The Verdant Concertina Wire of Guantanamo

Military leaders at the US Guantanamo Bay Naval Station have been appalled by the media’s failure to update its outmoded image of the detention facility and report on the camps improved attributes.

The hastily-erected Camp X-Ray, composed of open-air chain link cages, originally became notorious when pictures of detainees blindfolded, handcuffed, and kneeling under the humid Caribbean sun reached the American public. James Yee, a former US Army Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo, recounts the urgency of building a facility to detain “enemy combatants” in his new book For God and Country:

According to Captain Les McCoy of the navy, a former Guantanamo base commander, the military placed a call to the naval base soon after September 11. “We got a plane full of terrorists and we’re on our way,” the commander said at the time, Navy Captain Robert A. Buehn, was told, “start building a prison.”

But officials there insist that, along with the closure of the temporary Camp X-Ray in early 2002—since overrun by vines along its concertina-wire walls, there have been many improvements in detainee housing, including a permanent new $16 million-dollar unit modeled after correctional facilities in the United States.

Could it be that the press’ delayed awareness is due to the importance of these housing improvements being trumped by the much larger, pressing story of mounting evidence to substantiate torture allegations collected by independent sources? Nah!

As late as last November the International Red Cross, which has monitored detainee treatment since 2002 under conditions of confidentiality, remained concerned that there persisted “significant problems regarding conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay have not yet been adequately addressed.”

“We welcome people to come in,” said Army Brig. Gen. John Gong, indicating media and clearly not the United Nations. Earlier in November the UN was forced to reject an invitation to the review detainee conditions due to the US’s denial of adequate capacities to form an assessment.