- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Having had the opportunity to tour Camp X-Ray last week, I offer America's critics a simple piece of advice: Get a life.

The chronic complainers are outraged by, of all things, the treatment of the captured Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They have absurdly criticized as "inhumane" the decision to temporarily place prison suits, handcuffs and blindfolds on the terrorists during transfer to protect the military personnel guarding them. They have even demanded upgraded accommodations, seemingly forgetting that these are the leaders of a worldwide terrorist organization who have repeatedly vowed to kill innocent Americans through war or terror.

Far from being treated inhumanely, the al Qaeda and the Taliban terrorists are better fed, better clothed and better cared for than they would be if they were still roaming the cold caves of Afghanistan. They eat three nutritious meals a day, including halal, cereal and granola bars. They enjoy their own large cell, talking freely with one another, worshiping with a prayer leader, and writing home.

Indeed, the evil-doers at Camp X-Ray are getting far better treatment than they deserve hot showers, a warm Caribbean climate and access to the exact same medical care as the military personnel who live on the base. It seems our critics would prefer that the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists instead stay at the Ritz-Carlton.

By way of contrast, the men and women of our military who have the extremely dangerous job of guarding these thugs live in 12-person tents, take cold showers using a hose, and often must cope without the benefits of electricity. They have been away from home for months, and they serve our nation with dignity and honor.

As I toured Camp X-Ray, I stared into the faces of evil. As I stood just feet away from barbarians who only weeks earlier fired machine guns at American troops, incited bloody prison riots and ambushes and, boasted of plans to kill innocent people, I could not help but feel the grief and anguish of those who lost loved ones on September 11 or during the war in Afghanistan. I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, any of the detainees would have relished the chance to kill me. Indeed, since their arrival at Camp-X-Ray, some of the terrorists have openly threatened the Marines who guard them and talk anxiously about returning home soon to continue terrorizing the American people.

There is a greater purpose behind Camp X-Ray than merely detaining these violent enemies of the United States. At Guantanamo Bay, federal officials are conducting extensive interviews with the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, culling information on the terrorist network and the whereabouts and future plans of the tens of thousands of terrorists who were trained in the same camps and who are now living around the world.

Already, intelligence gathered from other al Qaeda detainees has uncovered potential plots to attack American embassies, nuclear power plants and public water facilities. In the caves and hideouts of al Qaeda operatives, we have found instruction books on how to build chemical and biological weapons, detailed maps of American cities and descriptions of landmarks. The type of work that is occurring at Camp X-Ray may prove critical to preventing a new attack.

President Bush and America deserve appreciation from all corners of the globe for leading the world in the war against terrorism and for making every nation safer.

America's treatment of the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists at Camp X-Ray is appropriate and, in my opinion, too good for these murderous thugs. Instead of lecturing the United States, our critics may better spend their time reminding others that if terrorists don't want to be detained at Camp X-Ray, they should join the civilized world.

Rep. Vito Fossella represents the 13th Congressional District of New York, including Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.

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