WASHINGTON -- A dozen or so representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross are headed for our military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and frankly I am concerned for their comfort and possibly even their health. They plan to meet with detainees there, specifically the 14 terrorists who have been held in recent years at secret CIA facilities abroad. After those meetings will the members of the Red Cross delegation have access to showers, baths, and possibly a sauna? I hope so.
James Taranto, the eminent editor of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com, has recently returned, and he reports that meetings with the detainees can be unpleasant. They compose a rowdy lot. When the spirit moves them, they have been known to heave bodily fluids at those who irritate them, even bodily excreta. Also, according to Taranto, they devise weapons from otherwise harmless household devices such as springs pulled out of spring-operated faucets. These they might turn into needles for jabbing a jailer's eyes or stilettos for sticking him in an artery. Incidentally, by the word "spirit" I intended no religious import. In English it is just a catchphrase. If I have offended anyone I apologize. If that is not enough, send me a virgin.
Taranto reports that the detainees "enjoy a panoply of procedural protections," even after they hold a riot, attack guards, or commit suicide, which he astutely points out is only doing in Guantanamo what they might otherwise do on the battlefield or on a crowded street. They regularly appear before Combatant Status Review Boards for an evaluation as to whether they were enemy combatants or just some unfortunate blokes who happened to be on a battlefield at the wrong time or carrying a grenade on a hunting trip when some paranoid official stopped them on the street. They also get to appear before Administrative Review Boards, which are somewhat like parole boards here at home. Three hundred and fifteen of Guantanamo's detainees have been released from American custody through these procedures, but unfortunately a dozen or more have ended up back on the battlefield. One hopes they do not run afoul of the authorities once again.
What kinds of questions will the members of the Red Cross delegation ask the detainees? After reading Taranto's report I would suggest this one: "What do you get when you mix feces with urine and soapy water?" The answer is a slick floor that will assist you in ambushing unsuspecting American jailers rushing into a cellblock to save a detainee from suicide. The detainees are regularly receiving medical and dental attention and psychiatric evaluations. One might ask them if they deem such services a profanation of their religious beliefs. Certainly the presence of Western psychiatrists could be construed as humiliating to these proud savages, if not an outright insult to their mullahs.
Reportedly, one of the 14 terrorists from those secret CIA hoosegows with whom the Red Cross will confer is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, reputedly the mastermind of the 9/11 atrocities. He apparently has had a rough time. He allegedly underwent what is called "aggressive interrogation." That includes such exactions as sleep deprivation exposure to temperature extremes, and exposure to loud rock and roll. It could have been worse. He could have been exposed to loud performances of Mozart's 41st Symphony or Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. He might even like rock and roll.
One form of aggressive interrogation that he apparently did not like was "water boarding." The delegation from the Red Cross will want to ask him if was "water boarding" that made him crack and divulge the names of other killers. Water boarding is not to be confused with skateboarding, which is infinitely more dangerous, causing sprained ankles and broken bones. But water boarding is apparently now being ruled out even by our government as a form of interrogation.
Perhaps our government will replace water boarding with skateboarding so long as it does not cause discomfort to captured terrorists. After all American teenagers engage in it freely; and the Sheik, or whatever he is called, might actually enjoy skateboarding. Surely members of this Red Cross delegation will want to leave Guantanamo a nicer place than when they arrived. Improving the camp's recreational facilities would be a start. Being able to point to a camp where detainees skateboard gaily through loops and over barrels, their baseball hats turned backwards, wind whistling past them, would be an achievement of which the Red Cross could be proud.
If all of the above sounds absurd, well, it is. So is the question how we have been handling these monstrous enemy combatants. They have no sense of honor or restraint and would use any available instrument to kill us, the greater the toll the better. If aggressive interrogation has prevented further 9/11s, no practice thus far revealed is beyond the pale. The detainees at Guantanamo represent the steady approach of barbarism. Stop it now.
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