Reality for Guantánamo Bay is the daily professionalism of its staff, the humanity of its detention centers and the fair and transparent nature of the military commissions charged with trying war criminals. It is a reality that has been all but ignored or forgotten.
The makeshift detention center known as Camp X-Ray closed in early 2002 after just four months of use. Now it is overgrown with weeds and serves as home to iguanas. Yet last week ABC News published a photo online of Camp X-Ray as if it were in use, five years after its closing.
Standards at Guantánamo rival or exceed those at similar institutions in the United States and abroad. After an inspection by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in March 2006, a Belgian police official said, “At the level of detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons.”
Critics liken Guantánamo Bay to Soviet gulags, but reality does not match their hyperbole. The supporters of David Hicks, the detainee popularly known as the “Australian Taliban,” asserted that Mr. Hicks was mistreated and wasting away. But at his March trial, where he pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization, he and his defense team stipulated he was treated properly. Mr. Hicks even thanked service members, and as one Australian newspaper columnist noted, he appeared in court “looking fat, healthy and tanned, and cracking jokes.”
Some imply that if a defendant does not get a trial that looks like Martha Stewart’s and ends like O. J. Simpson’s, then military commissions are flawed. They are mistaken. The Constitution does not extend to alien unlawful enemy combatants. They are entitled to protections under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which ensures they are afforded “all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.”
Justice John Paul Stevens, in the Hamdan decision that rejected an earlier plan for military commissions, observed that Article 75 of the Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions defines the judicial guarantees recognized as indispensable. A comparison of Article 75 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 shows military commissions provide the fundamental guarantees.There's more and it's worth a read.