View Full Version : Club Gitmo...ohhhh...the pain....

Sgt Leprechaun
01-12-07, 01:32 PM
Yes, a devastating article on how badly we torture the poor, poor detaineees....

Wall Street Journal
January 12, 2007
Pg. 12

The Gitmo High Life

By Robert L. Pollock

For sheer irony it's hard to beat this week's spectacle of Cindy Sheehan protesting the U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay -- from inside the prison that is Cuba itself. It's not uncommon for asylum-seeking Cubans to brave minefields and shark-infested waters to enter the U.S. naval base, which five years ago this week also became home to many top figures from al Qaeda and the Taliban.

That anniversary has brought forth predictable demands that Guantanamo be closed from the self-styled human rights activists at Amnesty International and other groups. But the world needs a place to hold al Qaeda terrorists, who continue to strike in Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan -- even if they have failed to hit the United States since 2001. And after visiting Guantanamo just before Christmas, it was easy to understand why Belgian Police official Alain Grignard (who came last year with a delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) was moved to declare it "a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons."

This is no less true of Camp Five, Gitmo's maximum security facility that houses its most dangerous detainees. Modern and clean, it looks just like a U.S. jail. Meals (I ate the same lunch the detainees did that day) are high in caloric content, if not exactly gourmet. The average detainee has gained 18 pounds. And in the interrogation room it's the Americans who may have to suffer long hours in straight-back chairs, while the detainees -- I kid you not -- get a La-Z-Boy. I was shown a Syrian under interrogation via closed circuit television. His questioners were two pleasant-looking young women. He was smiling.

I'm not under the impression that these sessions are always fun and games. But detainees in Defense Department custody are treated according to the restrictive rules of the Army Field Manual, which bans all forms of coercive interrogation. I double checked with the camp's lead interrogator: other government agencies -- read CIA and FBI -- have to follow those rules too. Not only does that mean no "torture" is going on. Your average good-cop bad-cop routine isn't allowed. Cooperative detainees get rewards like movies. "Harry Potter" is one of their favorites.

When it comes to medical care, almost no expense is spared -- as I discovered after spotting an overweight man lounging in the rec yard of Camp Five. "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?" I inquired (he was some distance away). "No, that's Paracha," came the somewhat exasperated reply.

Saifullah Paracha is a Pakistani businessman and media owner who claims two meetings with Osama bin Laden were purely for journalistic interest. He is believed to be an important figure in the case against Majid Khan, one of the 14 "high value" detainees recently transferred to Gitmo from CIA custody. Last year Mr. Paracha's son Uzair was sentenced to 30 years in a U.S. prison for aiding an al Qaeda operative in a plot to bomb U.S. targets.

Maybe terrorism is stressful work. But whatever the reason, the elder Paracha also suffers from heart disease. So late last year -- at an expense of some $400,000 -- the U.S. government flew down doctors and equipment to perform cardiac catheterization. Mr. Paracha's response was to refuse treatment and file a petition in U.S. federal court for transfer to a hospital in the U.S. or Pakistan. At least his lawyers were frank about their cynical motives: "His death in U.S. captivity would be a blow to American prestige."

The medical care at Guantanamo seems state of the art. All detainees over 50 are offered colonoscopies; at least 16 have been performed. Gitmo's psychiatrist told me that fewer that 1% of detainees suffer from mood disorders, a rate lower than that of the general population. That would appear to undercut claims that indefinite detention is itself a form of "mental torture."

Guantanamo detainees don't lack for legal representation. A list of lead counsel released this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request reads like a who's who of America's most prestigious law firms: Shearman and Sterling; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr; Covington & Burling; Hunton & Williams; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cleary Gottlieb; and Blank Rome are among the marquee names.

A senior U.S. official I spoke to speculates that this information might cause something of scandal, since so much of the pro bono work being done to tilt the playing field in favor of al Qaeda appears to be subsidized by legal fees from the Fortune 500. "Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists" who deliberately target the U.S. economy, he opined.

None of the above is meant to suggest Guantanamo is a fun place. What terrorist detention facility would be? (Base commander Adm. Harry Harris rejects the term "prison," by the way: "We are not about punishment; we are about keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield.") But the picture of Guantanamo usually painted by the press and human-rights activists is a terribly distorted one. Americans should rest assured that the men held there are probably getting better treatment than they deserve.

Mr. Pollock is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.