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Location: Oaksterdam, California

Friday, June 17, 2005

Gitmo Happy Meals

I once visited Alcatraz and this interesting fact always stuck with me about the prisoner's menu:
Historically, many prison riots had been started because of the poor quality of prison food so Warden Johnston vowed that the Alcatraz cafeteria would be the best in the prison system. Prisoners of Alcatraz dined on a menu of salads, fresh fruit, diverse entrees and even desserts.

The guards ate the same food which would sometimes includes items like asparagus. However it you went in to solitary confinement you still got your meals and beverages, including coffee, after it had all been mixed togeteher, passed through a blender, and put in the refrigerator for a few hours.

A lot of people have commented on the recent Gitmo Happy Meal offensive by Donald McRumsfeld. I like this bit by Jon Caroll:
Gitmo: Donald Rumsfeld felt compelled this week to say that things were just wonderful at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, contrary to what certain whiners may have been saying. He made special mention of the menu there, which he says is proof that the prisoners are being treated well.

A California congressman had revealed earlier that the prisoners were treated to glazed orange chicken, rice pilaf and fresh fruit. It does, of course, depend on what the chicken was glazed with -- still, I am happy to stipulate that the food is better at Gitmo than in a sodden slum basement hideout. Of course, we're not sure whether all or even most of the people at Gitmo were ever actually in a sodden slum basement hideout.

But truthfully, it's not Gitmo that worries me. There is some public oversight there, and I am sure that 98 percent of the American soldiers working there are decent men and women who take human rights abuses seriously. What worries me is the "gulag" (Amnesty International's word, not mine) of American-run prisons in accommodating nations all around the globe.

The Bush administration does not even admit that these prisons exist. The people who have relatives there cannot get confirmation that their loved ones are even alive. There is no oversight, so we may fairly assume that these secret hellholes make Abu Ghraib look like the Hyatt Regency. There is no due process, there is no habeas corpus, there is no anything.

When this happened in the Soviet Union and Communist China, we were quick to reveal it and condemn it. Now that we're doing it, we're content to repeat "national security" over and over again, much like the Communist bureaucrats who preceded us.

I can remember when I thought that, overall, being an American was a pretty cool thing.

I remember that too.