I should say a word about "the practices at Guantanamo." As it happens, I've just got back from Gitmo. (That glitch on my green card was finally straightened out.) I've visited several prisons in several countries over the years and never seen anything like this one. Granted, most of what I know about enemy detainee camps comes from what Rear Adm. Harry Harris, who runs Guantanamo, calls "bad movies and worse TV shows," and from a distance very little seems to have changed: the basic look -- barbed wire and watch towers -- would be recognizable to any World War II POWs. But, close up, pretty much everything else has been flushed down the toilet of history. Indeed, even the toilet has been flushed down the toilet of history: In the interests of cultural sensitivity, Gitmo cells were fitted with "Asian-style toilets," because "that's what the detainees prefer." Given that much of the matter that should be going down there ends up being flung over the guards, it seems that this sensitivity over choice of bathroom fixtures is not always appreciated.
When visitors like yours truly swing by, the camp likes to serve them the same meal the prisoners get. This being Ramadan, Adm. Harris was particularly proud of the fresh-baked traditional pastries his team had made for the holy month. And he was right: The baklava was delicious.
If I had to summon up Gitmo in a single image, it would be the brand-new Qurans in each unoccupied cell. To reassure incoming inmates that the filthy infidels haven't touched the sacred book with their unclean hands, the Qurans are hung from the walls in pristine surgical masks. It's one thing for Muslims to regard infidels as unclean, but it's hard to see why it's in the interests of the United States government to string along with it and thereby validate their bigotry.
When I put this point to Adm. Harris, he replied, "That's an interesting question," and said the decision had been made long before he arrived. He explained that they had a good working system whereby whenever it became necessary to handle a Quran -- because a weapon or illicit communication had been concealed in it -- a Muslim translator would be called to the cell to perform the task. But I wasn't thinking of it in operational so much as psychological terms: What does that degree of abasement before their prejudices tell them about us? Mulling it over since I got back, I'd go further: It seems to me that one sign this war is over is when Muslims are grown-up enough not to go to full-blown baklava nuts over other folks touching their Qurans.