Nepali Times Asian Paints
DANIEL LAK
Here And There
Dateline Guantanamo


DANIEL LAK


Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: If Nepal is the world's only Hindu kingdom, then this place is the world's only communist fast food paradise. Food and the extreme left seldom go together, the hammer and sickle sit uneasily alongside capitalist icons like McDonald's golden arches.

But this remote, arid chunk of Cuba, where the arches loom alongside KFC's friendly colonel, the Subway sign and Pizza Hut is only communist by proximity. Cuba owns the ground beneath our feet, but the American military walks on it.

Guantanamo Bay was first leased to the United States in 1903, when Cuba was a newly captured colony. So 'lease' is probably a bit too lenient to the American government. 'Give&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'delivered post paid', or 'snatched' might be more to the point. This 85 sq km of real estate on both sides of a magnificent natural harbour remains in US hands to this day, despite Fidel Castro's revolution and years of hostility between Washington and Havana.
In the 1990s, when the going was good, Bill Clinton's government wanted to wind the place down. It was thought too expensive and badly located. Also this little McDonalds-haunted paradise was a magnet for migrants from Haiti, and of course, Cuba.

Tens of thousands of them came here annually and had to be penned up while their cases were processed. Gitmo, as the base here is known in military slang, was losing its lustre as an outpost of freedom.

Then came September 11th 2001, the American-led war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the worldwide campaign to stamp out militant terrorism. As US forces went into action around the world, they rounded up many a Muslim. Some were handed over by their own countries, others nabbed on the field of battle. In all, close to a thousand were detained, perhaps even more, but we were never really given a number.

A lot of that group ended up here in Gitmo. Who could forget the first TV pictures of dismal captured Muslim men being lead across steaming tarmac, confused or defiant, angry or frightened.who could tell? The cameras were too far away. The first inmates to arrive had to sleep in outdoor cells that were little better than metal boxes. As the population got larger, more permanent prison quarters were built. So were a hospital, guard buildings and other structures.

There were howls of outrage against American military detainment procedures from human rights groups and decent governments around the world. The Americans listened to some and improved their inmate handling. But what they didn't do was treat their 'detained enemy combatants' as they would like their own soldiers to be treated if arrested by a hostile foreign power. This is the basis of self interest, not to mention the rules of war.

Now the process of trying those 'enemies of America' has begun and all I'm seeing so far is a lot of disorganisation, ad-hocism and clumsy behaviour by security forces. Also, at least one inmate has a vigorous and courageous defence attorney who is fighting hard on behalf of his client, even risking his own military career as a lawyer in the navy. This is good, but not good enough.

Sooner or later, I hope America realises that the world is best when it sets an example, and doesn't do things that give rise to anti-Americanism that hurts us all. They could start by putting the men at Gitmo Bay before their own justice system, and not some invention from the Second World War that didn't even work at the time.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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