I guess Bush should have backed former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris in the Republican primary, after all. Sen. Mel Martinez, the Senate candidate Bush backed instead of Harris, has become the first Republican to call for shutting down Guantanamo. Martinez hasn’t said where the hundreds of suspected al-Qaida operatives currently at Gitmo should be transferred, but I understand the Neverland Ranch might soon be available.

Maybe Sen. Arlen Specter — the liberal Republican Bush backed instead of conservative Pat Toomey, which still didn’t help Bush in Pennsylvania — will step forward to defend the Bush administration. That Karl Rove is a genius.

Martinez explained his call for the closing of Guantanamo by asking: “Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?”

There are angry Arabs locked up at Guantanamo, no? Admittedly, not enough. (And not under what any frequent flier would describe as “harsh conditions.”) Still and all, angry Arabs are locked up there. That is what we call “a purpose.”

But Martinez rolls out the old chestnut about Guantanamo having become a recruiting tool for al-Qaida: “It’s become an icon for bad stories,” Martinez said, “and at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio.” (I’ve been wondering the same thing about Mel Martinez.)

This is preposterous. NBC’s “The West Wing” is an icon for bad stories; Gitmo is a place where we keep dangerous people who want to kill us.

Martinez was borrowing his point from Sen. Joe Biden — which is always a dangerous gambit because you never know who said it originally. The Biden version was: “I think more Americans are in jeopardy as a consequence of the perception that exists worldwide with its existence than if there were no Gitmo.”

So if foreigners think that if they try to kill Americans they might go to a bad, scary place called “Guantanamo,” that will make them more likely to kill Americans? I need a decision-tree analysis on that.

Let’s also pause to ponder the image of the middle-of-the-road, “centrist” Jihadist who could be “recruited” to Jihad by reports about abuse at Guantanamo. You know — the kind of guy who just watches al-Jazeera for the sports and hits the “mute” button whenever they start in about the Jews again, already.

Liberals want us to believe such a person exists and that he is perusing newspaper articles about Guantanamo trying to decide whether to finish his coffee and head off to work or to place a backpack filled with dynamite near a preschool.

Note to liberals: That doesn’t happen.

What happens is this: There are thousands of Muslim extremists literally dying to slaughter Americans, and only three proven ways to stop them: (1) Kill them (the recommended method), (2) capture them and lock them up, or (3) convince them that their cause is lost. Guantanamo is useless for No. 1, but really pulls ahead on No. 2 and No. 3. (Again, that’s what we call “a purpose.”)

Let’s just hope aspiring Jihadists are not reading past the headlines about Guantanamo. If they do, they’ll discover that what Amnesty International means by “the gulag of our time” is: No Twinkie rewards for detainees!

That’s not a joke. As described in infuriating detail by Heather MacDonald in the Winter, 2005, City Journal, interrogators at Guantanamo are not allowed to:

— yell at the detainees, except in extreme circumstances and only after alerting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — and never in the ears;

— serve the detainees cold meals, except in extreme circumstances;

— poke the detainees in the chest or engage in “light pushing” without careful monitoring and approval from the commander of the U.S. Southern Central Command in Miami;

— reward detainees (for example, for not throwing feces at the guards that day) with a Twinkie or a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich in the absence of express approval from the secretary of defense. (I suppose it goes without saying, “supersizing” their order is strictly forbidden.)

Without careful monitoring, interrogators aren’t even allowed to subject the detainees to temperature changes, unpleasant odors or sleep cycle disruptions. But on the bright side, they are allowed to play Christina Aguilera music and feed the detainees the same food our soldiers eat rather than their usual orange-glazed chicken. That isn’t sarcasm; these are the rules.

No cold meals, sleep deprivation or uncomfortable positions? Obviously, what we need to do is get the U.S. Army to serve drinks on commercial airlines and get the airlines to start supervising the detainees in Guantanamo.

Dinner on a first class America West flight from New York to Las Vegas consists of one small bag of peanuts. Meanwhile, a recent menu for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo included orange-glazed chicken and rice pilaf, fresh fruit crepe, steamed peas and mushrooms. Sounds like the sort of thing you’d get at Windows on the World — if it still existed.



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