Do as we say, not as we do: the US has shown profound interest in the treatment of political prisoners since American service men and women began falling into Iraqi hands. Yet nobody in Washington seems to want to discuss the Geneva Convention when it comes the 650 "detainees" being held in Cuba.

Author:Luxner, Larry
Position:Guantanamo
 
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Welcome to Camp Delta," said US Army Col. Adolph McQueen, as he cheerfully greeted two reporters at the outer gates of the prison camp housing 650 unhappy captives of America's war on terrorism.

The bright blue waters of the Caribbean beckoned just beyond the prison's edge, yet once inside Camp Delta, the only colours around were tan, beige and the camouflage green of the guards' uniforms and M-16 rifles.

Occasionally, we would also glimpse a few bearded inmates in their orange jumpsuits and black prayer caps, being transported in handcuffs and leg irons from one place to another.

All 650 of these so-called "unlawful enemy combatants" are alleged to be members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Yet unlike PoWs, they do not have access to lawyers, nor have they been formally charged with any crime.

"We leave this block empty so we can refine our training techniques," explained McQueen, as he dispersed a group of 15 or 20 soldiers engaged in a top-secret training exercise.

McQueen proudly showed us a heavy metal mesh "detention unit" measuring 8ft long, 7ft wide and 8ft high. These units consist of a metal bed frame raised off the floor, a Turkish toilet and a stainless-steel sink--"lower to the ground to help accommodate foot-washing for Muslim prayer needs," according to a Camp Delta fact sheet.

An arrow indelibly stencilled on each bed points towards Mecca and records the exact distance to Islam's holiest city at 12,793km.

It's not clear how many of Camp Delta's inmates know they are at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since journalists may not interview detainees or even get close to them. But one thing is certain: unless they cooperate with their interrogators, these unlucky men will not be getting out of there anytime soon.

"Every detainee in this camp is a threat to the United States," declared Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, in an interview last month. "We have already exploited quite a bit of intelligence. We are in the business of looking for golden threads and links, and every day we get something new."

As the base long known as Gitmo marks its 100th anniversary this year, critics warn that it may become a permanent dumping ground for anyone the Bush administration wishes to permanently deprive of judicial review.

"The United States has devised a criminal jurisdiction whereby we can lease property anywhere in the world and create a Devil's Island where individuals have no access to the US...

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