Gitmo remains the best, safest, most secure place for unlawful combatant Islamist extremists who want to kill us. 9/11/01 REALLY happened. 13 terrorist attack attempts on Manhattan were REALLY thwarted. A terrorist attack inside Ft. Hood, Texas, REALLY took place. Benghazi REALLY happened. We are at war, a Global War on Terror/struggle against Islamist extremists. And until al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terrorist/extremists put their hands up and their weapons down, and promise never to kill or harm or destroy again, we will remain at war. Gitmo is a legal, professional and appropriate place for detainees, and calling for its closure gives aid and comfort to the enemy, and clouds the serious purpose of the finest military detention facility in the world.
(Author’s note: The following is an unedited response of mine to an editorial recently published in my regional newspaper. Here’s a link to the edited version published in Newsday on 3/7/12 http://www.newsday.com/opinion/letters/letters-pulling-out-of-afghanistan-1.3583573 )
Your editorial in the Tuesday, February 28 issue of Newsday, titled “Afghanistan: Get out soon; Quran burning, killings of U.S. soldiers underscore hostilities between ‘allies,’” makes it sound as if we don’t have troops in 70 other countries, CIA in over 90 countries, and Diplomatic Security Service in over 200 countries, in our struggle against Islamist extremists. Iraq and Afghanistan amount to the high ground in this struggle, much like Germany and Japan were the high ground in World War II. Would you have us leave those places, too?
The fact is there are still many people out there who very much want to kill us. Our ability to project power and influence through places like Afghanistan help keep us safe here in the U.S., just like staying in Germany helped protect us against the Soviet threat, and a presence in Japan helps us deter a Chinese threat. Our presence in those two countries allowed them to rebuild, retool, and focus on social and infrastructure priorities, while we subsidized, and still do subsidize their defense.
There is now pressure from NATO to invade Syria to stop the now year-long bloodshed; the death toll of innocent victims approaches nearly twice that of all the American deaths associated with ten years of battle in Iraq. Since Barack Hussein Obama insisted on an untimely withdrawal from neighboring Iraq to please a hungry election year electorate, we now have no adjacent physical military presence with which to directly influence the ongoing tragedy there, or with Iran. Our troops in Afghanistan dwindling and scheduled for full withdrawal, have no hope of influencing actions in Iran, which threaten to worsen, and invites an Israeli pre-emptive strike.
As for the desecrated Quran burnings, you know, but did not put in your editorial, that detainees had written in the books, which is strictly forbidden in Muslim teachings and against camp rules. Although it is permissible to burn a damaged Quran, it is not preferable, and would require “rubbing out” references to Allah, His Angels and His Messengers before burning. The Qurans had been deemed classified material because of the detainee writings in them, and were probably therefore scheduled to be destroyed along with other classified documents.
While serving at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002, I received briefings on the Muslim faith, which included cursory information on the proper handling of the Quran, but they did not include how to properly dispose of one. Such details would be left for the U.S. Navy Muslim Chaplain on duty there. I doubt the soldiers tasked with disposing of the books had any clue what they were doing would upset anyone.
I agree that we should apologize for inadvertently desecrating the Quran, precisely when all Taliban and al Qaeda apologize for every single American and other innocent human being they have killed, from Marine CPL Stephen Crowley, a Long Island native, and U.S. Embassy Guard in Islamabad, Pakistan, the first American casualty in the Global War on Terror, killed on November 21, 1979, to the victims of 9/11/01, whose numbers keep growing from the hazards of the response and clean-up at the World Trade Center, to Daniel Pearl’s video taped beheading, to the execution of the two U.S. Army officers you mention in your editorial. When they do that, we should apologize for the books, not before.
The reality is that al Qaeda and the Taliban and their ilk will never apologize for anything they do. As the Barbary Pirates before them, they are set on death and destruction in order to influence weaker forces into their realm of influence. The murderous Islamist extremist protestors in this case have seized the President’s premature and unwarranted apology as a weakness, and have exploited it with the help of a traitorous media. In what sane world to we excuse the murder of innocent people because of the incineration of paper? Sincere religious followers understand that the sins of an individual are atoned between that person and their God, not avenged through a murderous crowd or individual.
NOTE: I am a three times mobilized retired U.S. Army Reserve Major, who served in Cuba and Iraq, and am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.”
It was cold. Desert cold. Probably in the low 70’s, but after a day near 100 in the shade, it was cold. Some wore their uniform to the shower, some went in PT’s. Almost all went wearing flip-flops.
There is no light (light discipline, don’t you know?). You cannot see. You’ve been this route so many times before you could do it with your eyes closed, so it doesn’t really matter. Your body is on auto-pilot anyway, counting the steps without you, and then up the stairs of the trailer (you’re lucky; on this FOB you have a trailer). Your arm reaches up, your hand turns the knob and FLASH! You’re blinded by the light.
The trailer is air conditioned. You freeze. Shivering, you wait for the water to warm up. It never does. You suck it up, quickly poking in, and then out of the water. You soap up. Liquid ice rinses you off . . . until: “Hey, that’s not cold.” “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!!”
The scalded parts of your body are red. As you stumble out of the trailer, and the door self-closes behind you, you almost fall down the stairs because now you are completely blind. The large gravel hurts under your flimsy .99 cent PX flip-flops. The siren goes off. You run to the bunker, losing a flip-flop on the way. Now the gravel REALLY hurts.
The mortars fly in. One here. One there. You feel the WHOOSH of the concussion, and the sound is right next to you, but it could be a mile away. You’re either dead, or you’re not. You remember your first “incoming” in-country. You waited for the all-clear. And you waited. Until it occurred to you that there was no such thing as “all clear” in-country. It’s never safe.
You make it back to your hooch. Fall into your bed (you have a BED, not a cot in a tent, like you had for six months out THERE). It’s so soft. Your head hits your pillow, or does it?
Your mind wanders. Instantly you are alone, in a space craft, small as an Indy car, tight, but cozy. You’re warm now, and it’s dark, but you see the stars through your canopy, some rushing by, some so far away they look still, very still. You focus on one, one far away, and it’s blue, and green, and white.
You are getting sleepy in your dream.
You feel a warm tingle, an excitement almost. You know . . . you are going home. And you weep. You weep as only you can when you’re alone, and feeling alone, amidst a billion stars.
As you remember having set the auto-pilot, cryogenics takes over. You feel safe, and warm, and good. Home. You’re going home.
“Who said that?” You whisper a scream. You keep your eyes closed, because you know if you open them, well, it won’t be good.
“Captain!” The drill sergeant-like voice roars.
You know who said it now. And you still don’t want to open your eyes.
The fist of the drill sergeant-like voice is now pounding on the door of your hooch.
You know they know you know.
“Damn!” What did I forget now?
“Mail.” The voice is sane now.
You fly out of bed, open the door and snatch the letter. “Letter?” It’s smooth. It’s cool. The blast of heat from outside says it’s nearly midday. You slept. You slept hard, for the first time since . . . .
You don’t have to read the return address. The smell tells you who it is and you just sniff it. The envelope flies off the folded page inside, and there it is: Cursive, perfect, writing. Curled and curved beautifully; and slanted just so. The words don’t even matter. You crumble around it, pressing it to your nose and face, letting it become part of you, tears staining the page.
“I Love You,” it said. “I Love You,” you say.
It’s so hot it hurts to hold your 16. You hate wearing the Nomex gloves because, well, damnit, because it’s just too damn suffocating is all. If you’re not in a fire-fight . . . you’re not in a fire-fight. You’re back on the FOB, how long now, weeks? Out THERE.
You have to take a convoy in to Anaconda to coordinate some psych services for the boys who saw their buddy die yesterday. You need a ”Team” or a member of a team. You could do it yourself, but you know you’re not a professional at it. But you could do it. Sit there, looking at them looking at you. Blank stares, but stares full of . . . full of a lifetime, or at least a life. A life taken, snatched; kidnapped under fire, under explosion, under blood.
The trip takes four weeks, or an hour, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter because you’re there now.
You walk around aimlessly, but find who you’re looking for. Tell them what you need to tell them, and then walk into the MWR. It has the feel of a renovated airplane hangar. The inner room is a theater, pitch as a moonless night. Outside the room, sit/lay grunts. They are dusty, dirty, sweaty. They are toast, from the toaster of the bright orange heat tab in the sky. You know that “tired.” You have been that tired. You are that tired. You go into the theater and seek refuge. You seek protection.
It is pitch as a moonless night. Quiet as a mouse, except for the voices coming from the screen, and the soft gentle chorus of snores. There are no seats left, and everyone is . . . asleep.
“Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior”
“Hard as it is to believe, one of the most significant stories of the post-9/11 age is also one of the least known, life at Gitmo, the detention facility for many of the world’s worst terrorists. Few individuals are more qualified to tell this story than Montgomery Granger, a citizen soldier, family man, dedicated educator, and Army Reserve medical officer involved in one of the most intriguing military missions of our time. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is about that historic experience, and it relates not only what it was like for Granger to live and work at Gitmo, but about the sacrifices made by him and his fellow Reservists serving around the world.”
Andrew Carroll, editor of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines
Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay, or “Gitmo: The Real Story,” is a “good history of medical, security, and intelligence aspects of Gitmo; also, it will be valuable for anyone assigned to a Gitmo-like facility.”
Jason Wetzel, Field Historian, Office of Army Reserve History
Then U.S. Army Reserve Captain Montgomery J. Granger found himself the ranking Army Medical Department officer wiht the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG) on a joint mission like no other before it; taking care of terrorists and murderers just months after the horrors of September 11, 2001. Granger and his fellow Reservists end up running the JDOG at Guantanamo Bay’s infamous Camp X-Ray. In this moving memoir, Granger writes about his feelings of guilt over leaving his two-day-old son, Theodore, his family and job back home. While in Guantanamo, he faces myriad torturous emotions and self-doubt, at once hating the inmates he is nonetheless duty bound to care for and protect. Through long distance love, and much heartache, Granger finds a way to keep his sanity and dignity. Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is his story.
Montgomery J. Granger is a three-time mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Ret.) who resides in Long Island, New York, with his wife and five children. Granger is the author of “Theodore,” a personal narrative published in the 2006 Random House wartime anthology, “Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan and the Home Front in the words of U.S. Troops and their Families.”