Good Things U.S. Troops Do Far Outweigh Detainees' Allegations
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jun. 13, 2005 Vice President Richard B. Cheney bristled in a June 10 interview here at the attention being given to allegations made by detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and how the publicity given to those allegations far outweighs that given to the good things U.S. servicemembers are doing.
Cheney spoke with Air Force Master Sgt. Sean Lehman of the Pentagon Channel after presenting medals to five special operations servicemembers for valor in combat.
"I think what's representative of the efforts that we've mounted is best captured by those five men I decorated today - amazing Americans who put their lives on the line for their fellow soldiers and for the American people, and that doesn't get enough coverage," he said.
The vice president emphasized the need for a detention facility such as the one at Guantanamo Bay.
"We've got over 500 individuals there who are primarily terrorists -- who were captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, are members of al Qaeda, or in some fashion constitute a threat to the United States," Cheney said. Yet, he noted, the detainees at Guantanamo are treated and fed well, they receive medical care and their religious needs are catered to. Much of the criticism leveled at Guantanamo, he said, focuses on isolated incidents or results from rumors peddled by former detainees who have been freed.
"We absolutely have to have a facility like this as long as we're engaged in the global war on terror," Cheney said. "And the important thing is that we not release these people back on to the street so they can go out and kill more Americans. I think there has been a certain lack of perspective ... on the part of some public officials as well as a number of folks in the press, frankly, who spend all their time thinking somehow that's representative, or that what we're doing at Abu Ghraib or, in this case, Guantanamo, is somehow unlawful or illicit, or not consistent with American practices and principles."
While the media are free to focus on whatever they choose to, the vice president said, he expressed the hope that distorted coverage or the actions of a few would not overshadow "the enormous goodness of this great nation."
Cheney's message to the Pentagon Channel's worldwide U.S. military audience, he said, is one of deep appreciation from him and from the president.
"We know it's especially tough on family members - the long deployments that are required in wartime - and obviously we feel every single one of the casualties that occurs out there, an unfortunate part of warfare," Cheney said. "But the United States has been served remarkably well by our men and women in uniform, and key to their success, oftentimes, are their families."
Throughout the day, the vice president wore an "America Supports You" lapel pin bearing the logo for the DoD program designed to showcase the support servicemembers have from the American public, and he told the Pentagon Channel audience that the support is wholly deserved.
"We need to do everything we can as Americans to thank them, to support them, to make sure they've got the resources they need to bear the biggest burden for all of us during a major national crisis," he said.