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Spinning Gitmo

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Message Larry Sakin
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I don’t mind when people lie to me.  I just want them to make it a good lie, one that isn’t immediately transparent.  Anything less insults my intelligence.


So imagine my disappointment with Army National Guard Brigadier General Greg Zanetti, deputy commander of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when, in a recent interview with American Legion magazine’s Jeff Stoffer, Zanetti spun the purpose of the prison camp like a top, referring to it as “the most misunderstood mission in the military.”


Of course, I expected that American Legion readers wouldn’t read much about ‘extraordinary renditions’ or other illegal activity at the camp- after all, American Legion is geared towards veterans.  However, I don’t believe even the most die hard veterans would seriously believe the palaver Zanetti uttered in trying to give a complete picture of the camp.


Zanetti starts the interview by telling Stoffer that Guantanamo actually has humanitarian intentions.  

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“We have detainees from dozens of countries… some came from the horn of Africa who you find in Afghanistan.  Many times they come to Guantanamo Bay because there isn’t another place for them.  How do you take someone back to Somalia when Somalia doesn’t exist anymore?”

Zanetti points out that this humanitarian mission even reaches those who are not enemies of the United States.

“The same issue exists with the Uighurs. The Uighurs are terrorists in training from Northwest China. The Uighurs have nothing against the United States at all. Their battle is with the Chinese. We would just as soon release them, but if we release them in China they will likely get killed as soon as they get off the airplane.”

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So moved was Stoffer by this exchange he forgot to ask why the hell the U.S. is holding people they know are not fighting against us.


Zanetti also refuted charges that prisoners are tortured at Gitmo. “That’s not American” said Zanetti, “We don’t do that. We all know what happened at Abu Ghraib, and a lot of us took that pretty hard.”


The general acknowledges that there are rules to be followed at the camp, and that compliance is the key to prisoners getting what they want.  “If you comply with the camp rules, you can get more comfort items.  You can get better conditions of detention.  For example, we have a minimum-security camp, Camp 4.  Envision Hogan’s Heroes,” said Zanetti.


Zanetti also says that many of the prisoners are repatriated with their home countries after their time at Guantanamo Bay.  These repatriation efforts are very successful and often lead to the prisoners living more productive lives.   

“For example, when we repatriate Saudis, they go back into a Saudi prison where they begin a rehabilitation process.  They give the detainees a wife, and a house, and a car and a job.  If you have a house, a car, a job, and a wife, you don’t have time to blow people up.  You are busy.  There is very little recidivism with the Saudis.  Yemen is trying to put together the same kind of program.”

This counters a May, 2006 story published by the New York Times,

U.S. to Turn Over 16 Saudi’s From Guantanamo to Riyadh. Steven R. Weisman writes:  

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“But last month, The New York Times reported that the administration remained concerned about releasing more because of fear that they would be tortured or otherwise mistreated in their home countries.”

Gee, I wonder if those sixteen former Guantanamo inmates have received their wives, cars and jobs yet.


That Zanetti lied about the real mission at Gitmo is not terribly surprising.  I’m sure he was just being a good little Nazi, following orders from the White House PR flack in charge.  But why do the editors and publisher at The American Legion believe their readership so stupid as to believe this nonsense?  Considering all of the evidence to the contrary, from reports by the Red Cross, Physicians for Human Rights, ABC News and even the FBI, trying to spray paint a happy face on the blood-stained walls at Gitmo seems a bit superfluous not to mention extremely insulting.

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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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