“No Torture Occurred”

The testimony military investigators offered Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee should have permanently dispelled every pretext the far-Left used to charge American troops at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with abuse. Lt. Gen. Randall “Mark” Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow’s terse summary – “No torture occurred” – could not more curtly refute the lurid charges contained in years of their hate-filled screeds denouncing the terrorist detention center. The stunning disconnect it exposes between reality and leftist fantasy should make the “antiwar” coalition ashamed of demonizing the American military during a time of war. And endless media headlines spreading every baseless rumor of “misconduct” by our soldiers, a Democratic Party Left keeping the spotlight trained on Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, and scores of leftists chanting the enemy’s talking points all lead to one conclusion: The (once) mainstream Left has joined with left-wing extremists and Islamist radicals to form a united front against the United States’ war effort.

Although the two officers found the cumulative effect of the GIs’ more “creative” tactics “degrading,” they concluded: “As the bottom line, though, we found no torture. Detention and interrogation operations were safe, secure, and humane.”

This probe – the twelfth in 15 months – mirrored the conclusions of a previous investigation last year, in which Vice Admiral Albert Church wrote that Gitmo “does not lead to detainee abuse” and “is a model that should be considered for use in other interrogation operations in the global war on terror.”

Schmidt and Furlow’s study uncovered four unpunished abuses out of 24,000 interviews at Gitmo, or 0.000167 percent of all interrogations. Their testimony revealed:

  • A woman who wiped fake menstrual blood on a prisoner had already been disciplined at the time of the investigation. She was not included in the total;
  • A male interrogator once threatened to “go after” a terrorist suspect’s family;
  • One terrorist had his mouth duct-taped shut after he refused to quit chanting; and
  • Twice detainees were briefly chained to the floor.

It is worth noting only three of the four were physical in nature, none of meaningful severity. Although nothing can justify a soldier’s violations of established protocol, it would be helpful to understand the environment in which these mild “abuses” occurred. The female officer pretended red ink she rubbed on the “20th Hijacker” was menstrual blood…after he spat in her face. According to FrontPage columnist Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu, who traveled to Gitmo with a Congressional delegation last month, detainees regularly spit or hurl bodily fluids at guards – if they stop short of physical brutality. The interrogator’s vow to pursue the terrorists’ family inverted the usual situation: Again, Cucullu recorded one detainee’s vow to “cut the throats of [all his guards] and their families like sheep.” Another said, “One day I will enjoy sucking American blood.” Finally, perpetual chanting is a prime way jihadists sustain their religious hatred (more below). Although these soldiers’ actions were over the line, human nature occasionally entertains its baser instincts, especially after enduring months of abuse from people who are supposed to be one’s captives. That there were not many times more retaliations reflects the high character of the American military. Even with this outstanding record, Gen. Schmidt prescribed a reprimand for Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, but Southern Command Commander Gen. Bantz J. Craddock demurred.

Leftists also complain that interrogators kept one detainee awake 20 hours, four full hours longer than an average day. They also blared loud music – the same treatment Janet Reno accorded to 17 innocent American children in Waco, Texas.

More interesting is what is not in the report. Schmidt and Furlow found no substantiation for Sen. Richard Durbin’s allegation that terror suspects were chained for hours and forced to defecate on themselves, nor that Gitmo interrogators kept their prisoners in hot or cold rooms, two claims he made on the Senate floor. They also found no verification that the military denied prisoners food or medical necessities, a favorite charge of the Left. In fact, federal prosecutors recorded convicted terrorist attorney Lynne Stewart advising 1993 World Trade Center bomber Sheikh Rahman it would be “safe” to refuse his diabetic medication and tell the world America had withheld it from him, because no one on the “outside” would know any better. Such charges about Gitmo are equally mythical.

In addition to the four grave offenses cited above, other reports confirm that on a handful of occasions, American soldiers mishandled the Korans the military provides to every detainee. This, plus some high school pranks, constitutes the entire wrongdoing of American troops in dealing with the lowest form of terrorist murderers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the course of nearly four years.

Instead of rejoicing, the Left and the media have focused on the minor hazing, equating it with “torture.” Most headlines center on the case of the most extreme case, the “20th Hijacker.”

According to the probe’s conclusive findings, interrogators called the would-be mass murderer gay, subjected him to harassing strip searches, and forced him to wear a bra and dance with another man. (Homoerotica? My gosh, maybe they were Nazis!) These are said to be shameful deeds that bring reproach upon a devout Muslim’s entire clan. This Saudi detainee – whose name, for the benefit of his fundamentalist Islamic family, is Mohamed al-Qahtani – also had to bark like a dog and hear GIs impugn the virtue of his female relatives.

Donald Rumsfeld authorized these more “extreme” tactics – which one would be passé at a fraternity initiation – specifically for al-Qahtani, after he resisted all other methods of interrogation. And it worked. Schmidt testified that these methods caused al-Qahtani to crack, he “proved to have intimate knowledge of [terrorists’] future plans,” and provided “extremely valuable intelligence.”

Fmr. Detainees

The Washington Post greeted the news that our soldiers had gathered important information without committing any of the atrocities ascribed to it by the Left with the headline, “Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo.” This response is typical of a media that reported every word of the former detainees as if it were revelation.

60 Minutes featured Sgt. Erik Saar’s leering allegations that interrogators denied prisoners water. An FBI document claimed an interrogator grabbed a detainee’s thumbs and “bent them backwards,” then “grabbed his genitalia.” (Dan Rather’s network did not report Saar’s observation that all Muslims received religious goods, including access to jihadist books in their library.)

The BBC repeated sordid tales from released detainees like Mamdouh Habib, who alleged he was beaten by 12 men, who then gang-raped him and made him wear diapers. He says he also regularly endured electro-shock treatment. A 37-year-old British detainee, Jamal al-Harith, claimed Americans offered prisoners “filthy” water, fed them food ten-years out of date, and performed gratuitous amputations.

The Toronto Sun reported the fantastic claim of 15-year-old Omar Khadr, the son of a prime al-Qaeda financier. Forces captured the younger Khadr after a gunfight at an al-Qaeda compound. Khadr claimed guards thrashed him and used his body to mop up urine.

During the last Gitmo media feeding frenzy, which cost the lives of 16 Muslims, Newsweek fallaciously reported a GI flushes a Koran down the toilet, a story it believed to be plausible because of the stories of former detainees.

Leftist Hysteria

However, at the center of spreading terrorists’ talking points were the groups of the far-Left and their allies in the Democratic Party mainstream. Chief among these is the Center for Constitutional Rights. CCR published Detention in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, a 115-page report by former detainees Asef Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed, and Shafiq Rasul, who claimed Gitmo employees sprayed detainees with mace, “forced injections with unknown drugs,” and denied them drugs and medical treatment. In a fit of tortured syntax, CCR President Michael Ratner – who wrote Che Guevara “has remained my hero” since boyhood – said Alberto Gonzales “has his hands deep in the blood of the conspiracy of torture in this country.”

International Committee of the Red Cross called the treatment terrorists receive at Gitmo “tantamount to torture.” Amnesty International referred to it as “the gulag of our time.” Human Rights Watch repeated the claims verbatim. U.S. Advocacy Director Wendy Patten of HRW called Gitmo “the Bermuda Triangle of human rights.” All these statements were breathlessly repeated to the Arab world by al-Jazeera.

This encouraged the Hard Left to step up its demands. Medea Benjamin, whose avowed purpose is to get the United States to withdraw its army from as many nations as possible, led the way. Code Pink, which she founded, celebrated Independence Day with a rally for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, at which it distributed an American flag emblazoned with the phrase, “Torture is immoral and unpatriotic!” Several former detainees were present to “tell their stories” (shepherded by their lawyers, of course). Also present were Not in Our Name, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and feminist idols Gloria Steinem, and Eve Ensler.

These organizations’ poisonous agenda fed off the ever-more-extreme rhetoric of the Democratic Party Left. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL, compared these very Guantanamo Bay interrogators to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime – Pol Pot or others – who have no concern for human beings.” Ted Kennedy called the even-less-representative actions at Abu Ghraib “George Bush’s gulag,” vicious “torture chambers” that had been “reopened under new management.” Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and 2008 presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden called for shutting down Gitmo. Clinton whined, “It’s time that there are no more stories coming out of there about people being abused…If we get a reputation for abusing people, it puts our own soldiers much more at risk.” Biden claimed Guantanamo Bay “has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists.” Shutting down Guantanamo Bay would only validate the darkest, basest fantasies of the Islamists and the Left. That’s a certain recipe for decimating troop morale, lowering our prestige, and assuring we “get a reputation for abusing people.”

As these examples show, it is not just the fringe Left that engages in bashing our troops in harm’s way; increasingly elected officials are parroting their party line.

At least one senator gets this. On Wednesday, Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, asked, “What damage are we doing to our war effort by parading these relatively minor infractions before the press and the world again and again and again while our soldiers risk their lives daily and are given no mercy by the enemy?”

The answer is: We’re doing tremendous damage to our war effort by running a non-stop media campaign spotlighting our every foible, no matter how inconsequential. It harms our credibility, needlessly inflames burgeoning jihadists with new objects of hatred, and makes the United States appear like a moral leper. And that is exactly how the Left wants it.

This article originally appeared as the lead story on Monday, July 18, 2005, on FrontPage Magazine.