PEOPLE DETAINED AT GUANTANAMO ARE WELL TREATED
By Mel Martinez
I would like to express my opposition to and disappointment with the July 14, 2005, comments made by Senator Dick Durbin, the Liberal Leftist Democrat from Illinois -- comments made by him here on the Senate floor, comments regarding Guantanamo Bay and treatment of the detainees held there. In his remarks, Senator Durbin compared the treatment of Guantanamo detainees to what happened to prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, inmates of the Soviet Union's Gulag Archipelago, and victims of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The Senator's remarks were inflammatory and demeaning, diminished the critical role of the men and women of our military, and were totally lacking in proportionality.
The people detained at Guantanamo Bay are well treated. They have food and water. They have medical care. They are allowed to practice their religion. I've been there and, as the former Mayor of Orange County, I can tell you first-hand that the conditions at Guantanamo are better than those at the Orange County Jail.
My colleagues might be aware that I, too, have made recent comments about the detention facility. Let me restate what I said on July 15, comments that have since been so widely reported, and, in some cases, misreported:
The 520 people detained in the Guantanamo facility were part of the more than 10,000 captured on the fields of battle. They are members of Al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. They have vowed to kill Americans and must not be released. There is no question we are on the right side of this war. This is a war for the hearts and minds of people in faraway places -- places where terrorist training camps have flourished -- places where the thirst for freedom and democracy can only be quenched through trust and understanding.
The real question we need to ask is how do we best win the war of public diplomacy? The cost-benefit analysis of Guantanamo must be weighed. We need to look at all the options, discuss this matter publicly, and debate the issues. Keep in mind there are true Gulags on the Island of Cuba, and they are not located at Guantanamo Bay. The true Gulags are the Cuban Communist government's prison system, which abuses the Cuban people. There is no comparison between the Guantanamo prison facility and the Cuban Gulags maintained by the tyrannical regime of Fidel Castro.
The American people need to know that our military upholds U.S. law and the highest standards and values. The detainees at Guantanamo are being treated fairly. To say anything to the contrary, is to diminish the honor with which our military men and women serve. And, when we talk about issues as sensitive as the War on Terror and the detention facility at Guantanamo, we need to do so with honesty, proportionality, and civility.
I take issue with any suggestion that diminishes the good work of our military men and women. The men and women of the United States Armed Forces are serving and sacrificing in defense of freedom.
We must continue to fight the War on Terror. We must unite in our efforts to defeat the common Islamist enemy.
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Mel Martinez is a Republican member of the United States Senate, elected from and representing the State of Florida
The foregoing statement by Senator Martinez was presented on June 16, 2005, as a speech delivered from the floor of the
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