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Our Opinion: Treat POWs like POWs

January 23, 2002

Our armed forces are taking prisoners in the war on terrorism, which is a good thing. But now civil rights groups and some other nations are questioning the treatment the prisoners are receiving from our military.

The images of shackled prisoners being brought to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba may not be easy to watch. But this is war. Those who have been captured are prisoners of war and they still represent a danger to those whose job it is to guard them.

We agree the prisoners have to be treated humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Constitution. If we do not do so, then we are no better than the villains for whom these men fought. We think the POWs are being treated in a just and humane manner. While they may be in open-air cells, it is tropical Cuba we are talking about. The POWs are not being kept outdoors in some freezing climate where their health is at risk, as was the case before they were pulled from caves, bunkers and battlefields by our troops. The prisoners are allowed to practice their religion and are not being denied food or water


Sometimes Americans are quick to forget what leads the United States to take military action. Sept. 11 is not a distant memory. Terrorists tied to al-Qaida shed the first blood — our blood. They launched an unprovoked attack on citizens of the world by flying two airliners into the World Trade Center, the U.S. Pentagon. A fouth jet would have hit another building if brave souls hadn't wrested the plane from the control of terrorists before it crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Our resolve on the war on terrorism must not weaken. There are going to be more fighters taken into custody as the war continues. Do we think civil rights should be violated? No. Do we think civil rights are being violated at Guantanamo Bay? No.

It is not a civil rights violation for our armed forces to take what action they need to take to protect themselves from potentially violent prisoners. The same prisoners went on a murderous rampage after being captured in Afghanistan and have been giving their guards problems ever since, including in Cuba.

Most of us have returned to our daily lives. The candlelight vigils have ended, as have the mass prayer services.

But the war is not over and the enemy is not defeated. Running POW camps is part of war and it is not all sweetness and light.

We need to get used to that.

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