THE REAL GITMO:
By Peter King
New York Post Op/Ed
February 26, 2009
HAVING just re turned from leading a con gressional delegation to the terrorist-detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, I am more convinced than ever that President Obama's executive order to close Gitmo by next Jan. 22 is wrong and misguided and, if fully implemented, will threaten American security at home and abroad.
To be fair, the president deserves much credit for a series of key decisions he has made in the war against terrorism: 1) launching predator missiles against Taliban and al Qaeda locations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater; 2) detaining, without trial, enemy combatants captured and imprisoned overseas, and 3) invoking the "state secrets" privilege to block a lawsuit on CIA renditions (the practice of allowing other nations to interrogate non-US citizen terror detainees).
Unfortunately, his Gitmo decision undercuts these positive actions.
It has become an article of faith among the MoveOn.org crowd and the Democratic Party's liberal base to denounce Guantanamo as a symbol of inhumane treatment and torture. (Indeed, in his address to Congress on Tuesday, the president announced the closing of Guantanamo in the same paragraph in which he said "that is why I can stand here tonight and say . . . the United States of America does not torture.")
Yet that symbolism doesn't square with the real Gitmo.
Detainees at Guantanamo are treated far better than most American prisoners in the US jails and prisons I've inspected over the years. The unfounded accusations that are so regularly and cavalierly made about Guantanamo are a slander against the brave men and women of our armed forces, who perform their duties at that facility so professionally and under such duress.
If there's any scandal at Guantanamo, it is that the detainees are treated toowell. Consider what I observed:
* Detainees get three full meals a day with a choice of menu.
* Each detainee receives a Koran and a prayer rug.
* Arrows throughout the facility point toward Mecca.
* Detainees receive full medical treatment - including psychiatric services. There is one medical personnel for every two detainees.
* Detainees who comply with regulations are allowed out of their cells for 16 to 20 hours a day and participate in various recreational and educational activities including soccer, language training and art classes.
* Noncompliant detainees - including the hardest of the hard core - are allowed out of their cells for four to seven hours a day. (It was particularly galling to observe a vicious terrorist reclining in the sun like a Palm Beach retiree.)
* Detainees have access to live TV, books and two daily Arab newspapers plus USA Today. (I suppose it would be inhumane to subject them to The New York Times.)
* Detainees are allowed to confer to discuss courtroom strategy.
* Guards within the facility are not armed and are regularly subjected to abuse and harassment, including having human feces and urine thrown at them.
These are not just my conclusions. The Defense Department has just finished its review of Guantanamo as ordered by President Obama and determined that conditions comply with the Geneva Conventions: "No prohibited acts were found and conditions are humane."
We are at war with Islamic terrorism. Gitmo is a major front in that war. Closing Guantanamo could well mean releasing deadly Islamic terrorists overseas or bringing them to American soil. It would be craven surrender to left-wing groups and uninformed, self-righteous world opinion. We must do all we can to convince President Obama to reverse his decision.
Rep. Pete King (R-LI) is the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee.