Media Focuses on 'Sensational,' Cheney Says
By Capt. Steve Alvarez, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2005 Media focuses on a "drive to report the sensational," said Vice President Richard B. Cheney during an interview with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity that aired on the "Hannity and Colmes" show June 13.
In recent weeks there has been a flurry of allegations from human rights groups and media organizations that U.S. military personnel have disrespected the Koran. News reports alleged that guards flushed the Muslim holy book down a toilet at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The news magazine that made the initial allegations later retracted the comments, but, Cheney told Hannity, the comments hurt the global perception of the United States.
"I don't know that it's purposeful, I just think there's a drive to report the sensational," Cheney said. "And it's news if you can say that somebody flushed a Koran down a toilet at Guantanamo, because it does inflame opinion."
However, he added, the truth is that the United States goes out of its way to recognize the detainees' religious rights. "There probably isn't another country in the world who would do what we do, which is make sure they all have a copy of the Koran if they so wish, even though they're there as terrorists who've tried to kill Americans," Cheney said.
The article vice president referred to appeared in Newsweek magazine. He said it "precipitated a demonstration ... that led to burning down a major cultural facility" in Afghanistan.
"In fact," he added, "something like 400 Korans were destroyed in the fire in the cultural center, supposedly as a way of protesting what had allegedly happened at Guantanamo, which of course didn't happen at all -- that is, the Koran had not been flushed down the toilet and then Newsweek had to withdraw its comment.
"It's important that (the media) be careful and exercise a sense of responsibility here, because lives are at stake," he said.
Cheney said that the 550 prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay are well-treated and well-fed, have sufficient medical care, and have their religious requirements adequately satisfied. He added that there was no plan to close Guantanamo Bay because there is a requirement to detain captured terrorists and Guantanamo Bay fulfills that requirement.
"The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people," Cheney said. "I mean these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield in Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the al Qaeda network. We've already screened the detainees there and released a number -- have sent them back to their home countries, but what's left is the hardcore."
Cheney noted that while U.S. forces have made "major progress" in the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is still facing a deadly adversary in the al Qaeda terror group.
"We've just recently captured Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who was currently the No. 3 man in the organization. We know they're trying to mount more attacks against the United States," Cheney told Hannity. "Up to now, we've been able to disrupt those attacks or to intercept them, but we can't let our guard down for a minute."
And, according to Cheney, the United States has not let its guard down. It has been four years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and Cheney credits that lull in violence not to lack of terrorists' initiative, but to the success of federal agencies that have disrupted terrorist operations.
"Just because it's been a long time since they hit doesn't mean they aren't trying and they won't do it again," Cheney said. "Now we know they're out there looking for ways to develop deadlier weapons to use against us, that they'd like to get their hands on our nuclear weapons if they could, or anthrax, or some kind of deadly biological agent.
"And if they're to succeed in that and are able to launch an attack against us, obviously, the casualties of 9/11 will ... seem small by comparison," Cheney added.
Just days after more than 600 suspected terrorists were detained by coalition forces in Baghdad, Cheney stated that the world was a much safer place because Saddam Hussein was in prison. Removing Hussein from power not only liberated 25 million Iraqis, Cheney said, it also removed a safe haven for terrorists.
"He's the guy (Hussein) who did produce weapons of mass destruction, did use them against his own people and against the Iranians," Cheney said.
He said there is still a lot of work to do in Iraq, but coalition forces are making "major progress."
"We need to keep at it until we've completed the mission," the vice president said. "We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we do want to stay long enough to make certain that we get the job done."