By Bob Palmer
During his State of the Union address last week, President Donald Trump said the United States would continue to ship captured terrorists to the US Naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba overturning an order by former President Obama.
Although Trump’s decision gave liberals a serious case of diaper rash, I knew one man who would have cheered. A few years ago area Optometrist Dr. L.D. Lawler and I chatted about keeping prisoners on a tropic island. The former World War II prisoner of war had a lot to say.
He used the word ridiculous a lot.
“I wish I could put into words just how I do feel. It’s so ridiculous; I hate to even talk about it.”
Lawler struggled to articulate his reaction to criticism of the way the United States treats al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees sent from Afghanistan to Cuba.
“I have seen enough to want to vomit when I hear it called mistreatment,” said Lawler, his voice rising with emotion.
Captured during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, Lawler was a prisoner of the Germans for about five months.
“I came as close to dying as I could. I went from 150 pounds to 85 pounds,” Lawler said. “I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’m not complaining. I feel very fortunate. There were so many who didn’t make it.”
When Lawler compares the treatment he received from the Germans – starvation rations of rutabagas soup, marching five miles each way, each day to work in a coal mine, he wonders why anyone would think the regular meals and a warm climate given these suspected terrorists to be “mistreatment.”
“When are we going to stop listening to these bleeding hearts?” Lawler wondered. “That one picture (of U.S. guards putting a prisoner on his knees) is a distortion.”
Lawler believes he understands part of the problem.
“These reporters will do anything to make a headline, to get the attention of the public. That one reporter caused a lot of problems,” he asserted. “It’s wrong. It distracts from the war effort. Maybe that’s what they intended to do.”
The open‑air, chain‑link cells at Guantanamo have been likened by human‑rights groups to cages. Some U.S. allies also have urged Washington to classify the detainees as prisoners of war, which would guarantee their rights.
“That’s a good question (are “detainees” prisoners of war?),” Lawler observed. “My first indication is no. They are criminals.”
“It wouldn’t do for me to be down there,” Lawler said. “I wouldn’t treat them that good. We want a lot of information. If we make it too easy, they won’t cooperate. If I was in charge, I would make it miserable, not endanger them, but make it hard enough so they want to testify.
“We are not going to get the information we need by kissing their backsides.”
U.S. officials maintain the men are highly dangerous and that some have threatened to kill Americans.
Lawler offered one last piece of advice.
“Don’t play around with a rattlesnake.”
L.D. died a few years back, but his words and his insight still have meaning.
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