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American Perspective – A Firsthand Account

Let me add a simpler point of view as well as a measure of evidence to Rob’s insightful and thorough stance. In regards to the treatment of Taliban prisoners, let me share firsthand what it was like in Afghanistan.
I was serving as a United States Marine in Kandahar during December, January, and February of this past year – the opening months of
America’s involvement in Afghanistan. After we secured the Kandahar airport, one of our initial missions was to find the pockets of Taliban resistance in southern Afghanistan and secure any sources of intelligence.

Many times this included documents or other data; other times we captured people. I must say that our treatment of the detainees was painstakingly fair and humane; in fact, this treatment and the intent behind it served as a constant and persistent reminder of what it meant to be an American.

Although these same people had tried to kill us on a number of occasions, we succeeded in ultimately capturing them. When they were brought to the detainee camp, they were cleaned, given fresh clothes, shoes, two blankets, a cot, and food three times a day. It is important to note that we Marines had only been sleeping on cots for several days; we spent a number of nights sleeping on the ground due to the lack of logistical support in the initial days of the campaign.

A quick note on our daily lives: We had no running water and very little power. Our meals were all MRE’s (meals ready to eat) 3 times a day. I (and many others) did not take a shower for 62 days. However, even in this context, when resources were scarce for us, the American military leadership maintained a consistent and conscientious approach to ensuring the human dignity of the detainees.

Being imprisoned in a small room (as in Camp Delta) or being held against your will does not necessarily mean you are being treated inhumanely; moreover, given our own environment, I had and still have absolutely no sympathy for them.

The steps taken in this entire intelligence-gathering operation have been a conscientious and deliberate series of events that possess the sole purpose of discovering vital information in order to prevent another terrorist attack. I wonder how much different it would have been if one of us had been captured by them; I guess we only need to look at Daniel Pearl (the journalist who was beheaded) as an answer.

I only provide this Viewpoint to support Rob’s argument and to ensure that last week’s article does not leave the wrong impression. Certainly we cannot equate the actions of the U.S. Military with the actions of the terrorists, as last week’s article suggests. While there were some valid general points made, the conclusions were far-reaching and dramatic.

Furthermore, it is important to remember how easy it is to judge from the sidelines. The U.S. Armed Forces is not a group of unfeeling, inhumane, imperialistic conquerors as the media and the opinions of some uninformed people may imply.

It is, at its heart, a collective group of true patriots that believes in the ideals of America and that understands and accepts the true sacrifices necessary of a process that upholds these virtues. Unfortunately, the best way to understand it is to experience it; however, if this is not possible, I would suggest to those that do not understand or those that have sincere questions to talk to those of us that do before rash conclusions or comparisons are drawn.

November 12, 2002
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