A Look Inside Guantánamo

Miss Universe, Venezuelan Dayana Mendoza, raised eyebrows earlier this week, after proclaiming “Guantánamo Bay is soooo beautiful” in a blog posted on the pageant’s website. The Miss Universe Organization, which organized the beauty queen’s visit to the naval base, quickly issued an official statement defending the visit in response to the debate Ms. Mendoza’s glowing account sparked.

And though the post no longer appears on her blog, it’s hard to ignore her comments, which said in part:

This week, Guantánamo!!! It was an incredible experience…We also met the Military dogs, and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills. All the guys from the Army were amazing with us. We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how the recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, books. It was very interesting… The water in Guantánamo Bay is soooo beautiful! It was unbelievable…I didn’t want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful.

Relaxing? Calm? Beautiful? Really? Ms. Mendoza’s account begs the question… what is Guantánamo really like?

Any complete answer needs to start with the detainees' accounts, many of which have already been published — including Murnat Kurnaz and Moazzam Begg’s published accounts of their imprisonment at Guantánamo.

Explorer: Inside Guantánamo, a new National Geographic Channel documentary premiering this Sunday April 5, 2009 at 9 p.m., provides another rare, glimpse of Guantánamo. Explorer’s crew spent nearly three weeks at the naval base in August of 2008 — at a time when the fate of Gitmo was up in the air — with the mission to document as much of the detention facility as possible for the public record. And while it’s important to keep in mind that Guantánamo in 2008 is very different from Guantánamo in past years, the documentary provides the first view of day-to-day life on parts of the base.

Although the crew was not allowed to interact directly with any of the approximately 240 men who remain there detained there, the documentary captures some candid moments of daily life at Gitmo. In one scene, a guard attempts to help a detainee chose a library book between a collection of Louisa May Alcott stories and Stephen King’s It. In another, a detainee — clearly aware of the camera crew — shouts “Never, never, I am here for seven years, I never get my rights.”
We had a chance to pose some questions about the making of the documentary to Director and Producer, Bonnie Cohen.

[ACLU] Your access to the inside operations of the prison was unusual. How did you gain access?

[Cohen] National Geographic Channel (NGC) gained access to the prison and the daily life. Jon Else and I were brought in after the access was obtained. NGC spent close to 2 years negotiating with Pentagon officials, ironing out the details on what would be necessary in order for us to tell the story. We got tremendous access from the military.

[ACLU] Did you have an Arabic-language translator with you while you were filming so you knew what the detainees were shouting at the time?

[Cohen] We did not. All of the Arabic dialogues were translated afterwards.

[ACLU] How much footage did the Gitmo censors have to edit out? Were the censors willing to compromise at all?

[Cohen] There were a couple of things that we shot that we weren’t going to be able to get off the island with, but the officials were always willing to talk. For instance, when we filmed the scenes of the hunger striking block, there were concerns about what it shows. We explained if we didn’t show this, we would be missing an important part of the story — including the adverse condition under which the guards work around the clock.

[ACLU] The guards seemed very open and forthcoming in the documentary. Was it hard to find guards who were willing to talk? Is there any worry about retribution for speaking so candidly, and even sympathetically, about the detainees?

[Bonni Cohen] Jon Else and I spent a considerable amount of the time gaining the trust of the guards, hanging out with them for the first few days without filming. We spent a lot of energy on that. And we also let the guards know we were open to their stories. Although our politics may be skewed in one way or another, we didn’t have biases when it came to the guards. We felt strongly that their stories needed to be heard, and what we found was that they were enormously appreciative of that. There is no substitute for the time you spend with them, being there at every meal, every roll call, and so forth. Of course, there were some initial reticence based on reasons of personal safety or anonymity — and some didn’t want to talk to us at all — but the guards started to open up. Hopefully, what we know how to do is to get people to tell the story, and get to the essence of who they are.

[ACLU] What were your thoughts and expectations about Gitmo before visiting the base? What surprised you most about Gitmo after spending time there?
 
[Cohen] I had the same type of preconceived notions Americans have after having seen the images in the press. It’s very hard not to have a bias going in there. I was surprised to find a prison well run by professional guards who are doing what is an extremely difficult and exhausting job. I was also surprised that I wasn’t feeling as depressed by the place as expected, despite its being an incredibly sad situation on both sides.

[ACLU] What do you hope people will take away from the documentary?

[Cohen] I hope that people will come away with a deeper understanding of our service people — that our military is a volunteer organization, and they all believe they are doing it on our behalf. No matter what your politics are that needs to be recognized. The military doesn’t make policy, but executes policy. That’s evident when you watch the guards navigate complex issues. I hope people also realize that when we elect an official into the office, their policies become our responsibilities as well.

Tune in to the National Geographic channel tonight— April 5 at 9 p.m. for a look Inside Guantánamo (and if you happen to miss it, the encore is Wednesday, April 8 at 8 p.m.).

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Hawaiian style

This article sounds like the one I read about Kim Jung Il, the leader of North Korea's birthday. It too was heaven on earth.

First the prison population should be investigated and divided into two groups, those being held on probable legal cause and those that are being held without cause.

Second those held for cause should be charged and shipped to Federal Courts around the US and tried.

Third those being held without cause should be repatriated to the place of their choice. Subjective predictions as to their future actions unless substantiated should not determine their repatriation.

Fourth those who cannot immediately be repatriated should be held in vastly improved conditions with culturally appropriate food, freedom of religion, freedom to communicate with others, and all the other freedoms consistent with their "innocent waiting repatriation" status.

I would like to know if those in the article asked:

1. Was anyone tortured in Guantanamo?

2. Has each person being held here been investigated and charged with a crime?

3. Has each person here been given the right to a lawyer, and the right to habeas corpus?

I do not like the idea that we are engaged in a perpetual war on terror, an admitted war without end, and the President has the right to imprison ANY person, citizen or not, indefinitely without charges, a lawyer or a judicial hearing.

I do not like the idea that after having been bombed into the the war on terror on 9/11 we have abandoned our Cherished and Sacred Constitutional rights and now we imprison anyone forever by just labeling them an enemy.

I do not like the idea that my country imprisons anyone, citizen or not, and holds them as if they are guilty, until we get around to proving them guilty.

Paen

This reminds me of a documentary the Nazis did called'The Furher Gives a City
To The Jews'Where the Therienstad Ghetto
was portrayed as being a lively community where the Jews were very well treated.The truth was however that most of the people in the film were gassed at Aucwitz.

Jericho1

These lovely men in the holding areas of the beautiful bay area were connected to the war against freedom,humanity and the immediate interests of my country, the United States. Hawaiin Style and the aclu have their first amendment rights and somehow do not realise these peoples they sofervently defend re-alighn with their comrades in arms upon release. Their goals are to make this Earth a new Islamic Order with Shariah Law being it's principle and 'interpretation of Islam through its holy book the koran/quran is only what the imam or cleric decides. We see the videos and pictures of these extremist whackos and their atrocities they commit. Wow, what would islamic hawaii be like? I bet hawaiin style would get his liberal ass of the islands as fast as he could and guess to where? Conservative U.S.A. where it is safer, that is until the liberal weenies at aclu get their way, then they and us are done......

Ron

Well if we have another attack I hope Americans all over the country go after the ACLU I hope they hunt down everyone of them and kill them.

George

What is the ACLU's position on this Dutch speach? I THINK WE ALL KNOW THIS....BUT HEARING IT FROM A RESIDENT OF > NETHERLANDS, MAKES IT MORE REAL... > Geert Wilders is a Dutch Member of Parliament.* > *America** as the last man standing > > 'In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: who lost > Europe ?' > > *Here is the speech of Geert Wilders, Chairman, Party for > Freedom, the Netherlands , at the Four Seasons, New York , * > *introducing an Alliance of Patriots and announcing the > Facing Jihad Conference in Jerusalem . > * > *Dear friends, > > Thank you very much for inviting me. > > I come to America with a mission. All is not well in the old > world. There is a tremendous danger looming, and it is very > difficult to be optimistic. We might be in the final stages > of the Islamization of Europe . This not only is a clear and > present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a > threat to America and the sheer survival of the West. The > United States as the last bastion of Western civilization, > facing an Islamic Europe . > > *First I will describe the situation on the ground in Europe > . Then, I will say a few things about Islam. To close I will > tell you about a meeting in Jerusalem . > > *The Europe you know is changing. > * > *You have probably seen the landmarks. But in all of these > cities, sometimes a few blocks away from your tourist > destination, there is another world. It is the world of the > parallel society created by**�**_Muslim mass-migration_**. > * > *All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire > Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside > or are even seen. And if they are, they might regret it. > This goes for the police as well. It's the world of head > scarves, where women walk around in figureless tents, with > baby strollers and a group of children. Their husbands, or > slaveholders if you prefer, walk three steps ahead. With > mosques on many street corners. The shops have signs you and > I cannot read. You will be hard-pressed to find any economic > activity. These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious > fanatics. These are Muslim neighborhoods, and they are > mushrooming in every city across Europe . These are the > building-blocks for territorial control of increasingly > larger portions of Europe , street by street, neighborhood > by neighborhood, city by city. > > *There are now thousands of mosques throughout Europe . With > larger congregations than there are in churches. And in > every European city there are plans to build super-mosques > that will dwarf every church in the region. Clearly, the > signal is: we rule. > > *Many European cities are already one-quarter Muslim: just > take Amsterdam , Marseille and Malmo in Sweden*. *In many > cities the majority of the under-18 population is Muslim. > Paris is now surrounded by a ring of Muslim neighborhoods. > Mohammed is the most popular name among boys in many cities*. > > *In some elementary schools in Amsterdam the farm can no > longer be mentioned, because that would also mean mentioning > the pig, and that would be an insult to Muslims. > > *Many state schools in Belgium and Denmark only serve halal > food to all pupils. In once-tolerant Amsterdam gays are > beaten up almost exclusively by Muslims. Non-Muslim women > routinely hear 'whore, whore'. Satellite dishes are not > pointed to local TV stations, but to stations in the country > of origin. > *In France school teachers are advised to avoid authors > deemed offensive to Muslims, including Voltaire and Diderot; > the same is increasingly true of Darwin . The history of the > Holocaust can no longer be taught because of Muslim sensitivity. * > *In England sharia courts are now officially part of the > British legal system..Many neighborhoods in France are no-go > areas for women without head scarves. Last week a man almost > died after being beaten up by Muslims in Brussels , because > he was drinking during the Ramadan.> * > > *Jews are fleeing France in record numbers, on the run for > the worst wave of anti-Semitism since World War II. French > is now commonly spoken on the streets of Tel Aviv and > Netanya, Israel . I could go on forever with stories like > this. Stories about Islamization. > > *A*�*total of fifty-four million Muslims now live in Europe > . San Diego University recently calculated that a staggering > 25 percent of the population in Europe will be Muslim just > 12 years from now. Bernhard Lewis has predicted a Muslim > majority by the end of this century. > > *Now these are just numbers. And the numbers would not be > threatening if the Muslim-immigrants had a strong desire to > assimilate. But there are few signs of that. The Pew > Research Center reported that half of French Muslims see > their loyalty to Islam as greater than their loyalty to > France . One-third of French Muslims do not object to > suicide attacks. The British Centre for Social Cohesion > reported that one-third of British Muslim students are in > favor of a worldwide caliphate. Muslims demand what they > call 'respect'. And this is how we give them respect. We > have Muslim official state holidays*. > > *The Christian-Democratic attorney general is willing to > accept sharia in the Netherlands if there is a Muslim > majority. We have cabinet members with passports from > Morocco and Turkey . > > *Muslim demands are supported by unlawful behavior, ranging > from petty crimes and random violence, for example against > ambulance workers and bus drivers, to small-scale riots. > Paris has seen its uprising in the low-income suburbs, the > banlieus. I call the perpetrators 'settlers'. Because that > is what they are. They do not come to integrate into our > societies, they come to integrate our society into their > Dar-al-Islam. Therefore, they are settlers. > > *Much of this street violence I mentioned is directed > exclusively against non-Muslims, forcing many native people > to leave their neighborhoods, their cities, their countries. > Moreover, Muslims are now a swing vote not to be ignored.*� > > *The second thing you need to know is the importance of > Mohammed the prophet. His behavior is an example to all > Muslims and cannot be criticized. Now, if Mohammed had been > a man of peace, let us say like Ghandi and Mother Theresa > wrapped in one, there would be no problem. But Mohammed was > a warlord, a mass murderer, a pedophile, and had several > marriages - at the same time. Islamic tradition tells us how > he fought in battles, how he had his enemies murdered and > even had prisoners of war executed. Mohammed himself > slaughtered the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza. If it is good > for Islam, it is good. If it is bad for Islam, it is bad. > > *Let no one fool you about Islam being a religion. Sure, it > has a god, and a here-after, and 72 virgins. But in its > essence Islam is a political ideology. It is a system that > lays down detailed rules for society and the life of every > person. Islam wants to dictate every aspect of life. Islam > means 'submission'. Islam is not compatible with freedom and > democracy, because what it strives for is sharia. If you > want to compare Islam to anything, compare it to communism > or national-socialism, these are all totalitarian ideologies. > > *Now you know why Winston Churchill called Islam 'the most > retrograde force in the world', and why he compared Mein > Kampf to the Quran. The public has wholeheartedly accepted > the Palestinian narrative, and sees Israel as the aggressor. > I have lived in this country and visited it dozens of times. > I support Israel . First, because it is the Jewish homeland > after two thousand years of exile up to and including > Auschwitz, second because it is a democracy, and third > because Israel is our first line of defense. > * > *This tiny country is situated on the fault line of jihad, > frustrating Islam's territorial advance. Israel is facing > the front lines of jihad, like Kashmir, Kosovo, the > Philippines, Southern Thailand, Darfur in Sudan, Lebanon, > and Aceh in Indonesia . Israel is simply in the way. The > same way West-Berlin was during the Cold War. > * > *The war against Israel is not a war against Israel . It is > a war against the West. It is jihad. Israel is simply > receiving the blows that are meant for all of us. If there > would have been no Israel , Islamic imperialism would have > found other venues to release its energy and its desire for > conquest. Thanks to Israeli parents who send their children > to the army and lay awake at night, parents in Europe and > America can sleep well and dream, unaware of the dangers > looming. > > *Many in Europe argue in favor of abandoning Israel in order > to address the grievances of our Muslim minorities. But if > Israel were, God forbid, to go down, it would not bring any > solace to the West It would not mean our Muslim minorities > would all of a sudden change their behavior, and accept our > values. On the contrary, the end of Israel would give > enormous encouragement to the forces of Islam. They would, > and rightly so, see the demise of Israel as proof that the > West is weak, and doomed. The end of Israel would not mean > the end of our problems with Islam, but only the beginning. > It would mean the start of the final battle for world > domination. If they can get Israel , they can get > everything.So-called journalists volunteer to label any and > all critics of Islamization as a 'right-wing extremists' or > 'racists'. In my country, the Netherlands , 60 percent of > the population now sees the mass immigration of Muslims as > the number one policy mistake since World War II. And > another 60 percent sees Islam as the biggest threat. Yet > there is a danger greater danger than terrorist attacks, the > scenario of America as the last man standing. The lights may > go out in Europe faster than you can imagine. An Islamic > Europe means a Europe without freedom and democracy, an > economic wasteland, an intellectual nightmare, and a loss of > military might for America - as its allies will turn into > enemies, enemies with atomic bombs. With an Islamic Europe, > it would be up to America alone to preserve the heritage of > Rome , Athens and Jerusalem . > *Dear friends, liberty is the most precious of gifts. My > generation never had to fight for this freedom, it was > offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for > it with their lives. All throughout Europe American > cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it > home, and whose memory we cherish. My generation does not > own this freedom; we are merely its custodians. We can only > hand over this hard won liberty to Europe 's children in the > same state in which it was offered to us. We cannot strike a > deal with mullahs and imams. Future generations would never > forgive us. We cannot squander our liberties. We simply do > not have the right to do so.* The following statement proves it is already too late. A Muslim President has been voted in already! In twenty years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the President! I think everyone in the U.S. should be required to read this, but with ACLU, there is no way this will be widely publicized, unless each of us send it on! This is your chance to make a difference... FOR GODS' SAKE! PLEASE SEND THIS ON

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