The Sweet Taste of Liberty

Until June 14, Camp Gitmo, the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a controversial prison—to some, a necessary response to the war on terror; to others, a Bermuda Triangle of legal rights where suspected terrorists serve indeterminate sentences—but still, in pretty much everyone’s mind, a prison. Then, Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, likened the interrogation techniques that Guantanamo’s proprietors sometimes employ to those used “by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime.” Critics of this assessment responded quickly, emphatically, and with a surprising degree of culinary discernment. Not only was Guantanamo not a gulag, they insisted, it was actually a world-class vacation resort and a great place to eat.

Rush Limbaugh dubbed it Club Gitmo, “a one-of-a-kind resort on the west coast of Cuba overlooking the bay” that served as a “tropical retreat from the stress of Jihad.” Dick Cheney took his cues from Limbaugh, claiming that the prison’s detainees were “living in the tropics” with “everything they could possibly want.” Duncan Hunter, a Republican congressman from California, lauded Gitmo’s spa-caliber cuisine and the kitchen staff’s free hand with portions. Detainees get “double vegetables and two types of fruit,” he boasted. “The inmates in Guantanamo have never eaten better, they’ve never been treated better, and they’ve never been more comfortable in their lives than in this situation.”

Throw in two fifteen-minute showers a week, spacious eight-foot-by-eight-foot detention suites, and some relaxing enforced solitude, and, well, you can see why the editors at Condé Nast Traveler are kicking themselves for ranking this suicide-optional luxury hideaway so low on their 2005 Hot List. If anything, though, even Gitmo’s most avid boosters have been selling the place short. Why? Because along with the sumptuous chow and the breezy island ambiance, there’s also enough booze at Gitmo to drown the French Quarter. “On average, people will increase their alcohol consumption by three hundred percent when they come here,” explained combat stress control specialist Sgt. Michelle Olson in an article recently published by the American Forces Press Service.

The prisoners’ favorite drink? The Gitmojito, of course. A refreshing twist on one of Cuba’s signature cocktails, it’s made with fresh spearmint leaves, limes, sugar, rum, and a generous splash of urine. Okay, just kidding there. Guantanamo detainees are sometimes rewarded with candy and ice cream, but alcohol is strictly reserved for U.S. military personnel. Why are the guards so thirsty? Not because of stress, that’s for sure. Instead, as Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney could tell you, it’s because this parched, semi-arid paradise, with its lush bowers of razor wire and acres of pristine land mines, is even more fun when you’re not chained to the floor and forced to crap on yourself. Still, an important question remains: Are Gitmo’s bartenders using premium rum, like Bambu or 10 Cane? If not, then somebody call Amnesty International! Plain old Bacardi Superior is torture.

—Greg Beato