October 6, 2006
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Guantanamo Bay isn't run by the CIA, the FBI or private
contractors. It is run by men and women in the armed services. They
are the guards, the administrators, the doctors, the engineers, the
lawyers and the chaplains. They're the ones in charge. And their
work is hardly hidden: The Pentagon has invited a steady stream of
reporters, politicians, human-rights groups and the representatives
of other governments to visit the detention facilities -- and judge
what is being done there for themselves.
Unlike others who have taken the Pentagon up on its offer, I
have to admit that when I went recently, I didn't go as an
unprejudiced judge. I know these people. They are the kinds of
people I worked with during my 25 years of military service. In
fact, some of the folks working at Guantanamo I have served with
before. I feel like I have spent enough time around soldiers to
know when I'm being told the truth, and I have spent enough time
around the Pentagon to know not to believe everything I'm told.
I'm also a military historian, and I know sometimes even good
armies do bad things. There are, in fact, more than a few examples
in America's military past. I have little tolerance for these
travesties. Nothing angers me more than dishonorable service in the
name of an honorable cause.
We were shown all the facilities, how the prisoners were being
treated, and permitted to talk freely to any soldier we came
across. I chatted with reservists who had been there a few months
and quizzed professional interrogators who had spent their whole
careers talking to bad people.
I found nothing at Guantanamo to be ashamed of. The most common
criticisms, from what I saw, have little basis in fact.
Myth #1: Detainees are abused and tortured. According to
the officers I talked to, high-value detainees were interviewed, on
average, about once a week for two to four hours. They are
handcuffed to the floor, and the interrogators talk to them. That's
about it. There is no torture or inhuman punishment. There are no
solitary confinement facilities at Guantanamo. The detainees have
more access and better access to health care than the soldiers and
the dependents on the island. The new detention facilities built at
the camp are exactly like the most modern federal prison facilities
in the United States.
Myth #2: Detainees are forgotten and abandoned. There
are, on average, two lawyers and three reporters for every detainee
in Guantanamo. The International Committee of the Red Cross has a
presence there, on average, about one out of every three days. And
committee representatives have unaccompanied access to the
detainees whenever they want it. International organizations,
including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
and the European Parliament, have inspected the facilities as
Myth #3: Detainees have no rights. Every detainee at
Guantanamo has had his detention status reviewed by a formal board.
Of the 400 or so detainees still there, about 120 have been
determined to eligible to be released to their home country or
other country. They are being sent home as soon as countries agree
to accept them and not torture them. Three hundred and fifteen have
already been released from Guantanamo, including five in the month
I visited. The others are given an annual review board to determine
if detention is still warranted. In addition, the detainees have
the right to challenge their detention in U.S. federal civilian
Myth #4: Detainees are not dangerous. Some of the
evidence against the vast majority of Guantanamo's remaining
detainees is classified, but some of it is not, including some
100,000 documents, articles and equipment in the detainees'
personal affects. Included in this cache is a fax addressed to one
detainee who claimed he was a cook. The fax addressed him as the
head of Taliban intelligence operations. There is enough evidence
to try at least three dozen of them with major war crimes (once
Congress approves the military commissions to try them).
Even inside the razor wire at Guantanamo, the detainees are
dangerous. There are, on average, 10 incidents a day at Guantanamo,
ranging from verbally threatening U.S. soldiers to attacking them
with homemade weapons. Even the doctors have to wear body armor
when they attend to their patients.
Myth #5: Detainees have no intelligence value. Even
though they have been off the battlefield for some time, the
integrators told us that almost every week they learn something
important that helps fight the war on terror. Recently, through
interrogations, the intelligence team at Guantanamo assembled a
composite sketch that's being used to track down a Taliban warlord
From what I saw at Guantanamo what our soldiers are doing is
humane and just. Instead of criticism, the United States and the
military should be honored for investing the resources and resolve
to do the job right.
James Carafano is Senior Research
Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security at The Heritage
Foundation and author of the new book "G.I.
First appeared on FOXNews.com
Guantanamo Bay isn’t run by the CIA, the FBI or private contractors. It is run by men and women in the armed services. They are the guards, the administrators, the doctors, the engineers, the lawyers and the chaplains. They’re the ones in charge.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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