TCS Daily

The Real Abuse at Guantanamo

By Gordon Cucullu - June 29, 2005 12:00 AM

After speaking with soldiers, sailors, and civilians who collectively staff the Joint Task Force - Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on my recent visit to that base, I left convinced that abuse definitely exists at the detention facilities. But not the slander and hyperbole about alleged mistreatment of the unlawful combatants confined there that we've all heard. There is far more serious abuse: the relentless, merciless attacks on American servicemen and women by these same terrorist thugs.

Many of the orange jumpsuit-clad detainees fight their captors at every opportunity. They attack guards whenever the soldiers enter their cells, trying to reach up under protective face masks to gouge eyes and tear mouths. They make weapons and try to stab the guards or grab and break limbs as the guards pass them food. These terrorist prisoners openly brag of their desire to kill Americans. One has promised that if he is released he would find MPs in their homes through the Internet, break into their houses at night and 'cut the throats of them and their families like sheep.' These recalcitrant detainees are known euphemistically as being "non-compliant."

Yet these thugs are treated with an amazing degree of compassion: They are given ice cream treats and recreational time. They live in clean facilities, and receive a full Muslim religious package of Koran, prayer rug, beads, and prayer oils. An arrow in every cell points to Mecca. The call to prayer is played five times daily. They are not abused, hanged, tortured, beheaded, raped, mutilated or in any way treated the way that they once treated their own captives or now treat their guards.

Former intelligence officer Wayne Simmons asked those in charge pointedly why we would allow a book like the Koran - that inflames and reinforces the jihadist mentality - even to be distributed to these people. "Doesn't giving them a Koran simply add fuel to an ideological fire already burning out of control?" Simmons asked. Those in charge were visibly surprised at the question. "Giving them the Koran is simply something that we think we ought to do as a humane gesture," said second-in-command Brigadier General Gong. "We're Americans. That's how we operate."

Our group went to GITMO to check out tales that the military was being too tough on these terrorist detainees. We left convinced that America is being extraordinarily lenient - some might even say too much so. But JTF GITMO commanding officer Brigadier General Jay Hood will have none of that. He radiated confidence and determination when fielding challenges from our group about lenient treatment. "It works," he says simply. "We do not allow torture or mistreatment, period." How do they guarantee this? By rigorous, on-going training and constant oversight up and down the supervisory chain. As proof that "establishing rapport" with the detainees is far more effective than coercive techniques, General Hood refers skeptics to the massive amount of usable intelligence information JTF GITMO continues to produce even three years into the program.

We dined with the soldiers, toured several of the individual holding camps, observed interrogations, and inspected cells. We were impressed by the universally high quality of the cadre and the facilities. While it may not be exactly "Club GITMO" that Rush Limbaugh uses to tweak the hard-left critics who haven't a clue about reality here, GITMO is a far cry from the harshness we would expect in a maximum security prison in the US.

For example, meals for detainees are ample: we lunched on what several thought was an accumulated single day's ration for detainees. "No," the contract food service manager said with a laugh, "what you're looking at there is today's lunch. A single meal. They get three a day like that." Several prisoners have special meal orders like "no tomatoes" or "no peanut products" depending on taste or allergies.

The detainees are similarly catered to medically. Almost every one arrived at GITMO with some sort of battlefield trauma. After all, the majority were captured in combat. Today they are healthy, immunized, and well cared for. At a visit to the modern hospital facility the doctor in charge confirmed that the caloric count for the detainees was so high that while "most detainees arrived undernourished," medics now watch for overweight and cholesterol issues.

Of the estimated 70,000 battlefield captures that were made in Afghanistan, only a tiny percentage, something on the order of 800-plus, were eventually evacuated to GITMO. These were the worst of the worst. More than 200 have been released because they are no longer a threat or possess no useful information. Even this has been proven overly generous: more than 10 released GITMO detainees have been killed or recaptured fighting Americans or have been identified as resuming terrorist activities.

You are right to worry about inhumane treatment taking place at GITMO. But your concern should be for the dedicated, well-trained, highly professional American men and women who are subjected to a daily barrage of feces, urine, semen, and spit hurled at them along with vile invective as they implement a humane, enlightened system of confinement on men who want nothing more than to kill Americans. These quiet professional Americans, who live under the motto "Honor Bound for Defense of Freedom," deserve our utmost respect and concern. Shame on anyone who slanders or disrespects them.

Gordon Cucullu is a former Green Beret lieutenant colonel and author of Separated at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin.



TCS Daily Archives