Fun in the Sun: Gitmo Gets Makeover as R&R Resort

Flowers, fishies, frogs and dolphins, and the most precious, cutesy color printing you ever saw: "Someone who loved me got me this t-shirt in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba!"

You can pick up one of these sparkly items for the kids – along with stuffed iguanas, decorated coffee mugs ("Kisses from Guantanamo Bay!"), snazzy keyrings ("It don't GITMO better than this!") and all manner of bric-a-brac from the sun-drenched heaven that bills itself as "Taliban Towers, the Caribbean's Newest 5-star Resort."  Yes, the Pentagon has turned the Terror War concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay into a luxurious vacation spot for military personnel and their families – and military contractors, too, of course!

As the Daily Mail reported recently, the Pentagon has splashed out for white sand beaches, a golf course, movie theaters, a bowling alley, restaurants – even a Wal-Mart – right next to the holding pens where Terror War captives have languished in limbo for years, enduring endless isolation,"harsh interrogation techniques" and other holiday amusements.

We don't mean to imply that the serious business going on at Gitmo is ignored, however. Far from it. The gift shop features several items that make antic hay of the concentration camp's dread purpose. Barbed wire and guard towers are a prevalent motif on various cups and shirts, for example. You can sip your beachside latte in a cup that tells the world that the Bush gulag is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom." And if you find froggies and dolphins a bit too frilly, you can always prepare your kids to take their rightful place in the Terror War imperium with a t-shirt emblazoned "Future Behavior Modification Instructor." It makes learning fun!

Here's more from the Daily Mail (via the Angry Arab):

The Guantanamo holiday trade was exposed by Zachary Katznelson, a British-based human rights lawyer and spokesman for Reprieve, the group leading the international campaign against the camp. "When I see the conditions the prisoners have to cope with and then think of the T-shirt slogans, I am appalled," he said. "To say I am repulsed is an understatement. Unbelievable as it may seem, the US authorities are proud of the 'souvenirs' and what they are doing."

Mr Katznelson represents 28 of the detainees and makes regular visits to the prison. "The military keeps a tight hold on everything that is available in Guantanamo Bay and someone senior has given their approval for this disgusting nonsense," he said…

His anger is shared by other human rights campaigners. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said Guantanamo represents a shameful chapter in American history. Amnesty International said: "These supposedly 'fun' souvenirs are in grotesquely bad taste and the fact that they are on sale at the camp quite frankly beggars belief."

There are currently 280 prisoners sweltering in cages in temperatures of up to 100F (38C). The camp, where 7,000 soldiers are stationed, was established in 2002 following the invasion of Afghanistan…

"The majority are kept in isolation in cells that are no bigger than a toilet," said Katznelson. "There is no sea view. Instead, if they have a window, it looks out on to a bleak corridor. The cells are lined with steel from floor to ceiling, including the toilet, sink and bed base. There is a popular misconception that these men have had trials and been found guilty. Nothing is further from the truth. Not one of them has…

Katznelson continued: "Inmates are offered three meals a day, but there are eight prisoners who have been on hunger strike for over a year asking either for a trial or to be set free. These men are force-fed twice a day. First they are strapped down with 16 different restrictions, including one that jerks their head back. Then a tube is fed through their nose and down into their stomach. The guards don't always use lubrication and regularly use the same tube for several different prisoners without bothering to clean it."

You can read more about the amenities enjoyed by the non-paying guests at Gitmo in this piece, which points you to a mass of material detailing their treatment, including the landmark series from McClatchy Newspapers.