November 9, 2006
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
GUANTANAMO BAY -- At
least two detainees at the holding facility here skipped lunch
today because they're on a hunger strike. Which is a pity for them
-- the food was delicious. By contrast, the steady stream of news
about "Gitmo" tends to leave one with a bad taste.
On the day I toured the facility, lawyers for 100 detainees were
in court insisting their clients have a right to be heard in
American civilian courts. And a recent McClatchy newspaper story
claimed that "reports of mistreatment and torture have dogged the
facility since it opened," and added, "critics . . . have described
an island gulag of desolation and despair."
What's missing from the criticism is any sense of perspective.
For one thing, the most outspoken critics of American policy
haven't bothered to visit Guantanamo. If they did, they'd see that
the U.S. military is using the facility to hold roughly 400 enemy
combatants. And despite all the criticism, Gitmo's the most
transparent facility ever used to house prisoners of war.
Most of the detainees have lawyers. That must be a first in the
history of warfare. No government is required under the laws of war
to charge enemy combatants with any crime; anyone picked up on a
battlefield may be held until hostilities end.
Furthermore, the Geneva Convention does not require that
detainees be allowed to speak to lawyers and does not give them the
right to challenge their detention in civilian courts. By any
measure, the U.S. government has extended our deadly enemies
unprecedented legal rights.
In return, we're collecting valuable intelligence. Many
detainees are still giving us useful information about the location
of al-Qaida training facilities and the terrorist organization's
chain of command.
As far as alleged torture goes, consider the hunger strikers
mentioned above. To keep them alive, the military has been
tube-feeding them the same way a hospital feeds an incapacitated
patient. "Medical associations have called it unethical," Reuters
news agency reports. Would letting the detainees die be more
ethical? Doctors at Gitmo even adjusted the detainees' feeding
schedule so that, during Ramadan, they wouldn't be getting any
sustenance during daylight hours. We're not only protecting the
lives of detainees, we're respecting their religious traditions as
In fact, if there's any abuse going on, it might be that the
detainees are eating too much. They get 4,000 calories a day --
hardly a starvation diet. Guards say one has gained 150 pounds.
Some Americans seem to have forgotten there's a war going on.
Not these detainees: They regularly threaten their guards and vow
to have their friends kill the guards' families back home. Our
service members take these threats seriously -- many remove their
nametags before they'll walk past a cell block. One officer's tag
identified him as Col. "I don't know."
At least 10 former Gitmo detainees, once released, returned to
the battlefield against coalition forces only to be killed or
captured again. One even managed to assassinate an Afghan judge. So
it makes sense that our military hold on to dangerous people until
we can be certain they're no longer a threat.
Incidentally, more than a quarter of all current Gitmo detainees
are eligible to leave, but they've got no place to go. No country
is willing to accept them, so they remain here. One reason we can't
simply deport them is that the U.S. military will not, as a matter
of policy, send a detainee to a country where he is likely to be
tortured. Remember that the next time you're told the United States
I've never been prouder of our men and women (many of the guards
at Gitmo are women) in uniform than when I saw how professionally
they handled themselves and our enemies. Our facility at Guantanamo
Bay should be in the news every day -- as an example of what we're
doing right: Winning the war on terror, while still treating our
is president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org), a
Washington-based public policy research institute and co-author of
the new book Getting America Right.
First appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times
GUANTANAMO BAY -- At least two detainees at the holding facility here skipped lunch today because they're on a hunger strike. Which is a pity for them -- the food was delicious. By contrast, the steady stream of news about "Gitmo" tends to leave one with a bad taste.
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
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