July 19 2006
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A Casualty Of War

July 20, 2006
Kelly Thomas

There are many tragedies that happen in war and we get it. However, what happens to the psyche of soldiers is the worst. If soldiers are put in the same stressful situation often enough, they develop a certain mentality-whether it be in combat or a situation as stressful as being a guard at the Guantanamo Bay Prison.

A US Army guard opens the gate at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba, in 2004. President George W. Bush has been forced to retreat from some of the more controversial tactics in his war on terror, but several experts say he remains intent on asserting his authority as US commander-in-chief.(AFP/Pool/File/Mark Wilson) 

 (AFP/Pool/File/Mark Wilson)
I read once, that after a period of time, in most prisons, it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish the guards from the prisoners. The guards take on their own persona, often becoming unfeeling, uncaring, and exhibiting some pretty bad behaviors like the guards involved in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Taken to its worse extreme, one can say it is just like the awful rape accusation against five soldiers in Mahmoudiya, Iraq.

We ask ourselves: how could this happen? what mentality does war create?

All along Gitmo(Guantanamo Bay Prison) has seemed insane to me. Why would we hold a bunch of low level terrorists in a prison and subject ourselves to worldwide criticism? Surely, there's nothing they can tell us that we don't already know. The argument that putting them back into circulation will enable them to fight another day "doesn't hold water." There's no shortage of terrorists. They multiply daily.

It often appears to me that Gitmo is like state of the iraq war. Here we are, we made a stupid mistake; but, now, we don't know how to get out so we keep perpetuating the same idiocy.

In this photo reviewed by US military officials, an American flag waves within the razor wire-lined compound of Camp Delta prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba June 27, 2006. REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool 

 REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool
Think about it. We have always prided ourselves on being a virtual open window in treating people right; the Golden Rule, if you will, even under awful circumstances. We would never do as the Germans did in WW ll. Surely we would not be as cruel as the Japanese were to our POWs or even use the torturous ways of the North Vietnamese toward down flyers. It is not our nature. Yet, here we are at Guantanomo Bay prison, having reduced ourselves to a mentality of the lowest denominator.

When the final line has been written about the aftermath of 9-11 and our own feelings of insecurity, Gitmo may be the worst spectacle of all. And, trust me on this. Issues of right and wrong have an effect on American soldiers who have to deal with these prisoners day after day. It gets into their psyche and they and we, by extension, are affected by it. Closing this prison and others like it are long overdue.

Gitmo has been a disaster and our young men and women who have served there and are going to pay for it for a long time. God bless them and us.

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