Radio personality and chairman of Move America Forward, Melanie Morgan, has recently returned from a Christmas visit to the controversial Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- telling Newsmax that the American people have been lied to about how the terror war detainees being held there are treated.
“I saw that there were a lot of attorneys and big mouths in this country who are trying to describe hideous conditions at Gitmo,” she says. “That is simply not the case. Those people are lying to the American people.”
Morgan, who began her career reporting on the 1983 Beirut, Lebanon Marine Barracks bombing, where 241 Marines were killed, goes on to describe what she discovered during her three-day visit.
“The terrorists at Gitmo are given more religious consideration than our troops are,” Morgan explains. “They have six meal plans every day that they can choose from. At the beginning of the week on Monday they describe what kind of foods that they would like. If the fresh fruit is bruised, they are allowed to return it for a higher quality fruit.
“They live in air conditioned state of the art buildings,” she adds. “In fact, in one of variants of ‘compliance’ centers (what the lockups are called), the most dangerous terrorists in the world are kept in a facility that was built modularly based on the facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“So, there is a communication center in the middle, and the inmates are kept in rooms that form a spoke around there. They are allowed to shower every single day for 15 minutes. They have more exercise and recreational time than American school children do.
“In fact, the lowest security inmates are allowed 14 hours a day outside of their cell. They are taught English. They are allowed to read from six newspapers a day. They have painted arrows on the concrete floors pointing to Mecca so that the radical Muslims can pray five times a day.”
Morgan, who was behind the mike at San Francisco’s KSFO radio for almost 15 years, had twice delivered health and comfort gift parcels to Iraq through her Move America Forward organization and felt it was time to visit the sprawling Marine Corps enclave clinging to Guantanamo Bay in Castro’s Cuba.
“Guantanamo Bay is going to be the single most contentious and controversial issue of the Obama Administration,” she says. “We needed to educate ourselves and go and see with our own eyes what’s actually happening with our troops there and to tour the detainee camps -- only you are not allowed to call them detainees or terrorists. You have to call them ‘detainees.’”
Morgan and her Move America Forward team organized the trip with the help of Miss Florida 2007, Kylie Williams, 25, who has made her platform as a beauty queen supporting American troops. She and her entourage brought holiday care packages -- thousands of goodies and comfort items for the troops.
“There is a lot of political correctness going on at Guantanamo Bay, but it’s the professionalism of our troops that’s absolutely amazing, astonishing to see, and I wish that, I wish that our President-elect Obama could go down there and see for himself what is actually taking place,” says Morgan.
And Morgan also returned from Gitmo with a message for President-elect Obama. “I am going to be writing an open letter to Mr. Obama and asking him to please -- before he endangers our country and our shores by importing stone cold killers, who would slit his throat and mine, as well as all of our friends and neighbors -- to go and visit Guantanamo and see how extremely useful it is to have them locked up and away from our shores.”
Morgan is of the opinion that the detainees even when locked up are always working and plotting against the Western system they despise.
“These terrorists are trained in how to subvert the American justice system -- to manipulate it no matter what. For every detainee there are three either doctors or nurses that attend to these people,” she explains.
“They manipulate it on purpose -- claiming to be ill or needing treatment in order to run up millions of dollars in excessive costs, only to turn away treatment when they bring a doctor over from the mainland to treat a non-existing complaint.”
Conning the Legal Brains
“These creeps, they have sympathizers as well for this sort of nonsense behavior. It’s sheik to have a ‘shake’ as a defendant – so to speak,” Morgan says. “The best legal ACLU minds available in the United States are on call at locations throughout Guantanamo Bay.
“And they bring with them McDonalds food to keep the prisoners compliant while they are consulting with their lawyers. The prisoners love that McDonald’s food, so they get along great with their attorneys. Actually, there is a McDonalds on the island.”
But there is more to the coddling the prisoners receive, according to Morgan, who is the co-author of “American Mourning,” a book that criticized anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan,
“These guys have movie night six nights a week and they get popcorn,” Morgan explains by way of setting up an anecdote about detainee behavior.
“They got real mad once about six months ago because they saw an American woman who wasn’t properly covered up on one of the TV shows that they were watching, and they rioted and busted up the TV.
“So what was their punishment for doing this? Well, the American military, actually the U.S. taxpayers, bought them a brand new big screen plasma TV that they now have under Plexiglas so that they can’t break it.”
Morgan describes how her group was driven around the Marine encampment. She got a tour of the “White House,” which is the Marine Headquarters at Gitmo.
Nights were spent at the visiting officers’ quarters, and each day a special team of the Joint Task Force soldiers took them around Gitmo. “I’m not allowed to say how many camps there are, but they have special camps that range from ‘low compliance’ to ‘high compliance’ inmates” – politically correct jargon for minimum and maximum security.
She also explained how where you land at the airfield is still some distance from the camps, which are reached in the second phase of the journey – via a ferry ride.
Guantanamo Bay was actually taken over by the Americans in 1812, Morgan instructs.
“Its primary purpose was actually to be the gateway to American security interest in South America, and by law the Americans must provide fuel to anybody who is coming through that passageway. We use it also as a jumping off spot for drug interdiction as well and that’s been a very key aspect to American security.”
There are more than 5,000 people at Gitmo – Marines, soldiers, airmen, sailors, coastguardsmen and civilians. And everywhere things are shipshape and spotless. “The floors are clean enough to eat off of,” Morgan says.
But nobody gets as much painstaking attention as the detainees. “On average, the prisoners gain 15 pounds from the high calorie diets that they are feed,” she explains. “They are catered to for every religious reason. No American soldier is allowed to touch a Koran because they are non-Muslim. Yet these same prisoners rip pages out of Koran and create codes to pass back and forth to other prisoners. They don’t have any problem doing that to this very special religious book.”
The copies of the Koran are reverently handled and distributed strictly by a cadre of Muslim military chaplains.
The strict attention to the sensibilities of the detainees reaches right to how Morgan’s female party was required to dress. “We had to entirely cover up except for our head -- we were covered up to our neck in regular street clothes.”
The consideration rendered the detainees is not the only protocol being practiced on the base. Says Morgan: “American taxpayers’ dollars are actually paying for the medical help and treatment and living conditions for many of the Cubans [arriving by sea] who were deemed politically eligible for political asylum but did not wish to immigrate to the United States.
“So our hospital there actually takes care of these senior citizens and gives them complete healthcare for free. It’s just amazing actually what is taking place there.”
And there really is that barbed wire fence made famous by Jack Nicholson’s Marine Colonel character in “A Few Good Men.”
But the dividing line between Gitmo and Fidel Castro’s communist Cuba is more than a border between hostile sovereigns, it’s a handoff location. As Morgan instructs: “If there are Cubans who managed to make it over to Guantanamo Bay and they are found not to be eligible for political asylum, they have to be turned back over to the Cuban authorities.”
During such proceedings, men in watchtowers – on both sides – oversee all with guns and binoculars.
But the movement out of Gitmo has not just been limited to Cubans not qualifying for asylum.
Plenty of detainees have been released – something that displeases Morgan. “There’s an extremely high recidivist rate among the terrorists who have been freed. Some of the people who have been released from Guantanamo Bay have gone back to the battlefield and killed Americans and Iraqi civilians as well.”
Morgan adds, “People say well once you throw a terrorist or a detainee or an accused terrorist into Guantanamo Bay, they will never come out again and they won’t be afforded any justice, and, who knows, they will be held forever. That’s simply not true.”
And according to Morgan, something else that is not true is the stereotype portrait of the guards.
“The morale of our Marines is relatively high, although they do complain about the fact that so many of the American politicians have stereotyped them as thugs, killers, abusers and torturers,” she notes from her personal interaction with the young men and women. “That really upsets them. They are extraordinarily professional in their administration of Guantanamo Bay, or Gitmo. I was really amazed, really surprised and shocked by the degree of professionalism that we experienced over there.”
There were no outdoor cages with Western music blaring to soften the brains of detainees recalcitrant to reveal terror details to the intelligence folks.
Instead, Morgan describes, “There are outdoor almost football sized field soccer and recreational areas. I mean, yes, it is a fenced area but it is the size of a soccer field. It is not like a cage.
“They are treated better than most federal prisoners. There is no question about it in the lower security camps. Even in the high security camps, they are allowed out four hours a day.
“We actually went through the exercise area in the low compliant camp and they have elliptical exercise machines there. They are about $6,000.00 per unit.”
It was while touring the exercise area that Morgan’s group got some special attention from the detainees.
“There are windows that face that recreation area and as we were touring around the recreation area, the detainees became agitated. There were four women in our group and, of course, Miss Florida is very, very beautiful. They started screaming and yelling at us, and then at one point they gave us the universal sign for slitting someone’s throat, the hand across the throat.
“They would happily have slit our throats as we dared to look at them in the eyes -- that is a tremendous insult to them.”
Another insult apparently is a beardless face on a man.
In the same soccer field recreation area, the detainees have a foosball game. This well known game features wooden soccer players on spinning rods – but the player caricatures are without facial hair.
“I discovered that our American guards had to shave off the face of the foosball characters because they were religiously offensive to the captives,” recounts Morgan incredulously.
When a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled this past summer that Guantanamo Bay detainees can challenge their extended imprisonment in federal court, the no-nonsense Morgan was upset and remains so to this day.
The high court’s 5-4 majority concluded that foreigners held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, retain the same rights as U.S. residents to seek writs of habeas corpus. Earlier the court had ruled that the military commissions established to try Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detainees violate both U.S. law and the Geneva Convention.
Under a plan being mulled by Obama's advisers, some detainees would be released and others would be charged in U.S. courts, where they would receive constitutional rights and open trials. But the plan could require creation of a new legal system to handle the classified information inherent in some of the most sensitive cases.
Many of the about 250 Guantanamo detainees remaining are cleared for release, but the Bush administration has been unable to find a country willing to take them, according to a report in the Associated Press.
Late this past summer, the Guantanamo trial of Salim Hamdan, one of Osama bin Laden's drivers, ended with bad news for the prosecution. Hamdan was acquitted of conspiring with al-Qaida to attack the U.S., and his five-and-a-half year sentence for providing material support for terrorism was only a fraction of what the prosecutor wanted.
Morgan’s opinion on all this is straightforward: “It’s extremely short sided, dangerous, and self delusional decision by our highest court…”
She has little sympathy with the detainees. “Some of these people who are at Guantanamo Bay are the most cruel, vicious and wicked individuals to walk the planet Earth. These are individuals who have killed and raped and tortured not only American troops, which is bad enough, but innocent civilians. Ultimately they do get a trial.”
Morgan and company were not given the privilege of entering the highly secure court facility where she says there were ongoing proceedings. She did note, however that Catherine Herridge of Fox News was allowed in to view some of the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Morgan is back home in San Francisco with her husband and teenage son.
She explained that she has felt some of the brunt of the economic collapse first hand, having lost her long-standing broadcasting post through a downsizing.
“I don’t feel sorry for myself or anything,” she says. “It’s taking place all across the country. I mean on the day that I was let go, hundreds of people at all of our stations were let go.”
Although enjoying the new-found freedom, the energetic Morgan has supplemented her work with Move America Forward with her start-up web company called Smartnow.com, aimed at women 35-plus. She also continues to write at her own website www.melaniemorgan.com.
“You know, I have time to really focus on our troops, what’s happening politically in the world as a concerned activist,” she says with optimism.
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