Sensitivity and grit in the age of terror

Quran incidents reveal faults in accomodating Guantanamo prisoners.

We are now caught between two paradigms. One paradigm is sensitivity, the other I call “grit.” While there is a case to be made for sensitivity, I want grit; some toughness and maybe even a little scariness to once again enter the U.S. psyche.

This grit v. sensitivity dilemma is nicely illustrated in the movie, “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, which stars John Wayne as a tough-as-nails sergeant and John Agar as a more sensitive, modern man under him. The analogy in the movie was that the old United States, represented by Wayne, was dying and that a new way of thinking, a better approach for the future, was present in Agar’s character.

Wayne’s character dies at the end of the movie. His grit and toughness were respected, but he was a throwback to a different era. The United States needs that grit back.

Case in point has been the reactions to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stories of Quran desecration. In my last column, I touched a little on this, but focused more on the sedition of Newsweek. In the wake of that column, I received many responses from people who corrected me and said there were prisoner abuses going on at Guantanamo Bay and those abuses were proof the United States should rethink policy.

The problem is that we’re too nice to these prisoners. The Geneva Convention requires us to provide shelter, medical attention and a few other basic necessities to prisoners of war. In Guantanmo, we go far beyond that; we provide prisoners with Muslim faith meals and provide religious materials.

Remember, these prisoners were combatants captured from battlefields in Afghanistan. It’s hard to argue they deserve much sympathy. Robin Moore’s “The Hunt for Bin Laden,” details the brutal rape and murder of three female journalists. Think about that for a bit.

In going beyond the requirements of the Geneva Convention, our kindness to these prisoners has caused problems. The only reason there are reports of these abuses is because each prisoner was given a Quran.

Prisoners are taking advantage of our lack of enmity. The Quran toilet story was partly true; pages of the Quran were flushed down the toilet by a prisoner who was trying to plug up his latrine.

In the mainstream press, you constantly see headlines like this one from a Friday Reuters story: “Jailers Splashed Koran with Urine.” Unfortunately for the U.S. haters out there, the headline is untrue. In the same Reuters story, you will find that a single guard left his post, went outside and urinated near an air vent. Some urine traveled down the vent and splashed on the prisoner and his Quran. The prisoner was apologized to, given a new uniform and a new Quran. The guard was reprimanded and was removed from having any contact with any of the prisoners.

One of the more humorous stories of Gitmo abuse was a prisoner and his Quran who was hit by a water balloon. If that’s what constitutes a gulag, sign me up.

If the enemies of freedom are afraid of us, they are less likely to attack us.

It is this principle that keeps us conservatives wanting to spend money on the military even in peacetime. Big militaries in peacetime prevent other nations from fighting for our resources. With religious zealots, we need more than economic incentives. We need to be scary, intimidating and brutal.

Marty Andrade welcomes comments at [email protected]