SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Rear Admiral Mark Buzby would like to have the luxury of telling people to believe none of what they hear and half of what they see.
But knowing the American public has heard too much and seen almost nothing from inside the Guantanamo Bay Military Detention Center, the Commander of the US Joint Task Force there says instead to believe him.
"We have 2,000 fine American soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians working at the joint force at Guantanamo where our mission is the safe and humane care and custody of some very dangerous people,'' Buzby said during a visit to Savannah Tuesday night. "They're there working their tails off to make sure that those people are properly cared for in accordance with the law.''
Reports to the contrary, including allegations of torture, are why Buzby travels one week each month, mostly for speaking engagements like the one at the Hunter Club Tuesday with the Savannah Council of the Navy League, that allow him to defend and clarify his and the military's stance on the handling of accused terrorists at Guantamo.
But he says, more than believing him is understanding who is being detained there and to what effect.
"There are the masterminds of 9-11,'' said Buzby. "They're the people who allegedly perpetrated the bombing of the USS Cole, allegedly perpetrated the bombings on the embassy in East Africa and the Bali bombings several years ago. If these people were still out there, no telling what they would have further perpetrated."
"And with the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a lot of the people we are holding were the leadership at that time," he added. "We've been able to actually conduct some very positive operations as a result of the information we got from our detainees at Guantanamo.''
Buzby's message for his troops in Cuba is simpler and more direct.
"I tell my soldiers, my sailors down there, we are very much in the fight of the global war on terror,'' he said. "This is the fourth time I have had the honor to command soldiers and sailors. And it is absolutely the most rewarding thing. Short of being on the front and pulling the trigger myself, this is the next most important thing that I can be doing.''