Inouye About X-Ray: "I'd Rather be There Than Kabul"
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2002 - The 158 Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees under U.S. military control at C, Feb. 1, 2002 WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2002 –- The 158 Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees under U.S. military control at Camp X-Ray are receiving considerate treatment by U.S. troops, Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye said here today.
Inouye met with reporters downtown at the U.S. State Department's Foreign Press Center to discuss his Jan. 27 inspection trip to the camp, at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"It is in the nature, I believe, of the American people, to be a bit humane on matters of this nature. Watching our men and women treat these detainees was rather impressive, that they would go out of their way to be considerate," Inouye said.
"I don't think that Americans have received this type of treatment during World War II or any other war," the World War II Army veteran and Medal of Honor recipient added.
Inouye, chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, told reporters that he and fellow senators Ted Stevens of Alaska, Dianne Feinstein of California and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, had been invited by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to inspect Camp X-Ray. The group, he said, spent about two-and-a-half hours at the facility.
The detainees, Inouye noted, are well-fed, being provided correct dietary meals, and they have access to shower and toilet facilities. He added that Islamic detainees have the opportunity to pray six times a day and are ministered to by two of the U.S. military's 12 Muslim chaplains.
"We're not the vengeful type as far as I'm concerned. The fact that we have 12 imams should indicate that we believe in what we declare -- freedom of religion, freedom of choice. These 12 chaplains were selected long before Sept. 11; it was not a reaction to that," Inouye said.
"So, as an American, it makes me rather pleased that we have been sensitive to this type of requirement," he added.
The detainees' good treatment, however, doesn't come at the expense of necessary security precautions, Inouye said. He said he was satisfied with camp security. U.S. military members at Camp X-Ray, Inouye noted, "have to be very careful" around dangerous Al Qaeda and Taliban members.
The senator said the detainees are hooded and shackled en route to Guantanamo and the camp to prevent possible escape attempts.
"That's, I think, the duty of a prisoner, to escape," he explained. "We didn't want to provide that opportunity." Inouye noted the hoods are removed when the detainees enter the compound and the shackles come off when they enter individual holding units.
Although the detainees aren't told where they are, Inouye believes those who can read English "certainly saw the license plates" of the vehicles that go in and out of the compound.
"So, I must assume that all of them know that they're in this place in Cuba called Guantanamo," he said.
Inouye described the weather in Guantanamo as "a little warmer than Hawaii," and lush.
"If I were a detainee," he noted, "I'd rather be detained there than in Kabul."
The 158 detainees at Camp X-Ray, Inouye said, are housed in 8-by-8 units surrounded by wire mesh. They sleep on 4-to-5- inch-thick mattresses with sheets and blankets. The mattresses are on the floor, as is Afghan custom, he noted.
Razor wire and watchtowers surround the compound. Inouye said guards inside the compound carry no weapons, to prevent detainees from possibly capturing weapons. The guards outside the compound are armed, however.
Detainee in-processing and questioning at Camp X-Ray have been limited to such subjects as basic name, place of birth, time of birth, name of parents, siblings and education, Inouye said, adding that more in-depth interrogations would start soon.
He noted that the Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees represent a new dimension in warfare.
"I cannot see how one can suggest that these detainees were part of an organized army or an organized country, especially the Al Qaeda members," he explained. "This war is very important, because it is new and there are no textbooks on this. We have no Army manual on how to deal with terrorists.
Secondly, unlike the wars of the past "where you can focus your attention to 'Country A or Country B,'" Inouye said, the war against global terrorism is just that.
"At this moment there are those who admire and follow the dictates of (Osama) bin Laden residing in the Philippines, and in Indonesia, in Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and Bahrain, and all over the place, in Pakistan, and even in the United States," the Hawaii senator said.
"And so, it's not an easy thing," Inouye remarked. "Where would I send my reconnaissance patrols? … Where would I send my combat patrols? These are all new things that we are, frankly, not prepared for.
"And the fact that these 19 men, at the cost of $150,000, were able to wreak havoc of the dimension that we experienced on Sept. 11, should scare the bejesus out of us," he emphasized.