Oppressed Christians: Looking for a five-star holiday?
Have we got a deal for you!
Don’t laugh, folks. Our Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could just be poised to become the country’s hottest tourist destination for folks of faith.
It’s hard to see how it could lose, since it’s being promoted by America’s hottest new tourism entrepreneurs -- Alabama’s Senator Jeff Sessions and California congressman Duncan Hunter, chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee. It’s got a business plan, a high-profile Board of Directors, and all the other bells and whistles of a venture capitalist’s dream.
And Sessions and Hunter and their colleagues aren’t being a bit bashful about selling the idea -- with taxpayers’ money.
Senator Sessions made his first pitch during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The Navy’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he gushed, is ideally placed, “overlooking the water…It would make a beautiful resort.” Obviously looking for endorsements from influential opinion leaders, he urged his fellow senators to be sure to pay a visit soon, courtesy of the Defense Department.
A day earlier, in a U.S. Capitol meeting room, Sen. Sessions’ partner, Rep. Hunter, gave the press a peek at GITMO’s five-star cuisine: Lemon fish, two types of fruit, two types of vegetables. “This is lemon fish,” he told a press conference. “And this is what the 20th hijacker [of the September 11th attacks] and Osama bin Laden's bodyguards will be eating this week in Guantanamo,” he added.
And, as if the idyllic Caribbean views and all this healthy grub wasn’t enough, we learn from Rep. Hunter that the management is throwing in invaluable incentives: A Koran in every bed table (guaranteed dry), oil, beads, slippers, and five supervised prayer services daily (rugs included).
But that ain’t all! For every carefree night you while away at GITMO, you earn points on your FAP program. FAP is GITMO’s Frequent Abuse Program. This qualifies you for free upgrades on the CIA Gulfstream to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other popular ‘rendition’ destinations, and deep-discount trips to Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Base.
Seeking to dispel what may be GITMO’s few remaining negative images, Rep. Hunter assures us there is no real abuse “unless you consider eating chicken three times a week real torture.”
Other members of the resort’s new Board of Directors are also weighing in. At a news briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted that “at Guantanamo, the military spends more per meal for detainees” than it does on rations for U.S. troops. Rummie assures us that this level of extravagance will continue.
Then there are the spiritual benefits. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh paints the detention center as the picture of religious freedom that “may be a great vacation spot for oppressed Christians in the United States.”
So who could resist? It may take a tad longer to get rid of GITMO’s present tenants, but trust me, it’ll be well worth the wait.
Finally, all you B-School types need to know about the most fun part of the business plan. Sessions and Hunter are thinking about franchising their GITMO-By-The-Sea idea to rich Middle East business tycoons as a way to spread democracy and market-based capitalism in the Muslim world.
William Fisher writes for InterPress News Service. He has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area during the Kennedy Administration.
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