WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The "Blame America First" crowd is wielding the whip. The target: Camp Delta, the U.S. Military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Spurred by a false story in Newsweek and then Amnesty International's unsupported charge that it is the "gulag of our times," Guantanamo and the people it houses have become the left's latest "cause celeb." Kofi Annan, Old Europe's old leaders, Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and most of the so-called mainstream media have now declared that the facility must be closed.
President Bush, apparently smarting under the lash, now says such a move is "under consideration." If the White House goal is to make the pain go away, the Bush administration ought to think again. Before shutting down the Guantanamo facility and sending its 547 occupants to their home countries or, as some have suggested, a country of their choice, the administration ought to first try telling the American people more about what "Gitmo" is really like and why it's needed.
First, a truth check. When confronted with the facts, Amnesty International, once respected for holding the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes accountable for human rights abuses, backed away from its accusation. "Clearly, this is not an exact or a literal analogy," offered William Schulz, head of AI's U.S. branch. "In size and in duration, there are not similarities between U.S. detention facilities and the gulag. ... People are not being starved. They're not being subjected to forced labor." He could and should have gone further.
Here's Amnesty's "gulag:" Upon arrival at Camp Delta, detainees are issued a blanket, a sheet, two orange jump suits, flip-flops, a foam sleeping pad, two bath towels, a washcloth, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, a prayer rug and a Koran. They are allowed two 15-minute showers per week; they get recreation time and three culturally sensitive meals per day. Schedules are respectful of Islamic traditions, prayer calls are broadcast five times a day, and arrows painted on the floors point to Mecca. Their regular quarters include a flushing toilet, running water and an off-the-floor bed. Detainees who ask for them are provided with soccer balls, playing cards, chessboards and paperback books. All of this courtesy of the American taxpayers the detainees have sworn to kill.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.