When we hear about the detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that are run by our Military and government we tend to think of mush for food, dirt floors, inmates dressed in orange with bags over their heads, even severe torture. Rarely do we here how Gitmo is actually run and operated on a day to day basis. Certainly, we would never expect to hear another side of the story from a “liberal rag” like the New York Times, but today that is just what was printed in their editorial page. It is about time that someone who can get the ear of the national audience starts defending, at least, the conditions in Gitmo.
It is disappointing that so many embrace a contrived image. Reality for Guantánamo Bay is the daily professionalism of its staff, the humanity of its detention centers and the fair and transparent nature of the military commissions charged with trying war criminals. It is a reality that has been all but ignored or forgotten.The makeshift detention center known as Camp X-Ray closed in early 2002 after just four months of use. Now it is overgrown with weeds and serves as home to iguanas. Yet last week ABC News published a photo online of Camp X-Ray as if it were in use, five years after its closing.
Today, most of the detainees are housed in new buildings modeled after civilian prisons in Indiana and Michigan. Detainees receive three culturally appropriate meals a day. Each has a copy of the Koran. Guards maintain respectful silence during Islam’s five daily prayer periods, and medical care is provided by the same practitioners who treat American service members. Detainees are offered at least two hours of outdoor recreation each day, double that allowed inmates, including convicted terrorists, at the “supermax” federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo.
Standards at Guantánamo rival or exceed those at similar institutions in the United States and abroad. After an inspection by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in March 2006, a Belgian police official said, “At the level of detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons.”
Critics liken Guantánamo Bay to Soviet gulags, but reality does not match their hyperbole. The supporters of David Hicks, the detainee popularly known as the “Australian Taliban,” asserted that Mr. Hicks was mistreated and wasting away. But at his March trial, where he pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization, he and his defense team stipulated he was treated properly. Mr. Hicks even thanked service members, and as one Australian newspaper columnist noted, he appeared in court “looking fat, healthy and tanned, and cracking jokes.”
What a contrast to the image that we have been fed to believe! And I have no doubt, having been a former Service member, that the statements in the NYT piece are true and accurate. The Military, Defense Department, and other federal organizations are fanatical with oversight and compliance. Don’t you think they don’t recognize that every media outlet, NGO, and left-wing organizations are hovering like vultures around the US Military looking for any story to try to shame it and the United States. Of course they recognize this and as a result they are meticulous to ensure proper treatment of detainees.
Now, certainly there are going to be mistakes and failings. Having been an enlisted man, I can testify that there are some stupid people in the Military (the key word is ‘some’ and there are some stupid people in every organization on earth) and they are going to do stupid things, even among the officers and the leaders. Is this Bush’s fault or America’s fault, no. It is the fault of the moron that performs the actions. Of course the hovering groups I mentioned above don’t care, they just want to push their own agenda, and that’s fine, we are free to act and interpret all we want, but know that the Government knows they are watching and waiting for mistakes. The United States treats the detainees humanely and with respect. Far more humanely and respectfully than any of our soldiers could ever expect to be treated, even by “bona fide” governments like Iran, or even Russia or China. Gitmo is not Hell on earth.
One final note, I am not debating in this post the legality or illegality of keeping detainees there who have not been tried. While it relates to the issue, that is a discussion for another time and does not pertain to the point of this post. (The NYT article goes into this and it is well worth the read).