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Close Guantanamo?

There’s much talk about closing the “American Gulag” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The entire issue has become so toxic that regardless of the actual facts, the United States is in a no-win situation.An argument can be made that shutting down Guantanamo will solve nothing, that we’ll just capture more suspected terrorists, and we will have to interrogate them, if not at Guantanamo, then somewhere else. Then reports of torture will surface “somewhere else” and what then? Do we just keep opening and closing detention centers?Never mind that the press received its information about GITMO from official government reports that indicated of over 25,000 interrogations there were only seven confirmed cases of abuse, all of which were relatively minor. The America-haters (both home and abroad) will persist with inflammatory headlines such as “American soldiers reveal shocking new details of abuse and sexual torture” and “New claims have emerged that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are being tortured by their American captors.” What these headlines illustrate is that the United States does not face a single adversary in the war against militant Islam – we are also confronted by a fifth column movement – the world-wide media. This is an asymmetrical war. Captured documents provide undisputable proof that our enemies are trained to lie about torture if detained, and specifically to lie about abuse of the Koran to agitate fellow prisoners and potential sympathizers.A recent article in The Washington Post stated, “The most inflammatory allegations have been not about people but about mishandling the Koran.” But as Brig. Gen. Jay Hood noted last month, “These breathless scoops come from the U.S. government’s own investigations of itself, and that of 13 allegations of Koran abuse, only five were substantiated, of which two were most likely accidental.”The article further detailed how under the Pentagon’s own rules for handling the Koran, guards and interrogators were to use two hands and wear gloves while touching it, which means if the Koran were held with one hand or if a guard neglected to put on gloves, the holy book of Islam would in effect have been “mishandled.” Columnist Charles Krauthammer asked pithily, “What were Korans doing in ‘a gulag’ the first place? … The very notion of mishandling arose because we gave Korans to prisoners.” Krauthammer should have further reminded his readers that the builders of the detention center also placed the sinks in prisoner cells closer to the ground to make it easier for Muslim detainees to wash their feet before prayer and stenciled arrows pointing towards Mecca. Some gulag!Yes, there have been abuses. It is disgraceful that American personnel violated either the Geneva Convention or common rules of decency. But these prisoners are not pickpockets and petty thieves. Most are avowed terrorists bent on the murder of innocents and the destruction of our way of life.The violations at GITMO and Abu Grhaib must be investigated. If the transgressors are found guilty of abuse via courts martial, they should be punished and we must apologize to the mistreated. But what I find reprehensible are the commentators who hardly contain their glee when referring to the alleged mishandling the Koran or the “torture and abuse” of prisoners calling these infrequent instances “atrocities,” “a national shame” or “the gulag of our times.”Abuses in war are inevitable, but the deck is stacked against us. Newsweek prints an unfounded story about mishandling the Koran and riots erupt in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet that same week a suicide bomber blows up an Islamic shrine in Islamabad killing innocent men, women and children and destroying innumerable Korans, and there are neither demonstrations nor words of condemnation from those who pontificate from their lofty journalistic perches. By the strictest of war-time standards, the prosecution of the entire war on terror, as well as our treatment of prisoners, has been remarkable. Never in history has the concern for civilian safety and collateral damage been as great. Nor has the treatment of detainees been as professional, humane and tolerant. But we are not perfect, nor will we ever be. Unfortunately, to those who are against the war in Iraq and therefore everything the administration does to prosecute the war against militant Islam, if it has George Bush’s “Imprimatur,” it must be wrong.The reporters and commentators who make use of shameless hyperbole in describing every American misstep never seem to mention that it took the United Nations 60 YEARS to even define terrorism, much less make it “official” that it’s also a crime against humanity. But America will always be held to higher standards than the rest of the world. While it’s not fair that we must be 99.9 percent right, proper and accurate in everything we do in prosecuting a war that in many ways defies definition, is it fair that some children are born in Vail while others are born in the Sudan? My hope is that the administration establishes an independent commission to examine the facility at Guantanamo and our policies regarding POWs and detainees; recommend changes where necessary; and improve the training of our interrogators. I also wish that the self-flagellating, America-is-always-wrong journalists learn to research the facts and examine their own predispositions before releasing unfounded stories and proffering hare-brained opinions comparing the infrequent wrongful and callous mistreatment of “dozens” in our detention centers to the “millions upon millions” who were brutalized and murdered in Soviet gulags and Nazi concentration camps.There is no correlation between these situations except in the minds of the manifestly biased.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree, a Realtor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.netVail, Colorado


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