- By Catherine A. TraywickCatherine A. Traywick is a fellow at Foreign Policy.
Guantánamo Bay’s reputation as the dark heart of America’s war on terror tends to overshadow its more banal role as a naval base — filled with troops, their families and, to a lesser extent, their pretty, pretty cars.
Late last month, the base organized a car show for its residents to show off their wheels while enjoying the temperate Caribbean climate. “From POV to Command, we want you! Get that auto shinned up and ready for show. Categories to include: GTMO Specials, Classics, Motorcycles, Cars, Trucks, and last but not least Command Vehicles,” Gitmo’s Morale, Readiness, and Welfare organization announced.
According to the account of the event that ran in the Wire, the base newsletter, engines roared, “gargantuan bass sound systems” rumbled, and polished chrome tail pipes gleamed. (In some other corner of the base, Gitmo’s roughly 160 detainees continued their indefinite incarceration. Could they hear the rumbling of the bass?)
As far as car shows go, Gitmo’s was a standard affair. Event-goers voted for best in show in each category, and a 2001 Mustang Cobra entered by Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Morrell was a particlar crowd favorite. “It’s American muscle, that’s it,” Andrews told the Wire.
In 2012, the Navy Ball Committee at Gitmo staged a similar event to raise money for their annual birthday ball. Entries included: “a Datsun 240Z, a Mercedes-Benz E350, an Infiniti G35S, a Toyota Celica, a Mazda RX-8, and several of the ever-present Ford Mustangs.” In the end, the Infiniti G35S was awarded best in show. Attendees also competed in a Humvee-pulling contest and, for a small fee, got to smash an abandoned truck with a sledgehammer.
The Navy covers the cost of shipping personal vehicles to troops permanently stationed overseas. Gitmo has about 1,500 personally owned vehicles, and new ones arrive by barge every two weeks. Unfortunately for many of the car show contendors, vehicles older than 1999, the Navy warns, “will encounter difficulties if maintenance is required.” Because, while Guantánamo may have a world class prison library, it suffers from a real dearth of German auto repair shops.
For Gitmo residents who’d rather not spend their Saturday walking around a car parking lot, the island offers other pastimes. For example, the local theater is screening “The Fifth Estate.” But be warned: The Wire‘s reviewer gave it just two out of five “banana rats.” The base also has a ceramics shop and a go-kart track. Sure beats reading quietly in soundproof, steel-plated cells.
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| The Complex |
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |