Harper’s Magazine and Scott Horton were not supposed to win the National Magazine Award for Reporting this year. Of the five finalists in the category, there were three real contenders, and most people working in the ever-shrinking category of serious magazine journalism were sure the award would go to Rolling Stone for the article by Michael Hastings that led to the downfall of Gen. Stanley McChrystal or The New Yorker for Jane Mayer’s profile of the billionaire Koch brothers.
But Harper’s beat out the two big names, scoring a major upset with Horton’s piece about three detainees at Guantánamo Bay who died in 2006. The government said the men had hung themselves in
In fact, Horton’s story, which the judges for the award—administered by the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) and regarded as the Pulitzer for magazines—found so compelling, was actually a well-shopped one, familiar to some of the most experienced investigative journalists in the business. These included The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh as well as teams from CBS News’ 60 Minutes and ABC News’ Brian Ross Investigative Unit that had looked into the alleged killings and the accounts provided by the men who became Horton’s key sources, and found more flight of fancy than fact. (Horton acknowledges in his story that his source had been in contact with ABC News.)
I’ve quoted Horton a lot, but I didn’t remember quoting this piece or getting all het up about it, which is a good thing, as it appears to be falling apart. A quick search of the archives turns up this:
Just finally finished reading this depressing piece by Scott Horton detailing how we tortured people to death at Gitmo and then lied for years, insisting they were suicides.
Last year, I understood why, politically, the Obama administration chose to behave the way they did with the former administration, choosing to look forward rather than backwards. I didn’t like it at all, but I understood it.
I don’t know how that is a tenable position anymore (and it was always a bad moral compromise). This must be investigated, publicly and thoroughly, and people need to be brought to justice.
I suppose my wish was granted, and this was investigated thoroughly and has fallen apart. I suppose that is good news, although it depresses me that Horton will forever be haunted with this and one of the good guys in all these debates will be automatically ignored by many.
More depressing, though, is that the fact these men just committed suicide and were not murdered will be heralded as some sort of moral victory for America. “Neener neener- we didn’t kill them!” Lost will be the fact that we’ve locked up a bunch of people permanently, some of them guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, given them no chance to face their accusers, allowed no charges to come forward in many cases, and left many of them to rot or take their own lives in protest or in desperation. Another just killed himself recently. Ain’t we just saints!
Just click your heels, say “worst of the worst” a few times, and go get ready to watch American Idol. That will make the stink pass.