Item:   Texas doctor pens opinion piece about the treatment of prisoners captured in Afghanistan.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2002]

I was just reading Yahoo news and the San Antonio Express newspaper. You know what upsets me? People with absolutely nothing to do with their lives, so they complain on how the U.S. is treating the prisoners or “Detainees” from Afghanistan.

Do you know why they are complaining? They see a picture on the news or the Internet and they see someone who is shackled and blindfolded and walking with two armed guards behind razor wire. This picture tells them they are treated unfairly.

Here is what I see . . .

I see a thin, sickly looking person who under severe mental duress from being bombed, was cleaned up, given a haircut to prevent infestation of parasites, and given new clothes and shoes to wear. I see a person who is given three nutritious meals per day and a bed to sleep in a tropical climate, not the cold desert floor of Afghanistan, eating worms, bugs, and goat. I see a person who will be able to get relief from their pains and illnesses without paying a dime for medical expenses. They will get rest, educated, and their mental stress levels will have dropped tremendously because they were taken out of a combat area and will not be shot at again.

I see these people blindfolded and shackled behind razor wire. I have the intellectual ability to understand why they are this way. For those that do not have this ability, let me explain it to you. They are blindfolded to protect OUR U.S. SOLDIERS from further harm. These people can not plan to destroy something if they can not see it. They are shackled because these same people have proven they will easily give up their lives to kill just ONE AMERICAN. We are protecting their life as well as our own. The razor wire is a mental deterrent, just like the little alarm company warning signs most of you out there have on your home, but don’t have the actual alarm system. You would think many times over before actually trying to cross that razor wire. For all of you people out there thinking how bad these poor detainees have it under such strict guard, you need to do a lot more thinking about other things in your life.

I was born on September 11th, 1966, and every birthday I have from now on will never be a happy one. Why, do you ask? Because as I am out somewhere trying to have a nice dinner, someone will have a candle or a ribbon or something, crying about the anniversary of a national tragedy. And then I will think, about how insignificant my one little birthday actually is compared to everything else that had happened on that one day.

It boggles my mind that there are actually people out there in this world, in leadership positions, head of companies that actually think that we are doing something wrong when it comes to protecting our nation and our people. These same people will be the first ones to complain about something that happens to them when they are vacationing outside this country. They will ask why the U.S. does not do anything about their misfortune. These are the same people that complain about taxes and how bad their lives actually are.

If you receive this email, please pass it on to everyone in your address book. I am not afraid or ashamed to speak my peace. I am an American, my father fought for this country, and was willing to die for it.

Dr. Steven Tomaselli
Uvalde, Texas
United States of America

Origins:   This item is another entry difficult to categorize with a simple “true” or “false,” as it’s merely an opinion piece, not an article asserting any factual claims. Even though this item was not written by an established journalist or published as an editorial in any newspaper (even as a letter to the editor), it has been circulated widely because a great many people seem to give anything authored by someone identified by the title of “Dr.” a good deal of unwarranted credibility. If the good Dr. Steven Tomaselli holds that title because he has earned a doctorate in a field such as political science, his opinions might be expected to offer informative insights; if he’s a dentist or a mathematics professor, there’s no real reason to expect his opinions to be more noteworthy than those of millions of other citizens. (For the record, “Dr.” Tomaselli is a chiropractor.)

As of mid-February 2002, the Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners (or “detainees”) held in Camp X-ray at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, numbered 220. The U.S. drew criticism from representatives of European nations and human rights organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross for maintaining that captured Taliban and al-Qaeda soldiers did not qualify for prisoner of war status under the Geneva Convention, and for asserting that the captives were being treated humanely while nonetheless denying the Red Cross permission to visit the


The issue at the heart of the dispute has been the application of Geneva Convention treaties, which provide international safeguards for the humane treatment of battlefield captives. The United States asserted that under the terms of the 1949 agreement, to which the U.S. was a signatory, Taliban soldiers did not qualify as prisoners of war because they wore no uniforms or insignia, nor did they have an organized command structure established according to the “laws and customs” of war. Al-Qaeda combatants were even further removed from this classification, the U.S.
stated, because they operated in different countries and targeted civilians as well as military forces, and lumping all these captives into one “prisoner of war” category would blur important distinctions between legitimate national military forces and armed terrorist groups. (Granting captives POW status entitles them to additional legal rights, such as the right to legal representation; the right to respond to interrogation by providing no more than name, rank, and serial number, and the right to be sent home when military hostilities have ceased.)

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Switzerland said it considered both the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters held by U.S. forces to be prisoners of war under revisions made to the Geneva Convention treaties in 1977, although those revisions were never ratified by either the United States or Afghanistan. The Geneva Convention treaties also state that “should any doubt arise” about the status of captives, “such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal,” and human rights organizations and European nations criticized the U.S. government for refusing to hold such a tribunal. They were also critical of the treatment some of the captives were reportedly receiving, including being blindfolded, sedated, and held in metal cages.

On Thursday, 7 February 2002, the Bush administration modified its position and announced that it would apply Geneva Convention rules to Taliban detainees, although it refused to offer the same treatment to al-Qaeda fighters and continued to decline categorizing either group as prisoners of war. It also allowed Red Cross representatives to visit at Camp X-ray to review the conditions there and interview some of the detainees held there, and it implemented some of the recommendations (allowed prisoners to talk more freely among themselves, changing meal times to allow for earlier prayers, allowing prisoners more exercise) made by those representatives. (The relaxation of some of the stricter rules regarding prisoners might also have been a by-product of the fact that newer arrivals were generally less dangerous than those who had been captured earlier.)

Last updated:   15 April 2008


  Sources Sources:

    Aurora, Chris.   “Hicks Allowed to Talk with Fellow Prisoners.”

    The [Sydney] Daily Telegraph.   12 February 2002   (p. 21).

    Becker, Elizabeth.   “Red Cross Man in Guantanamo: A ‘Busybody,’ but Not Unwelcome.”

    The New York Times.   20 February 2002   (p. A10).

    Bender, Bryan.   “Red Cross Disputes U.S. Stance on Detainees.”

    The Boston Globe.   9 February 2002   (p. A1).