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November 08, 2005

Cool Guantanamo

Poland's Gazeta Wybrocza sends Marcin Gadziński on a tour of Camp Delta, the American detainment center at Guantanamo Bay. Setting out, he admits a certain ambivalence:

What is Guantanamo? I considered this on the flight into Cuba. A sybol of American's contempt for the rule of law? Their use of force against individuals who haven't even been formally accused of anything? Or, as Amnesty International alleges, the "gulag of our time?"

But quite quickly into his trip, he reaches the exact opposite conclusion. Under a headline asking "Guantanamo: Gulag or vacation resort?" he describes seeing prisoners, well hydrated with gatorade, playing soccer (and not evening pausing their game at the call to prayer), snacking on California strawberries and Milky Way bars, and making jokes with their guards. Every effort is made to make their incarceration comfortable - prison cooks look up Afghan and Arab recipes on the internet, guards are prohbited from even touching prisoners' Korans, and during Ramadan meals are served before sunrise or after sunset - even the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strikes only takes place at night.

Gadziński tries to explain the cause for the camps dismal and widespread reputation. The first pictures that came out - of hooded prisoners kneeling in low cages, surrounded by barbed wire - were of Camp X-Ray, a hastily-constructed temporary facility that has since been replaced with the more spacious and adequate Camp Delta. In talking with camp officials, he brings up prisoner allegations about torture. American soldiers explain that, in the early stages of the camp, with 9/11 still fresh in everyone's mind and a very living fear of fresh attacks, the now-notorious interrogation tactics of stress positions, canine intimidation and sexual humiliation were used against inmates. But these were necessary measures, camp officers insist - a lot of good information came out of those interrogations that ended up saving American lives. Since then, and after the outcry over prisoner abuse at Abu Ghreib, those techniques have been suspended and replaced with less invasive, more effective ones.

Bringing up prisoner protestations of innocence, Gadziński is referred to the "Manchester document," a section of an Al-Quaeda manual that gives advice for those caputred. It's first rule is to provide as little information as possible, it's second to always allege torture, and it's third to always protest your innocence. Spreading stories about prisoners innocence, one general tells him, just plays into the hands of Al-Quaeda.

Gadziński sees little at the camp to upset him about this "vital bastion in the war on terror." He describes a friendly staff, respect for prisoners (all of whom, we are reminded, are dangerous terrorists) and clean, spacious conditions (the article is illustrated with slides of the spartan by spic-and-span cells). It's clear that on the gulag vs. vacation resort question, he's been decisively persuaded to the resort side.

Posted November 8, 2005 03:42 PM

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