Esquire’s Tom Junod crawls under his subjects’ public masks and starts asking questions. Junod has long specialized in profiling symbols such as a man falling from the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the modern would-be mercenary.
His latest profile, “Can One Good Man Redeem a Nation for the Sins of Guantánamo?,”begins with 200 words on the founding of Guantánamo before turning to fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias, who was removed from his job the same day the prison opened.
Junod informs us that last October, while Bush was still in office, Iglesias rejoined the U.S. Navy as a captain, in order to help try the Guantánamo detainees in military tribunals. Despite the firing, and his disagreement with using torture in interrogations, Iglesias believes in the ideals of the war on terror and aims to serve those ends.
Direct addresses to the reader and a conversational tone in transitions (including “oh yeah” and “a couple things you ought to know”) cloak Junod’s call to accountability. In a Tom Junod story, someone will always be held to account, even if it’s Junod’s own father spinning tales about his World War II singing career and the disappointment that followed. Every detail will be marshaled to bear witness to a larger idea.
In the case of the Iglesias story, in some ways, the accounting comes after the story, with the more recent decision to try some suspected terrorists, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, in New York City. Iglesias’ confidence that terrorists would not be tried in U.S. courts has since been revealed to be at least partly mistaken.
The question we end with is whether or not an honest man can expunge a tainted process and midwife just verdicts in a military tribunal. In the end, we come to see that Iglesias knows that the system is a good system and that he is a good man, and believes that is enough. But the lingering questions may be more likely to leave the reader unconvinced.