A Visit to Gitmo

Yesterday morning our frequent contributor Bob Weir had breakfast with Congressman Michael Burgess of the 26th District in Texas, back from a visit to Gitmo.
 
BW: Congressman, there have been a lot of negative news stories about the treatment of prisoners in GITMO; what did you learn during your visit?

Rep. Burgess: There is every indication that they are being treated in a humane and decent way. Even though we are dealing with some of the most vicious and dedicated terrorists, they are treated humanely, even down to the detail of having the direction of Mecca stenciled on an arrow on their bodies. This way, they know which direction to point in order to pray. The Koran is not touched by US personnel. They have a little basket on the cell wall in which only the detainees place and remove the Koran. Frankly, I have a feeling that a lot of my constituents would have difficulty with just how humanely we're treating some of the detainees. They are provided with food that conforms to the diet consistent with their religious beliefs. In addition, they have a library and other amenities.

BW: Do you think a visit by a congressman would put personnel on their best behavior, showing you only what they want you to see?

Rep. Burgess: You know, you could look at this two ways. The people who believe we're doing a bad thing by having Guantanamo will tell you that I didn't see any torture because I wasn't supposed to see any torture. On the other hand, I could see the conditions under which they are living and I did sit in on a live video interrogation.

BW: What was that like?

Rep. Burgess: Well, it's like most interrogations down there; they're not very forthcoming about giving information. When you look at some of the documentary evidence on these guys, you see they are predominantly from al Qaeda. Most were captured in Afghanistan, although their country of origin might be Saudi Arabia, it might be Pakistan, it might be China. But they were trained in an al Qaeda facility in Afghanistan and part of their whole doctrine is to resist interrogation and interact with the media in presenting their side in a favorable light. One of the things they're taught is, if they have an opportunity to speak with the Press, always claim torture. What do they have to lose? What are we going to do, take away their fingernail files? We already did.

BW: Did anything come of the interrogation you sat in on?

Rep. Burgess: Not really. What I learned is that the prisoners often tell one of the guards that they would like to talk to an interrogator, but, once inside the room, they have nothing to say. They sit there defiantly with their arms crossed as if to frustrate their captors. It's just part of the doctrine they learn from their leaders. You know, when these guys are captured, you'll hear things like, this guy isn't a terrorist, he's a shepherd, or, this guy isn't a terrorist, he's a taxicab driver. They all had day jobs. Yet, some of the evidence taken from them when they were arrested was not the type that would be in possession of your average shepherd. Sometimes it was as simple as a Casio watch that might be used as a timing device to set off an explosive. Other times, it was a GPS (Global Positioning System) that perhaps had a target, a program structured into it that might be in some country's national interest or of national significance. Is that something your average Afghani shepherd should have in his possession?
 
BW: What about the conditions in the prison? Are they fed well, I mean, up to the standards of prisons in the US?
 
Rep. Burgess: Well, of course, it's not a Holiday Inn, it's a prison. But, yes they are fed well. I'll give you an example. Caloric intake for a battlefield soldier in our armed forces with a full backpack and maximum physical activity is 3800 calories a day. For the detainees at Guantanamo it's 4200 calories a day.

BW: So, they must be gaining weight.

Rep. Burgess: Well, you could argue that we're killing them with kindness because diabetes has become an issue in some cases. But, of course, they're not told they have to eat 4200 calories a day. The food is specially prepared in accordance with religious tenets.

BW: Dr. Burgess, what was your reason for visiting GITMO?

Rep. Burgess: Among other things, it was because of pending legislation in the Congress dealing with detainees. If I'm asked  to vote on this legislation, I'll be able to make an informed vote by virtue of the fact that I've been there and observed conditions, rather than just relying on what I've read in the New York Times, Washington Post or, you name the publication. There's just no substitute for firsthand observation and that's one of the things I've learned in 3 short years; if you really want to know, you've got to go.

BW: How dangerous do you consider those detainees to be?

Rep. Burgess: There are two considerations in play here. One: is he capable of doing the kind of damage we suspect him of?; and two: does he have the intent to do it? Such capability and intent...I don't know that I would have picked up on that as a concept and if the average citizen would pick up on that as to what is happening in the world. You don't tend to realize the depth of evil to which some of these people have descended. Yet, if we are to deal effectively with this threat, we must come to understand how committed they are to our destruction. Once you understand that, you know how vital it is for us to win this war against the dark, sinister and homicidal forces of terrorism.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob

Yesterday morning our frequent contributor Bob Weir had breakfast with Congressman Michael Burgess of the 26th District in Texas, back from a visit to Gitmo.
 
BW: Congressman, there have been a lot of negative news stories about the treatment of prisoners in GITMO; what did you learn during your visit?

Rep. Burgess: There is every indication that they are being treated in a humane and decent way. Even though we are dealing with some of the most vicious and dedicated terrorists, they are treated humanely, even down to the detail of having the direction of Mecca stenciled on an arrow on their bodies. This way, they know which direction to point in order to pray. The Koran is not touched by US personnel. They have a little basket on the cell wall in which only the detainees place and remove the Koran. Frankly, I have a feeling that a lot of my constituents would have difficulty with just how humanely we're treating some of the detainees. They are provided with food that conforms to the diet consistent with their religious beliefs. In addition, they have a library and other amenities.

BW: Do you think a visit by a congressman would put personnel on their best behavior, showing you only what they want you to see?

Rep. Burgess: You know, you could look at this two ways. The people who believe we're doing a bad thing by having Guantanamo will tell you that I didn't see any torture because I wasn't supposed to see any torture. On the other hand, I could see the conditions under which they are living and I did sit in on a live video interrogation.

BW: What was that like?

Rep. Burgess: Well, it's like most interrogations down there; they're not very forthcoming about giving information. When you look at some of the documentary evidence on these guys, you see they are predominantly from al Qaeda. Most were captured in Afghanistan, although their country of origin might be Saudi Arabia, it might be Pakistan, it might be China. But they were trained in an al Qaeda facility in Afghanistan and part of their whole doctrine is to resist interrogation and interact with the media in presenting their side in a favorable light. One of the things they're taught is, if they have an opportunity to speak with the Press, always claim torture. What do they have to lose? What are we going to do, take away their fingernail files? We already did.

BW: Did anything come of the interrogation you sat in on?

Rep. Burgess: Not really. What I learned is that the prisoners often tell one of the guards that they would like to talk to an interrogator, but, once inside the room, they have nothing to say. They sit there defiantly with their arms crossed as if to frustrate their captors. It's just part of the doctrine they learn from their leaders. You know, when these guys are captured, you'll hear things like, this guy isn't a terrorist, he's a shepherd, or, this guy isn't a terrorist, he's a taxicab driver. They all had day jobs. Yet, some of the evidence taken from them when they were arrested was not the type that would be in possession of your average shepherd. Sometimes it was as simple as a Casio watch that might be used as a timing device to set off an explosive. Other times, it was a GPS (Global Positioning System) that perhaps had a target, a program structured into it that might be in some country's national interest or of national significance. Is that something your average Afghani shepherd should have in his possession?
 
BW: What about the conditions in the prison? Are they fed well, I mean, up to the standards of prisons in the US?
 
Rep. Burgess: Well, of course, it's not a Holiday Inn, it's a prison. But, yes they are fed well. I'll give you an example. Caloric intake for a battlefield soldier in our armed forces with a full backpack and maximum physical activity is 3800 calories a day. For the detainees at Guantanamo it's 4200 calories a day.

BW: So, they must be gaining weight.

Rep. Burgess: Well, you could argue that we're killing them with kindness because diabetes has become an issue in some cases. But, of course, they're not told they have to eat 4200 calories a day. The food is specially prepared in accordance with religious tenets.

BW: Dr. Burgess, what was your reason for visiting GITMO?

Rep. Burgess: Among other things, it was because of pending legislation in the Congress dealing with detainees. If I'm asked  to vote on this legislation, I'll be able to make an informed vote by virtue of the fact that I've been there and observed conditions, rather than just relying on what I've read in the New York Times, Washington Post or, you name the publication. There's just no substitute for firsthand observation and that's one of the things I've learned in 3 short years; if you really want to know, you've got to go.

BW: How dangerous do you consider those detainees to be?

Rep. Burgess: There are two considerations in play here. One: is he capable of doing the kind of damage we suspect him of?; and two: does he have the intent to do it? Such capability and intent...I don't know that I would have picked up on that as a concept and if the average citizen would pick up on that as to what is happening in the world. You don't tend to realize the depth of evil to which some of these people have descended. Yet, if we are to deal effectively with this threat, we must come to understand how committed they are to our destruction. Once you understand that, you know how vital it is for us to win this war against the dark, sinister and homicidal forces of terrorism.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas.  Email Bob