- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

Sen. Joe Biden, Delaware Democrat, thinks the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world.”

Mr. Biden told ABC’s “This Week”: “We should end up shutting it down, moving those prisoners. Those that we have reason to keep, keep. And those we don’t, let go.” Mr. Biden wants Congress to set up a commission to study Guantanamo, but the ranking Foreign Relations Committee Democrat seems clueless about his suggestion’s practical consequences.

Since January 2002, when the United States began detaining at Guantanamo Bay enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts in the war on terror, critics have complained of human-rights abuses.

Last month, the secretary general of Amnesty International compared Guantanamo to the Soviet gulags, a charge that can only be described as obscene. From 1929 to 1953, 18 million people were imprisoned in the Soviet slave labor camps. The gulags’ horrors have been documented by their most celebrated inmate, Nobel Prize-winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and most recently by Anne Applebaum in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Gulag: A History.” Men, women, even children guilty of nothing were sent to camps in Siberia where they were worked often literally to death. Miss Applebaum says, “Prisoners were also locked in punishment cells until they died of cold and starvation, left untreated in unheated hospitals, or simply shot at will for ‘attempted escape.’ ”

The men imprisoned at Guantanamo are members of an international terrorist organization that has killed thousands of innocent civilians. Most were captured while fighting U.S. and coalition troops. They have provided valuable intelligence about al Qaeda, including its recruitment efforts in Europe, its training methods, especially its use of suicide bombers, and its exploitation of charity fronts to raise money. More than 200 men have been released from Guantanamo. Some have rejoined terrorist networks and are trying to kill Americans again.

One of the techniques of terrorists is to claim torture and mistreatment when captured, whether it is true or not. The U.S. military has confiscated training manuals that outline what a prisoner must do. One such manual seized in a Manchester, England, raid instructed al Qaeda operatives in these important lessons: “(1) At the beginning of the trial, once more the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by State Security [investigators] before the judge. (2) Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prison.” With U.S. military tribunals about to hear cases involving 15 Guantanamo detainees, we should be set for an onslaught of torture propaganda.

One reason al Qaeda has proved so deadly is that it understands and exploits Western sensibilities so well. While there have been some abuses at Guantanamo, the military has dealt quickly with them. Of the approximately 28,000 interrogations at Guantanamo, only a handful apparently went wrong. The military — which immediately investigates allegations — found one case of assault and two cases of female guards making sexually suggestive gestures at male prisoners in one recent comprehensive study of Guantanamo.

In addition, a recent investigation found the Koran had been mishandled five times by guards — a fact most remarkable for what it doesn’t say, namely that the U.S. military provided inmates with Korans in the first place. Amnesty International’s outrageous comparisons notwithstanding, the Soviets weren’t handing out Bibles in the gulags.

Since Mr. Biden wants those at Guantanamo moved or released, maybe he’d like a special, maximum-security wing built at the Delaware Correctional Center in his home state to house the approximately 540 enemy combatants now held offshore in Cuba. But I doubt it. Nobody wants these dangerous men in their backyard; only the foolhardy would suggest freeing them.

Guantanamo is a necessary tool in an unconventional war that continues to threaten the lives of Americans and others.

Linda Chavez is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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