American diplomat and former Santa Barbara resident Colleen Graffy found herself in hot water this weekend after telling BBC reporters that last week’s suicides by three prisoners at the United States’ controversial Guantanamo Bay military prison constituted “a good PR move,” designed to “further the jihadi cause.” Graffy, the daughter of former Santa Barbara county supervisor Jeanne Graffy, works for former Bush adviser and confidante Karen Hughes, who is charged with improving the U.S. reputation in the Arab world. Graffy’s off-the-cuff remarks – delivered as part of a background briefing – were seized upon by many Arab news outlets before the State Department launched a damage-control response. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack disavowed Graffy’s remarks, stating, “We have serious concerns anytime anybody takes his/her own life.” Currently 460 prisoners are held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo for suspected ties to Al Qaeda or the Taliban; after four years in operation, only 10 have been charged. Human rights critics of the Bush administration said last week’s suicides highlight the desperate conditions inside the prison, the object of increasing concern among religious and humanitarian groups worldwide. But the commander of the prison dismissed the suicides as “an act of asymmetrical warfare,” rather than evidence of despair.

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