Fireworks at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
From every angle you look at it, the US Guantanamo Naval Base and offshore detention center, located on occupied Cuban territory, would appear to be an embarrassment and permanent contradiction to the principles of law and justice defended by Washington. However, there appears to be another side to the story.
The world of the GIs and their families at Gitmo, as they fondly call it, seems like a Disney fantasy.
The base newspaper, the 12-page Guantanamo Gazette, presents a land of well manicured lawns, smiling kids, marriages, parties, promotions, abundant leisure time, yard sales and succulent awards dinners with immaculately white-clad commanding officers.
Take the July 7 edition for example. The front page is filled with Independence Day fireworks and pages five and six tell of scavenger hunts, one-pitch softball and dodge ball tournaments, a sailing regatta, kids carnival and a rock concert. There’s news about a nice art show on page three. A feature article on page four reports on the recent visit of a female comedy group with their “4 the Boyz” show.
One of the comedians, on a repeat performance, told the Gazette she “cherishes her trips to Guantanamo because it changes her perception of the base.” The entertainer adds, “It’s one thing seeing this base from the media perspective and it’s another being here in person. The lifestyle is wonderful. Gitmo has a lot to offer.”
The Independence Day celebrations were topped off by the availability of two new US chain products. The Gazette tells its readers: “As of July 4th there is more than patrol boats and the best Navy on the planet at Guantanamo Bay. Breyers Ice Cream and Starbucks Coffee are now available at MWR’s Caribbean Coffee and Cream Internet cafe in the Bay View food complex, a new hotspot that is sure to be a great meeting and greeting place for all base residents.”
Another 4 the Boyz comedian said: “I won’t hesitate to return to Gitmo in the future. I love it down here and I will be honored to perform here again.”
Ironically, as the rest of Cuba begins a long summer of recreational and cultural activities, the base is also preparing for a fantastic school vacation for SOME of its younger residents. The Oasis Teen Center has scheduled computer building and check-ups, picnics, swimming parties, pool tournaments, horse shoes, miniature golf, races, bowling, dances and approved US movies.
The Guantanamo Gazette even has its classified ads section where one can buy used fishing gear, near-new furniture or find out where the almost daily yard sale is located. Worship gatherings from ten different religions are also listed.
The spectacular fireworks on the 4th of July served a double purpose. While the base residents living outside of the cages enjoyed the beautiful shapes and colors, those shackled and enclosed got another sound bite of the bombs that hit Afghanistan when the US attacked in 2001, shortly before their capture and transfer from arid lands to what some see as a tropical paradise, and others as a preview of hell.
One more article in the Gazette plays down the recent Supreme Court ruling against holding the military trials ordered by the White House. It makes it clear that the court said nothing about the legality of holding the prisoners in state of eternal limbo.
Reading the Guantanamo Gazette one gets the feeling that the soldiers and their families are either totally calloused to the crimes being committed in their midst or they learned World War II lessons about turning their cheek and ignoring what’s happening to one’s victims or neighbors.