Sunday, June 26, 2005

Gitmo not the horror story they'd been told

While the AP is doing the best they can to pull their message out of the story, even they couldn't simply overwrite the substantive result of a visit by several Congressmen to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They title the story "Gitmo conditions have improved" and make sure to quote Representatives saying just that. The bottom line, however, is that the Gitmo these people saw is not the Gitmo they've been told about on the news:

::::::::The U.S. lawmakers witnessed interrogations, toured cell blocks and ate the same lunch given to detainees on the first congressional visit to the prison for suspected terrorists since criticism of it intensified in the spring.

"The Guantanamo we saw today is not the Guantanamo we heard about a few years ago," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.

Still, lawmakers from both parties agree more still must be done to ensure an adequate legal process is in place to handle detainee cases. In the meantime, said Rep. Joe Schwarz, R-Mich., "I think they're doing the best they can to define due process here."

That's an interesting comment to make, that what you're seeing isn't what you've been hearing about for a few years. Without a solid baseline - a provable starting position that whatever you're referring to actually was the way you'd heard it was, how do you then justify the stance that what you were told a few years ago wasn't an exaggeration? In other words, Representative Tauscher, what if the Guantanamo Bay you saw today was, in fact, the Gitmo that existed a few years ago. Only no one gave you the straight story? Or perhaps that improvements have been made, yes, but that the scope of those improvements has been inaccurately reported, making it seem that Gitmo was worse than it really was? Logically speaking, that's as much a possibility as the concept that Gitmo was a hellhole and has improved dramatically.

I'm also not sure how you go from someone saying that you're doing your best under the circumstances and derive the conclusion that improvements have been made. Rep. Schwarz isn't reported as saying "they've improved" just that they're defining due process as well as can be done. Shiela Jackson of Texas is one of the Democrats that has been calling for the closure of the base. Now she stated explicitly that what they saw was "evidence that we've made progress." Same comment as above - if she's operating under a false impression of what the place was like, then how do you call a current observation evidence of progress? Perhaps she visited there before. but I can't find - please excuse the term - evidence of that. Therefore, I can't base a conclusion off of an alleged prior visit or lack thereof. Still, I took note of something hopefull. When she referred to progress being made, she said "we" had made the progress. After so many Democrats have done so much for years to give you the impression that they're apart from the rest of us, it's nice to hear one include herself in the greater whole of America. And no, I'm not being sarcastic - it's really nice.

Update: Just a comment about the reporting here. The AP, of course, has to do what they can to put the negative spin on things, so they make sure to end the article with a couple of paragraphs on how President Bush (evil, evil, EVIL!) declared the detainees "enemy combatants" so he could get away with granting them fewer rights, specifically those detailed under the Geneva Conventions. The term isn't "enemy combatant." That refers to any enemy, uniformed or not, lawful or not. These are "unlawful combatants" and, for what must be the ten thousandth time, they are specifically and explicitly not covered by the Geneva Coventions. The Conventions have nothing to do with people like these who took up arms against the US Military while not wearing a uniform, not being part of a regulated command, and while not following the Conventions themselves. You might as well say that these people aren't being treated according to Title IX's sex discrimination statutes in college sports. Their status has nothing whatsoever to do with Title IX and it has nothing to do with the Geneva Conventions. The AP ends the story with the comment that some of the detainees have been held for 3 years without being charged with a crime. Again with the charges and indictments attitude. These people were taken on the field of battle in armed opposition to our troops. Charges, as in crimes, aren't the issue and saying it over and over again won't make it so.