Accuracy in Media

“If an enemy devised a diabolical plot to darken America’s image, it is hard to imagine anything operating more efficiently toward that end than the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” The implication behind this false statement, which began a June 18 New York Times story by Scott Shane, is that the U.S. is torturing prisoners. A report from the U.N. Commission on Human Rights also alleged torture at the facility.

The Shane article was followed by a Eugene Robinson column in the Washington Post on June 20 urging the closure of Guantanamo Bay. “In many newspapers around the globe,” he said, “Guantanamo” has “become shorthand for a whole litany of American excesses in George W. Bush’s ‘global war on terror’?”

It is noteworthy that Robinson referred to how newspapers are handling the controversy. Guantanamo has become a media-generated “scandal” for the Bush Administration.

Torture is a loaded word that has come to mean in newspaper accounts the inflicting of pain or even discomfort for no legitimate reason. Thomas Bock, national commander of The American Legion, says the term “torture” has been very loosely defined and has “disoriented” the American people to what exactly is happening down there. He said a U.N. report on Guantanamo seemed to regard “leaving the lights on” for a detainee a form of torture. Bock says he has talked to many veterans, including former Prisoners of War, and the “treatment comparison level is just night and day” between what the U.S. does to its enemies and what our enemies do to our soldiers.

There is no evidence that U.S. forces torture anyone. If misconduct occurs during interrogations, which are designed to produce intelligence information to save American lives, it is found and punished. Accuracy in Media has devoted countless commentaries to the fact that it was the Department of Defense, not the media, which uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Those who have seen the Mel Gibson film, “Braveheart,” about the Scottish patriot, William Wallace, have gotten a slight hint of what real torture is. James Mackay’s book, William Wallace: Brave Heart, goes into detail. Wallace’s sentence included being hanged and decapitated. The hanging, Mackay said, was an excruciating death that could take 20 minutes or more “before life was snuffed out of the twitching corpse, the neck stretched grotesquely, the tongue swollen obscenely, the eyes opposing out of the head.” There are many other graphic and horrifying details of this death provided in the Mackay book.

“The execution of traitors was a triple business,” he wrote, “designed to degrade and humiliate, to inflict unspeakable pain and suffering, and finally to cause death. The hanging, mutilation and disemboweling, and final beheading were also regarded as death three times over.”

Claims about torture occurring at Guantanamo prison come from the suspected terrorists, who have been trained to allege that they were mistreated or tortured during their detention. An al-Qaeda manual discovered by police in England (also called the Manchester document) has a section on terrorists being detained or placed in prison. The first requirement is that “the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them.” The second is that the terrorist should “Complain [to the court] of mistreatment while in prisons.”

Nile Gardiner and James Carafano concluded, in a Heritage Foundation report on U.N. allegations of torture at Guantanamo, that it is “based largely upon recycled allegations, without legal foundation, from well-coached former detainees.”

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