[Marxism] Gitmo tours hot ticket in Washington

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 15 07:23:51 MDT 2005

We don't know if the inmates perform as dancing bears or if the 
visitors have to pay for soda and popcorn during the show, or if 
they're provided by the prison administration as a visitor's gift. 

And there's no word if sun screen or suntan lotion is provided at 
the base, nor if Sgt. Danay Martinez provides her famous salsa 
dance lessons to the visitors or if they're only available to the 
guards at Gitmo. Sgt. Martinez, who came to the United States of
America during the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, share her enthusiasm 
for this assignment, explaining, "I joined the Army in 1993 so 
that I could finish school, and I've never regretted it. My love 
of freedom keeps me coming back. Coming from Cuba, I didn't have 

View the cheerful face of Sgt. Martinez on page eleven of this
professionally-done Guantanamo newsletter, "The Wire". See her:

Alternate view of Guantanamo:

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

Posted on Mon, Aug. 15, 2005

Gitmo tours hot ticket in Washington
Interest in visiting Guantánamo Bay is surging as congressional
visitors swarm to see the prison camp in Cuba.
crosenberg at herald.com

Call it Washington, D.C.'s field trip to the fringes of the war on
terrorism. Call it Congress' favorite summertime fact-finding
mission. Call it as close as many lawmakers get to communist Cuba.

Members of Congress have been shuttling this summer to the Navy base
at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba -- ever since President Bush swatted away
criticism of his administration's prison for terrorism suspects with
an invitation for folks to see for themselves.

Since June, 49 members of the Senate and House, accompanied by dozens
of staff members, have staged 14 ''codels'' -- Beltway jargon for
taxpayer-funded tours by congressional delegations.

A bipartisan mix of Republicans and Democrats from across the nation
-- even Miami's police chief -- have gone on the Pentagon's
choreographed, chaperoned day trips and come home with souvenirs.

Many have then used the trips to vouch for a previously held position
-- for example, to challenge Bush administration detention policy or
to argue that conditions are humane.

A case in point: Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas came back from
his July trip to say on MSNBC, ``There are some very nasty folks in
there, to say the least.''

Then, echoing his military briefing there, the senator said, ``The
people who are not compliant, who do not behave, who do not respond
to any kind of interrogation and who cause a lot of trouble. . . .
They aren't getting ice cream.''

Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a frequent Bush
detention policy critic, countered after his tour:

''My visit to Guantánamo confirms my belief that the administration's
handling of these detentions has made America less secure, put our
own soldiers at risk, and makes it harder to win the war on
terrorism.'' He called the prison ``an anti-American recruiting tool
for our enemies, and has made the world more dangerous for our troops
and for millions of Americans traveling overseas.''

Then, in a nod to the Pentagon's public relations offensive, he
echoed remarks of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, declaring
himself ''impressed'' with the U.S. military's ``courtesies and

Three years into the prison project, the lawmakers get a Pentagon VIP
tour: a slide-show briefing by the commander, Army Brig. Gen. Jay
Hood; a glimpse of an interrogation through a closed-circuit video
monitor; lunch at the Cafe Caribe mess hall inside the
razor-wire-ringed prison called Camp Delta; and a ''windshield tour''
aboard an air-conditioned minibus. In the process, they pass many of
the $300 million or so in building projects that have sprung up at
the base since al Qaeda and Taliban suspects were brought to Cuba.

None have reported engaging with prisoners, although they have seen
them from afar. Several have cited secret, classified briefings to
vouch for the validity of the place.

Miami Police Chief John Timoney got in on the act, too, by joining
the Southern Command chief, Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, as he escorted
GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel and Pat Roberts on a July 9 tour. His deputy,
Frank Fernandez, joined Craddock a few weeks later, when the general
went to Cuba for a Senate Armed Services Committee tour.

Timoney and Fernandez each got a round-trip ride from Miami to the
base aboard the general's executive jet, their first-ever visits
there, then Timoney went on national television to vouch for
prisoners' conditions.

Moreover, in an interview with The Herald, the chief bristled at
congressional meddling, saying that some senators are interfering
with the military by seeking to regulate Pentagon interrogation

''Why is the Senate now drawing up rules and regulations for the
military? It would be like Manny Diaz or the City Commission coming
here and telling me how to run the police department,'' said Timoney,
who posted snapshots of his trip on his website,

Timoney also said the military had perhaps ''gone overboard'' in
terms of Islamic sensitivity -- with special prayer oils, skullcaps
and procedures for U.S. forces to touch a prisoner's copy of the holy

''I'm a Catholic,'' he said. ``I say, if I'm in jail, give me a
Bible. They don't give me rosary beads, a prayer shawl, my old altar
boy outfit. It seems to be a little much.''

Each guest gets gifts, according to a Senate staff member who went
for one tour: complimentary Guantánamo Bay ball caps; a flag that
flew over the base, folded triangularly and packed in a special case;
and a souvenir DVD film of his or her visit.

Military officials are so far declining to say how much they have
spent on the tours -- not overall costs, price per member of
Congress, not even the price of producing the gift flag.

Bush sounded the charge soon after Amnesty International slammed his
administration's detention policies by deriding Guantánamo as the
''gulag of our times.'' He told reporters at the White House on May
31 that they should take a firsthand look at the prison camp.

The weekly pilgrimages began within days, usually involving
first-time congressional visitors bringing staff members and select
reporters on specially arranged military aircraft from Andrews Air
Force Base near Washington.

This summer's surge is the latest round of congressional visits since
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared the base ''the least
worst place'' to house select U.S. captives rounded up in
Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

In January 2002, 25 members of Congress shuttled south on a single
Friday -- one donned a pith helmet -- and peered inside the cagelike
cells. Several then declared conditions humane.

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