Fun and Game Boys at Guantanamo
By Michael M. Bates
Raul Castro is, at 77, Fidel's kid brother. When Fidel's health forced him to take a break from full-time dictator duties, he installed baby brother as president.
Raul swiftly demonstrated his leadership skills by consulting with some of the wisest people available. You know, deep thinkers like Hollywood millionaires. Recently he met with actor and activist Sean Penn.
The performer wrote in The Nation magazine of his meetings with Raul. According to Penn, Castro the younger is open to getting together with Obama. The Cuban said the setting would have to be a neutral one, perhaps Guantanamo Bay.
Apparently, el presidente has a puckish sense of humor. He knows that Obama, claiming Americans are ashamed of it, has repeatedly promised to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo.
Or perhaps Castro just wants to avail himself of the amenities offered at Gitmo. The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg reported last month that detainees soon will be offered classes in art and geology. But that isn't all:
"Plans include hand-held Game Boy-like electronic games to circulate through the cells, newspapers from Cairo, more ‘movie nights' featuring videotaped sports and expanded lessons in English as a second language."
There are roughly 250 prisoners at Guantanamo. They've at times been subjected to such shameful treatment as adjustments in the air conditioning and music played loudly. Little wonder closing Guantanamo has been on liberal wish lists for years.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin was so annoyed by what goes on there that in 2005 he compared American soldiers at the detention center to Nazis, Communists, and Cambodia's Pol Pot. Strangely, that didn't win the hearts and minds of the public and he apologized. Not for what he said, but for "if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand. . ."
Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) pointed out at the time that a recent Sunday menu at the military prison included oven-fried chicken, rice pilaf, fruit and pita bread. Prisoners have access to a library with thousands of books.
The following year three of Durbin's colleagues inspected Gitmo. They saw that inmates have a pharmacy, an operating room and a dentist. Five thousand vaccinations had been provided, and 22 prosthetic limbs. Almost 300 operations had been have been performed on prisoners.
Even without the electronic games and more movie nights, living conditions are probably better than those experienced by most Cubans, who live in a country where the average wage is about $20 a month. I can see why Raul might like to holiday at Guantanamo. He still may have time to go there.
Closing the camp is easier said than done. What will Obama do with the prisoners?
If we send prisoners back to their homelands, there's a real possibility they'll put down their Game Boys, grab weapons and again attack Americans. That has already happened with some of those turned loose.
Even Obama advisers acknowledge certain prisoners are such serious threats that they shouldn't be released. Where do we put them? Will Durbin or another senator volunteer his state for incarceration? A brig for terrorists would provide a very tempting target for other terrorists.
Giving detainees the rights of citizens, as has been urged by some, would present grave problems. In June, the Supreme Court narrowly decided that terrorist suspects have a right to seek release through the court system. Justice Scalia wrote that the decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."
I wonder how many citizens would want to sit as a juror – or even a judge – in an accused terrorist's trial. If the accused weren't given his Miranda rights, as is likely, would that fact automatically set him free?
Obama's designated attorney general, Eric Holder, has termed Guantanamo an "international embarrassment" and called for the prisoners there to be transferred to a military prison. Other Obama aides have suggested military court-martials for some prisoners.
Regardless of which options are ultimately selected in closing Guantanamo, very dangerous fanatics will again pose threats to Americans. So let them have their art classes and their electronic games if that soothes their jangled nerves and will keep them from attacking guards. Let them have Raul Castro as a special visitor. Just don't turn them loose on civilization again.
This Mike Bates column appeared in the December 4, 2008 Reporter Newspapers.