By Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough
July 22, 2005
Soldiers from Massachusetts and Hawaii who work at the U.S. military detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave visiting home-state senators a piece of their mind last week.
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, met with several soldiers during a visit led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican.
Pentagon officials said soldiers criticized the harsh comments made recently by Senate Democrats.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, last month invoked widespread military outrage when he compared Guantanamo to the prison labor systems used by communist tyrant Josef Stalin, Cambodia's Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler.
"They got stiff reactions from those home-state soldiers," one official told us. "The troops down there expressed their disdain for that kind of commentary, especially comparisons to the gulag."
A spokesman for Mr. Kennedy had no comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Akaka confirmed that the senator met with soldiers from Hawaii but did not recall receiving any complaints during the meeting.
Both senators made no mention of the incident in press statements after the visit. Mr. Kennedy, in his statement, said that he is "impressed with the courtesies and professionalism of the men and women in our armed forces."
Mr. Kennedy has been a leading advocate for closing the prison facility. Mr. Akaka in April voted for an amendment that would have cut funds for the prison.