- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Don't tell retired U.S. Navy Lt. Stephen Harris about the difficulties of being an Afghan war detainee in Cuba. He was tortured, beaten and starved in North Korea a far cry, he says, from what's happening in Camp X-Ray.
Many former POWs say 158 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters being held by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base camp are being treated far better than they were.
They remember forced marches in freezing temperatures with little clothing, minuscule food rations, regular beatings, torture, executions, cramped cells with little or no light, no books or writing utensils, nothing to keep their minds off the grueling conditions.
"In the entire 61/2 years I was a prisoner of war, I never saw the Red Cross," said retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Orson Swindle, now a federal trade commissioner in Washington.
Mr. Swindle, a former fighter pilot, was shot down over Vietnam in November 1966 and remained in captivity until March 1973.
"I was taken into a cave, tied up, put in a pit, and they'd bring people in to see me … they'd all have rocks and sticks … and my main goal was to keep my head down so I didn't get my eyes put out," Mr. Swindle said.
In contrast, Mr. Swindle said, the detainees at Camp X-Ray are being held in open-air cells with walls of chain-link fence in tropical temperatures that hover in the low-80s. The detainees have been visited by the International Red Cross, issued prayer [skull] caps and are allowed to pray five times a day.
Upon arrival in Cuba, they were allowed to mail a letter home to let relatives know of their situation. Officials have said the prisoners will be allowed to grow back their beards and long hair that many Muslim men wear. They're also getting pita bread with their meals now, and officials are considering requests to give them access to tea and books.
The former POWs point out that designation as a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention does not guarantee humane treatment.

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