Guantanamo detainees get a dose of culture

Miami HeraldNovember 23, 2008 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Prison camp staff will soon start offering art and geology classes to long-held war-on-terrorism detainees. English is now being taught as military jailers tinker with how to distract captured jihadists.

President-elect Barack Obama may be pledging to empty the controversial prison camps of the 250 men called enemy combatants, but absent an evacuation order from the White House, the military is planning for the long haul on this, the lone American outpost on Communist soil.

''We want to keep their brains stimulated. We're not here to give degrees,'' says Zak, an Arab American who serves as the prison camps' cultural advisor, a secular job. "Once they are engaged and busy, they leave the guards alone.''

Plans include hand-held Game Boy-like electronic games to circulate through the cells, newspapers from Cairo, more ''movie nights'' featuring videotaped sports and expanded lessons in English as a second language.

The idea is to help men captured across the globe think for themselves. The one thing they most want to learn, says Zak: "When am I going home?''

But change comes slowly to this 45-square-mile U.S. Navy base bunkered behind a Cuban minefield with small-town amenities and the population to match: fewer than 10,000 troops and their families, foreign laborers and U.S. government civilian support staff.

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