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Homeland Security

Bush Defends Guantanamo Detentions

14 June 2006

President Bush says he understands that the continuing detention of suspected terrorists at a U.S. military base in Cuba is hurting America's image abroad, but he says it is necessary to protect the nation. The president's comments follow the release of an international public opinion survey that shows falling support for the U.S.-led fight against terrorism.

President Bush says he understands that many people are unhappy about the detention of suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo naval base.

It is a prison the United Nations has asked him to close, but Mr. Bush says that would be too dangerous.

"I would like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognize that we are holding some people who are darn dangerous and we better have a plan to deal with them in our courts," said Mr. Bush.

The president says he believes those detainees should face military tribunals, but he is waiting on a decision from the Supreme Court before moving forward.

Mr. Bush says eventually those prisoners will either be returned to their own countries or put on trial with legal counsel.

Saturday's apparent suicide by three Guantanamo prisoners has increased pressure on the Bush Administration to resolve the status of those detainees.

The human-rights group Amnesty International is calling for an independent investigation into the deaths. Even America's strongest ally in Iraq, Britain, has expressed concern about Guantanamo with Attorney General Peter Goldsmith calling it a symbol of injustice.

President Bush told White House reporters that justice will be done.

"No question Guantanamo provides an excuse, for example, to say that the United States is not upholding the values that they are trying to encourage other countries to adhere to," he added. "And my answer to them is that we are a nation of laws and rule of law. These people have been picked up on the battlefield and are very dangerous."

International concerns about Guantanamo are reflected in a new public opinion poll taken as part of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey.

Nearly 17,000 people were interviewed last month in the United States and 14 other nations. The results show America's image around the world slipping.

The number of people expressing a positive view of the United States during the past year declined sharply from 41 percent to 23 percent in Spain, from 71 percent to 56 percent in India, and from 23 percent to 12 percent in Turkey.

The survey says European confidence in President Bush has also fallen and majorities in most countries believe America will not achieve its objectives in Iraq. In Japan, just more than one-quarter of respondents now favor the U.S.-led fight against terrorism, down from 61 percent four years ago.

Majorities in 10 of 14 countries say the war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place.

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