The Democrats’ anti-military PR offensive is petering out. A bipartisan group of Congressmen is touring Guantanamo Bay; several readers pointed out this inadvertently humorous account:
During a tour of the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists on Saturday, House Republicans and Democrats, including one who has advocated closing the facility, said the United States has made progress in improving conditions and protecting detainees’ rights.
“The Guantanamo we saw today is not the Guantanamo we heard about a few years ago,” said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.
After getting a classified briefing from base commanders, the House delegation ate lunch with troops – the same meal of chicken with orange sauce, rice and okra that detainees were served. They then toured several of the barbed-wire camps where detainees are housed, viewing small cells, dusty recreation yards and common areas.
From behind one-way mirrors, lawmakers watched interrogators grilling three individual terror suspects. None of the interrogators touched detainees.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, is one of many Democrats who have called for an independent commission to investigate abuse allegations and have said the facility should close. She said she stood by that position, but acknowledged, “What we’ve seen here is evidence that we’ve made progress.”
If these people were more perceptive, they might infer that what they had heard about Guantanamo Bay was false. But let’s not expect such creative thinking from liberal members of Congress.
Tonight I saw footage of the Congressional visit on Fox News. Conditions looked comfortable, if not quite luxurious; in material terms, at least, I’ve stayed in worse places–although, admittedly, not lately.
Meanwhile, our old friend Katherine Kersten tries to penetrate the fog of misinformation surrounding Gitmo by interviewing our new friend Lt. Pete Hegseth. Kathy’s latest column will appear in tomorrow’s Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Second Lt. Peter Hegseth, who grew up in Forest Lake and graduated from high school there, is one such frustrated soldier. Last week, he came to public attention via Power Line, the Minnesota-based blog named “Blog of the Year” in 2004 by Time magazine.
Hegseth attended Princeton University on an ROTC scholarship and graduated in 2003. Shortly thereafter, he began a tour of duty at Guantanamo with a New Jersey Army National Guard unit responsible for area security and detainee movements. Hegseth is baffled by the portrayal of Guantanamo in much of the media. He can’t understand the eager focus on the base when American soldiers and innocent civilians are being blown to bits or beheaded in Iraq.
The Guantanamo detainees are clearly a dangerous and fanatical bunch. Yet during his year at the base, Hegseth never saw one treated with violence or disrespect. Quite the contrary. “We bend over backwards to conform ourselves to the detainees’ way of life,” he says, “especially when it comes to religion.”
Detainees also have their own Qur’ans. According to Hegseth, specially designated staff members deliver them, wearing rubber gloves to ensure proper respect. “No other soldier can even touch them,” he says.
[T]he food is good. (“To be honest with you,” says Hegseth, “I think their food is better than what my guys got.”) Detainees get top-notch medical care, along with dental care — which some have never had before. Many detainees correspond with family members, and have access to soccer fields and other recreational facilities.
Hegseth is full of praise for the soldiers he knows at Guantanamo. “I think all Americans would be proud of these guys,” he says….According to Hegseth, guards sometimes encounter detainees who spit at them, or throw urine or feces at them. “But if a soldier ever appears to be having a problem with this kind of conduct,” Hegseth notes, “he’s immediately removed from the block.”
In the end, some of the shrillest critics of American defense policy are probably not especially interested in Guantanamo as such, but see it as a convenient opportunity to criticize an institution of which they are deeply suspicious — the American military — and to cast doubt on the morality of America’s war on terror.
If things are this bad at Gitmo, the reasoning goes, the whole war must be wrong.
Hegseth puts it like this: “Critics ask, ‘How are we to win if we are conducting ourselves this way?’ I think the opposite: If we’re conducting ourselves this way, it’s evidence that our cause is just.”
The Democrats’ attack on the military through the proxy of Guantanamo Bay has been a fiasco for them, domestically, at least–abroad, it has contributed to anti-Americanism and made the administration’s task more difficult. Here at home, the Democrats are now, to employ their mantra, moving on.
UPDATE: Roger Simon has more.