan”. The rich world has already poured the equivalent of six Marshall Plans into Africa, with very little to show for the money. What Africa needs most, they point out, is decent governments — not perfect ones, just ones that are less corrupt, incompetent or violent. Without such governments, aid will do nothing but build roads to nowhere and pad the Swiss bank accounts of the ruling kleptocrats.

The Economist thinks there is an obvious answer for the so-called G8 nations:

[T]here is one step that rich countries could take that would help Africans in both well-governed and poorly-governed states: curbing the agricultural subsidies and health-and-safety regulations that keep African products out of rich-country markets.

The likelihood of that appears remote, however.

[T]he most obvious step may be the hardest one for the G8 to take. Fear of muscular farm lobbies among rich-world governments has been one of the main obstacles to progress in the Doha round of world trade talks. The suffering of their own consumers has not yet moved either the European Union or America to wean their farmers off government protections. Perhaps the much deeper suffering of Africans will do the trick.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.