I’m not arguing the merits here so much as the politics. There’s certainly a discussion to be had about how to categorize these people. As things stand, they’re not covered by the Geneva Conventions — they’re unlawful combatants, captured fighting in civilian clothes rather than uniform, and, when it comes to name, rank and serial number, they lack at least two thereof, and even the first is often highly variable. As a point of “international law”, their fate is a matter entirely between Washington and the state of which they’re citizens (Saudi Arabia, mostly). I don’t think it’s a good idea to upgrade terrorists into lawful combatants. But if, like my namesake the British jurist Lord Steyn, you feel differently, fine, go ahead and make your case.
Where the anti-Gitmo crowd went wrong was in expanding its objections from the legal status of the prisoners to the treatment they‚re receiving. By any comparison — ie, not just with Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot — they’re getting better than they deserve. It’s the first gulag in history where the torture victims put on weight. Each prisoner released from Guantanamo receives a new copy of the Koran plus a free pair of blue jeans in his new size: the average detainee puts on 13 pounds during his stay, thanks to the “mustard-baked dill fish”, “baked Tandoori chicken breast” and other delicacies. These and other recipes from the gulag’s kitchen have now been collected by some Internet wags and published as The Gitmo Cookbook.
Whatever's going on there, it isn't torture. Calling it that is stupid and counterproductive.