Starbucks at Guantanamo Bay?

Spotted in this Washington Post article about terror suspects interrogated "under duress at secret prisons":

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it intends to bring capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

The admissions made by the men -- who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- played a key role in the government's decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

Emphasis added. The NYT's The Lede blog digs deeper, uncovers an In These Times article, and reminds us that there's also a "Starbucks, a McDonalds, a combined Subway-Pizza Hut, a Wal-Mart-like big box store called the Nex and a gift shop" on the Guantanamo base.

Photo: "Un Buen Cafe," by Victor Nuno, found on Flickr.


  1. The Nex is the Navy Exchange Service. Every military installation has something similar (NEX or AAFES).

    Same with the McDonald’s, the Pizza Hut, and the gift shop, though the Starbucks is new to me.

  2. No big surprise here actually…you’d expect this kind of stuff on military bases. The Navy Exchange rules! Cheaper prices and no sales tax.

  3. This is interesting in light of comments by Alfred W. McCoy in the video David Pescovitz posted earlier, citing the effectiveness of empathy based interrogation – as practised by US interrogators in post WW2 Japan. Makes you wonder why they didn’t use ‘the clean team’ in the first place.

  4. My employer provides both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Just the beans, though, not the franchise stores.

  5. Wait, why is this news? Of course that stuff is on a military base, it’s on all military bases. Not for the people being held, I’m sure, but for the service members stationed there.

  6. With the passage ot retreo active imunity we are now effectively a police state. This move is to kill these detainees is because they cannot bring them to trial without exposing themselves to charges of torture and they cannot let them go either. So the solution is, kill ’em.

  7. Remember the Camp Delta operating manual?

    [part of the new arrivals process]
    “Styrofoam cups must be confiscated if prisoners have written on them, apparently because prisoners have used cups to pass notes to other captives. `If the cup is damaged or destroyed, the detainee will be disciplined for destruction of government property,’ the rules say.”

    I guess they don’t get Starbucks in those styrofoam cups, though.

  8. What kind of stuff could you get at a Guantanamo gift shop?

    Logo’d sensory deprivation hoods?

    clothes that say “I was detained without trial in Guantanamo, and all I got was this lousy galabiyya”

    Really loud stereo systems?

    Decorative waterboards?

  9. People…

    This is nuts. And it is very possible that this article is misrepresenting some basic information.

    I work for Starbucks. They have a donation program that allows people to donate bags of beans to the military. If there’s any way Starbucks coffee is ending up at our military bases, it’s likely from generous people who are donating it.


  10. on the smallest bases in Iraq itself you can almost bet that there will be a Starbucks, McD’s etc. it does help keep a little part of Americana close when you’re deployed (gotta have that trans fat and fructose corn syrup to feel close to home).

    and the stuff in the gift shop is usually out of date magazines, t shirts, mugs, and small personal stuff.

  11. So these maybe 9-11, terrorist guys admitted stuff because they were given food when they were hungry (big macs), and maybe some starbucks coffee? Why are messing around with all this waterboarding and torture stuff then?

  12. torture was relatively rare up til then, they probably couldn’t withstand the temptation when the opportunity emerged

  13. @ #11 – I heard an interview with a former detainee where he talked about the guards and prisoners challenging each other as to who could turn a styrofoam cup inside out without breaking it. Maybe more such little interactions foster a degree of Stockholm syndrome. I wonder if that can flow both directions, btw?

  14. The Starbuck’s probably is not from an on-base cafe. I don’t recall ever seeing a store on any of the bases I’ve been on, although I do think that Dunkin’ Donuts has franchises on some military bases. You can definitely buy Starbuck’s beans at the commissary, though. Interestingly, that means the interrogators would have to grind & brew the coffee themselves before serving it up to the detainees.

  15. They get the beans from the prefab shop that’s sitting in pieces on the freighter that’s waiting to dock in Havana as soon as Fidel dies…

  16. @fordprefect: making it coffee from downtown havana?

    Nothing really new here, all the US armed forces bases I’ve been to in Europe serve Starbucks coffee, as well as having at least a few different other franchises starting from Popeye’s chicken to Taco Bell… Same in downtown Baghdad, so why not Guantanamo?

  17. I found this disturbing. Guantanamo is out of reach to US justice and International justice and not to Starbucks, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut??? How could these consumer brands endorse, even indirectly what is going on at Guantanamo (torture, arbitrary detention)? No more Starbuck’s or Big macs for me.

  18. The article notes that during the “clean” phase of interrogation from 2006 onwards the men “were given food whenever they were hungry”. Presumably during the “dirty” phase of interrogation (from 2003–2006) this was not the case.

    Extracting a confession under torture, and then making the prisoner repeat it, apparently freely, but really under threat of further torture, has been a common feature of oppressive regimes from the Inquisition to the Stalinist show trials that need to pay lip service to the rule of law.

  19. I would make the worst captive terrorist ever. If they even so much as looked at me cross-eyed I would spill my guts like Chunk on Goonies.

    “…But the worst thing I ever done, I mixed up fake puke at home…”

    The quicker I tell them everything the quicker I can go back to my cell and enjoy my venti dark roasts.

  20. Guantanamo bay is home to a military base which has been there for many decades, as well as the prison that has been in the news so much lately.

    When people talk these days about closing Guantanamo bay, they’re talking about closing the prison. The chances of the military base being closed are exactly nil.

    But you all know this, right? You wouldn’t be outraged about something you really don’t know very much about, would you?

  21. CoffeeBoarding!

    This is amusing. I can’t even get a starbucks in my city (admittedly I live in the least hip city in America).

  22. Bear in mind that before Gitmo began serving as a semi-legal prison camp for “unlawful combatants,” it was a plain-old military base. The fact that it has a McDonalds and commisaries and the like isn’t really all that surprising.

  23. @mastercontroller: At Danang, all we had was the log ride. Oh, how we longed for a Ferris Wheel…

    Seriously, though – these are the same asshats who read GitMo menus at Senate hearings and then ordered waterboarding. This is their counter to the accusations of torture: “See – we don’t need to beat them up! All they need is a good meal and little down home commercialism and these guys will completely sell out their beliefs!”

    That sounds way more disarming than “Well, they told us what we wanted to hear after a year of daily torture…”

  24. My impression is the military PX and food system has been supplanted by large-scale outside fast food providers for years. Like those stories we’ve all heard about Taco Bell and McDonalds setting up mobile units to feed the troops in Iraq.

    It’s a bit crazy that not only are local small businesses dying, but also traditional “mom & pop” stuff in the military seems to be disappearing as well.

    Yeah, the grammar on the last sentence is a bit off, but corporate infiltration of this world on all levels is a bit disturbing.

  25. AAFES is basically the military’s general store on base.

    Anywhere there are US soldiers stationed in the world, there is an AAFES store. There soldiers can buy the various comforts of home. Snickers bars, coke, jeans, hot rod magazines, coffee cups, etc.

    I used to be a supplier for AAFES throughout the Balkans and MidEast theaters of operation.

    Sometimes these stores are just the back of a semi truck. Sometimes they are the size of a Wal-Mart (like the one at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.)

    Usually there is a Burger King attached (not usually a McDonald’s, for some reason). The idea is to give the guys some comforts of home, in an otherwise hostile location.

    So Starbucks at Gitmo? Well duh! I guarantee the AAFES store there has American Apparel and Gildan t-shirts, Playboy magazine, Levi’s jeans, and a thousand other name-brand items.

    Why *shouldn’t* Starbucks be there? They sell a million pounds of coffee to the US Military, and the US Military distributes it to the bases.

    So what?

  26. You mean I have to boycott Burger King, Coke, Playboy, Levi’s, and Snickers now? How dare they sell things to people with political views that may be different than mine.

  27. Congrats, there’s a Starbucks!

    Now shut the damn base down.

    I’m doing some work with a site called On Day One, which was created by the Better World Fund to encourage a discussion about what the next president should do on day one, and one idea I’m promoting in shutting Gitmo down.

    The next president needs to shut Guantanamo down on day one!

  28. Moral of story: pretend you’re buddies with someone so that you can get enough on them to hang them?

    Wow. Frat ethics. (Sorry Fratters, what I *really* meant was …)

  29. If you put this shit in a movie people would never believe it.

    Quentin Crisp said it best:

    If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist.

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