Accuracy in Media

The new anti-American film, “The Road to Guantanamo,” is said to be about “young British Muslims” who “go to Pakistan for a wedding and later become U.S. military prisoners in Cuba.” This sounded too impossible to believe even for NBC News reporter Norah O’Donnell, who was hosting the MSNBC “Hardball” show on June 23 and interviewed the director of this film and one of its stars, Ruhel Ahmed, one of the British Muslims held for two years at Guantanamo. Directing her remarks to him, she said, “You claim you are innocent, but let me ask you, what were you doing in Afghanistan after September 11?”

“Well, initially,” he replied, “we went to Pakistan for a wedding, and we went to Afghanistan to?just, for a tour really.  We went to see how the Taliban government was, and also to do humanitarian aid.”

To see how the Taliban government was?

Clearly uncomfortable with this almost laughable response, O’Donnell said, “Did you not know that the United States had accused Osama bin Laden of carrying out the attacks on this country and was about to bomb in Afghanistan?”

He replied, “Well, being 18 at the time, you don’t really pay attention to the real news, especially with things that don’t affect you, because it never happened in the U.K., so it never affected us.  And I never took into any consideration that, you know, I could get caught up in a war when I got to Afghanistan. So, you know, being 18, I never thought about war or anything like that.”

Ahmed proceeded to call President Bush a “terrorist” who is “terrorizing detainees in Guantanamo.”

A guest later in the show, Cully Stimson, the Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary in charge of detainee affairs, declared that Ahmed was still a “terrorist” and liar who was released only because the British government had assured the U.S. that it would monitor him. “I can assure you that the Brits are mitigating the threat that he poses,” Stimson said.

Describing the care of these suspected terrorists, he said, “They get three square meals a day, culturally sensitive meals, blessed by an Imam. They have a menu, Norah, that they get to order from every couple weeks. They have freedom of religion.  They practice called to prayer five times a day. There are arrows pointing towards Mecca with the distance to Mecca listed everywhere. They get first class medical care, dental care.”

He said they even get food from McDonald’s. “I’ve watched some interrogations where they’re chowing down on a Big Mac,” he said.

It’s no wonder that Rush Limbaugh runs those hilarious “Club Gitmo” routines, advertising the place as a “Tropical retreat from the stress of jihad.”

Dismissing the torture claims, Stimson said, “The interrogation techniques are open for the world to see. They are found in the Army Field Manual?the techniques authorized by the Army Field Manual are lawful, and they comply with the McCain amendment. They’re legal and they comply with our obligations, our international obligations.”

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