For months, the "human-rights community" was apoplectic. Organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch charged that the U.S. was egregiously violating the human rights of the several hundred individuals being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
I can't count the number of television and radio talk shows I was on, defending Washington's actions against critics who were furious over what they insisted was America's shredding of international law from the Geneva Conventions.
Now, the first detainees are being released from Cuba and sent back to Afghanistan and, as you might expect, they are spilling their guts. Hajji Faiz Mohammed was typical. Upon his arrival in Kabul, he complained to journalists that while the food in Gitmo was generally good, "there was no okra or eggplant." The shame of it!
Faiz Mohammed also offered this candid comment: "We were not tortured … We were not unhappy. The Americans treated me well, but they were not Muslims so I didn't like them."
The released detainees, the New York Times noted, all wore thick, new American-made cotton sweat-suits and socks, and they had bottles of medication "given to them by their jailers."
According to the Washington Post, the men described their confinement at Guantanamo as "boring but not inhumane." They confirmed that they had been given copies of the Koran and, according to the Times, former detainee Jan Muhammad said that, "When we were standing for praying they were walking very slowly to not disturb us."
Evidently, however, neither that courtesy nor the long boring hours spent in religious study moved Faiz Mohammed very far from his bin Ladenist interpretation of Islam. Americans, he told reporters, are "infidels and the enemies of Islam."
At the very least, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Bianca Jagger, and all the other self-appointed human-rights advocates owe an apology to the American people, in general, and to the Bush administration, in particular.
It should now be clear — even to them — that in Afghanistan the U.S. fought a war against anti-American terrorism and to liberate a captive people from a repressive, totalitarian, and terrorist-sponsoring regime. (And, by the way, we did all that without any authorizing U.N. Security Council resolution.)
At the end of the Afghan campaign, we detained some of those who posed a continuing threat, or who might have information about other terrorist actions, information that could save innocent lives. And now we have begun to release those detainees who, American authorities believe, no longer pose a threat, who cannot provide further useful information and whom we have no interest in prosecuting for war crimes.
But don't expect those apologies any time soon. As of Wednesday afternoon, Amnesty International still had on its website an article headlined: "USA: Treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay undermines human rights." And Human Rights Watch was still charging that, "the United States continues to violate the Geneva Conventions, particularly with respect to Taliban detainees. "
No doubt I simply haven't read the Geneva Conventions closely enough to find the references to a right to okra and eggplant.