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August 3, 2006: One of the stories that never really got much coverage was just what the guards at Guantanamo Bay have had to put up with. It turns out that the guards have taken a lot of physical abuse, and have been assaulted over 440 times, as of the summer of 2005. The total number of violations on the part of the guards and interrogators is 42 (as of November 2005). Many of these assaults involved the use of bodily fluids or makeshift weapons. In some respects, it is not that different from the prisons in the United States.

In a very real sense, the story of Guantanamo Bay has been one of the biggest instances of misreporting by the mainstream media via distortion and omission. Prior to June, 2006, many of the stories focused on alleged abuses, including claims of torture and comparisons to the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Some of these accusations were made by a United States Senator on the floor of the United States Senate. Then there was the Koran-flushing incident that later turned out to have been carried out by a detainee. In many of these cases, relevant facts were often omitted (in one such case, the media failed to report that an interrogator had been spat on prior to smearing red ink on the detainee in retaliation). Many of these media reports were then used by human rights groups for both fundraising and in lawfare against the Department of Defense.

Similarly, the media also had repeatedly failed to point out what some of these detainees had been up to prior to being captured and held at Guantanamo Bay. The record of one of the detainees revealed that in August of 1998, he had traveled to Pakistan with an Iraqi intelligence officer, to launch a chemical mortar attack against the American and British embassies in that country. Another detainee was apparently slated to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11. This media campaign helped contribute to a series of court rulings, the latest of which was Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which has the potential to compromise classified information, including methods of gathering intelligence, and sources of information.

Because the media ignored the prisoner violence, which could have placed the claims of human rights groups in perspective, enabled these groups to win their court cases. In essence, the military found itself performing well on the scene, in this case, gathering vital intelligence and keeping dangerous terrorists out of circulation, but editorial decisions made in newsrooms located in the country they were defending. This meant that not only was the public unaware of that performance, but the journalistic malpractice made continuing to carry out those vital tasks much more difficult. – Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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