- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2005

The “Blame America First” crowd wields the whip. The target: “Camp Delta,” the U.S. Military Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Spurred by a false story in Newsweek, and then Amnesty International’s unsupported charge it is the “gulag of our times,” Guantanamo — and the people it houses — have become the left’s latest “cause celeb.”

Kofi Annan, “Old Europe’s” old leaders, Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and most of the so-called mainstream media have now declared the facility must be closed.

President Bush, apparently smarting under the lash, now says such a move is “under consideration.” If the White House goal is to make the pain go away, the Bush administration ought to think again. Before shutting down the Guantanamo facility and sending its 547 “occupants” to their “home countries” or — as some have suggested — “a country of their choice,” the administration should first try telling the American people more about what “Gitmo” is really like — and why it is needed.

First, a truth check. When confronted with the facts, Amnesty International, once respected for holding the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes accountable for human-rights abuses, backed away from their accusation. “Clearly, this is not an exact or a literal analogy,” offered William Schulz, head of Amnesty’s U.S. branch. “In size and in duration, there are not similarities between U.S. detention facilities and the gulag. … People are not being starved. … They’re not being subjected to forced labor.” He could and should have gone further.

Here’s Amnesty’s “gulag:” Upon arrival at Camp Delta, detainees are issued a blanket, a sheet, two orange “jumpsuits,” flipflops, a foam sleeping pad, two bath towels, a washcloth, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, a prayer rug, and a Koran. They are allowed two 15-minute showers per week; they get recreation time and three culturally sensitive meals daily. Schedules are respectful of Islamic traditions, prayer calls are broadcast five times a day and arrows painted on the floors point to Mecca. Their regular quarters include a flushing toilet, running water and an off-the-floor bed. Detainees who ask for them are provided soccer balls, playing cards, chessboards and paperback books. All this, courtesy of the American taxpayers the detainees have sworn to kill.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted this week our military has a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) governing every aspect of detainee treatment — including how Korans are to be handled — observing he has not seen this brief document reproduced by the major media. Rules for handling the Koran include the requirement to wear “clean gloves,” and “two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence,” and “handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.”

Add to these regulations, stringent rules of engagement, the Geneva Conventions, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, hours of sensitivity training, and allowing camera crews — like mine with FOX News — to tag along on combat missions, and it’s apparent ours is the most scrutinized, examined — and professional — force for justice and peace on Earth.

According to the Defense Department more than 68,000 terror suspects have been in U.S. custody at one point or another and more than a half-million young Americans have served overseas since September 11, 2001. Yet, only 371 credible misconduct allegations have been leveled against U.S. troops and fewer than one-tenth of 1 percent of American service members have been found guilty of abuse or mistreatment.

The second challenge — responding to those like Jacques Chirac, Joe Biden and Fidel Castro who want to “release the detainees” should be even easier. Gen. Dick Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this week: “If you release them or let them go back to their home countries, they would turn around and try to slit our throats, our children’s throats. These are the people who took four airplanes and flew them into three buildings on September 11.” Though some in the media immediately charged the general with hyperbole, he’s right. Of the 247 detainees who thus far released, 25 — more than 10 percent — are believed to have returned to the “jihad.”

Abdullah Mehsud, spent two years in Guantanamo after his capture fighting with the Taliban. He convinced U.S. interrogators he was an innocent Afghan tribesman and was released. Last October, in Pakistan, his “country of choice,” he kidnapped two Chinese engineers. He says he and his followers will “fight America and its allies until the very end.”

Mullah Shahzada spent two years at a special “seaside house” with fellow teenage detainees. There he was taught English, played sports and watched videos designed to make him “like us.” After swearing an oath against violence he was returned to Afghanistan. Just weeks later he became one of 12 former detainees confirmed killed by coalition forces while fighting with Taliban al Qaeda units.

The Pentagon says Guantanamo detainees have provided “useful information on locations of training compounds and safe houses, terrain features, travel patterns and routes used for smuggling people and equipment, as well as for identifying potential supporters and opponents.” Evidence is also collected on terrorist plans and operations in the U.S. and Europe.

As for all of the claims of abuse: An al Qaeda training manual captured by British intelligence instructs those captured, “at the beginning of the trial… the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison.”

These are enemies who refuse to observe any conventions, treaties or rules of warfare. They lie, cheat and violate agreements. They slice off heads like raw meat. They murder women and children. They fly airplanes into buildings.

But we’re the bad guys.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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