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Guantanamo's muscular correction


                                                                    A Washington Post correction Oct. 23, 2013.


Finally, a justified correction on language use at Guantanamo. For the record, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, Guantanamo's longtime spokesperson for the Joint Task Force GTMO, is indeed muscular, not "thickset." There's a saying among troops at Guantanamo that you either leave "hunk, chunk or drunk," (there's not much to do in your spare time on the island other than work out, eat, or drink).

Well, who did I see at 4:45 a.m. working out to the latest fitness craze known as "Insanity" one August morning in Guantanamo's media hangar? That's right, that's Durand jumping about.



Public Affairs Officers during a pre-dawn work out in Guantanamo's media hangar in August 2013. MICHELLE SHEPHARD /  TORONTO STAR


Here's a recent photo courtesy the Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg of Durand (left) and his replacement, Navy Commander John Filostrat, who recently took over the post.


If you'd like more evidence for the "thickset" vs. "muscular" debate, the Daily Mail dug further, posting Facebook photos of Durand in a wetsuit beside his equally slender wife, at a race finish line, and at his 1990 wedding (he appears muscular then, too).

The Washington Post article that required the correction featured Durand's unenviable task of improving Guantanamo's image.

Managing the message at Guantanamo has been an issue since the Pentagon released the first images of the detainees in Camp X-Ray's outdoor pens, which were replaced by permanent facilities four months later. Journalists touring Guantanamo are shown the spot where that 2002 photo was taken — a none-too-subtle suggestion for the before and after shot.

Here you go (although not from the exact same spot), Camp X-Ray then:

                                                                                                   U.S. NAVY PHOTO: SHANE T. McCOY


Camp X-Ray Now:

 A banana rat roams through Camp X-Ray in 2009     MICHELLE SHEPHARD/ TORONTO STAR

What is refreshing and yet so amusing about the Washington Post correction is that it concerns Durand's physical description, not Guantanamo's.

In past years public affairs officials may have bristled about the Post's headline that refers to Gitmo's "prison camp." One former commander in particular liked to correct journalists who didn't refer to Guantanamo as a "detention centre" and prisoners as "detainees." (The significance is that prisoners of war are afforded Geneva Convention rights that Guantanamo detainees were not.)

Other word wars include: "enteral feeding" instead of force feeding; "asymmetric warfare" instead of suicides; and my personal favourite, circa 2006, "reservations" instead of interrogations.

To Durand's credit, he never engaged us with such Gitmo doubletalk.  

Just don't call him "thickset."

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm


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