02/11/13 - The State - Guantanamo is used for massmigration scenario training by US military
But the exact nature of the scenario how many migrants flood the base,
whether there s unrest, disease, spies in the tent camps is all
classified. Only Pentagon-approved photos of the exercise will be
released, and the people involved in acting out the episode from here to
Miami to Washington, D.C., are sworn to secrecy.
That s because nobody wants news about it to touch off a real, live
Caribbean exodus. The intent, say organizers, is not to encourage anyone
in the Caribbean to get on rafts to reach this Navy base in southeast
Cuba, but to be ready in case it happens.
Is the scenario driven by political unrest or a natural disaster?
All Army Col. Greg Julian, spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, will
say is that this 21st century war-game is about a mass migration event in
One thing they ll rehearse is registering 1,000 migrants in a single day.
And if history is any guide, the actors should cram inside the processing
tent desperate, undocumented and disorganized.
We certainly wouldn t want to instigate a real event, said Julian from
Southcom, which is spending $2.7 million on the exercise, nearly half of
it on transportation for troops and supplies from its Army South
headquarters in San Antonio, Texas.
So, We generally won t use a nation. We use country 1, country 2
because we don t want to get into any political issues.
The exercise is occurring less than a month after Cuba abandoned a policy
of requiring citizens to get exit visas to leave the island legally.
But so far, the U.S. government has detected no spike or anything of
Cubans trying to reach U.S. soil either by land or sea, said a federal
official who spoke on condition he not be named because he was not
authorized to discuss the Pentagon s drill.
The drill was planned long before Cuba changed its exit-visa policy, with
U.S. government divisions that would answer to the Department of Homeland
Security rehearsing a reaction to whatever that push factor is going to
be, from political activity to natural disaster.
It helps us to make sure all the ducks are in a row, Julian added, if
and when we have to kick this off for real.
The International Organization for Migration is taking part; the
International Committee of the Red Cross is not.
Meantime, just to make sure there s no misunderstandings, the Navy captain
in charge of the base here used the occasion of his monthly meeting with a
Cuban Army officer at the U.S. Marine Corps fence line to notify the
military across the minefield of the reason for the U.S. troop build-up.
Planners decided against erecting model tent cities for migrants around
rows of cinder-block bathrooms and showers the Bush administration had a
contractor build in scrubby fields on the base in 2007, just in case. But
there s a razor-wire-ringed command-and-control center for Army Maj. Gen.
Frederick Rudesheim the Army South commander in charge of troops
reacting to fake news reports prepared by a training unit in Norfolk, Va.,
featuring fake TV anchors introducing fake interviews interspersed with
real historical footage.
With U.S. forces in constant rotation, to work together in an exercise
before we actually have to do it in a real world situation is very
important, said Army Col. Jane Crichton, leading the public affairs
portion of the exercise what you tell the world, what images you
Exercising doing simulation is harder than what you d do in reality, the
colonel added, because they re compressing a potential crisis spanning
weeks or months into days.
This 45-square-mile base mostly looks like a small town with a McDonalds,
pleasure-boat marina and two free open-air movie theaters.
But it has long served as a U.S. military safe haven in the Caribbean.
In 2010, the State Department used its airstrip as a massive way station
of relief supplies to quake-shattered Haiti. Between 1984 and 1986,
Guantánamo sheltered more than 50,000 Haitians and Cubans from the golf
course to a stretch of land overlooking the sea where they d been picked
up fleeing their nations.
Now the Pentagon s prison for 166 captives has become part of the routine
run by 1,700 U.S. military and civilian contractors, atop the place that
provided safe haven in the 1980s.
So on the Windward side of the base this weekend, sailors and other
residents spent the weekend fishing on the bay, at the beaches or cruising
the waters in recreation boats from an $8.9 million marina rebuilt after
Hurricane Sandy smashed up the place.
On the Leeward side, the atmosphere bristled with purpose flights
discharged relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks for the latest
pre-trial hearings at the war-crimes tribunals while, just beyond the
airstrip, Army South was conjuring up classified challenges of a faux
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