Artists Call: Teach at Gitmo!

"Bagram" - Mark Vallen. Oil on masonite. 2009. © 17.5 x 24 inches.

"Bagram" - Mark Vallen. Oil on masonite. 2009. © 17.5 x 24 inches.

The Joint Task Force U.S. military authorities at Guantánamo Bay have announced employment opportunities at the famed Guantánamo Bay detention and interrogation camp located inside the luxurious Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. The facility, commonly known as Gitmo (but called the “gulag of our times” by Amnesty International), is interested in contractors that can provide seminars in Art, Literacy, Science, Horticulture, Nutrition, and “life skills” to those 166 internees currently being held indefinitely in the camp. Most of the prisoners have not been charged with a crime or have been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Since my web log is dedicated to art and social change, I will focus on the art teaching position now being offered at Guantánamo. The Detainee Library and Seminar Services Contract offers the following job description for the camp art teacher:

“The contractor shall develop, implement and teach an Art seminar. At a minimum, the Art seminar shall include water color painting, charcoal sketching, Arabic calligraphy, acrylic painting and pastel painting. Additional topics may be added with the [Contracting Officer Representative] COR written approval.”

While everyone, even President Obama himself, seems to have forgotten that Senator Obama campaigned for president in 2008 with his Platform In Support Of The Arts, I have not failed to recall that not a single promise in that document has been kept. If artists are given teaching jobs at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, that might come closest to fulfilling the Promote Cultural Diplomacy plank, which reads as follows:

“American artists, performers and thinkers – representing our values and ideals – can inspire people both at home and all over the world. Through efforts like that of the United States Information Agency, America’s cultural leaders were deployed around the world during the Cold War as artistic ambassadors and helped win the war of ideas by demonstrating to the world the promise of America.

Artists can be utilized again to help us win the war of ideas against Islamic extremism. Unfortunately, our resources for cultural diplomacy are at their lowest level in a decade. Barack Obama will work to reverse this trend and improve and expand public-private partnerships to expand cultural and arts exchanges throughout the world.”

While appreciating that many qualified female art instructors will be interested in the job, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo regrets to announce that “Due to cultural and religious considerations, seminars shall be given by a male instructor.”

As of this writing, 103 of the 166 detainees are on a protest hunger strike, and four have been hospitalized. 41 detainees are currently being force fed. Twice a day the 41 are strapped to a chair, a tube is run through the nose and into the stomach so that liquid nutritional supplements may be administered. Those applying for the artist position need not be concerned by this minor inconvenience, the Obama administration has stated that the forced feedings are humane and do not constitute torture. There will no doubt be sufficient time after the forced feedings to conduct art classes.

Only serious, qualified applicants need apply for the artist position. As the Obama administration is now conducting surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans on a daily basis by forcing telecommunications giant Verizon - through a secret court order - to turn over client records to the National Security Agency, weeding out frivolous applicants has become a breeze. Artists interested in the position can also rest at ease knowing that, without even applying for the job, background checks are expedited through the Obama administration’s PRISM program! The Top Secret operation directly taps into the servers of Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple, enabling spying upon nearly the entire U.S. population and completely eliminating the need to fill out lengthy federal job applicant forms - the government already knows everything about you!

Of course, these are hard economic times, and applying for a new job is serious business. Artists are weary of part-time, low-paying, short-term employment, and many art teachers have lost their jobs because of arts education being severely cut or eliminated from public schools in the U.S. But while the attractive pay scale for the Guantánamo art teacher position cannot be revealed for national security reasons, the Joint Task Force authorities at Guantánamo Bay can promise applicants a secure, long-term position.

Despite President Obama having made promises to close the prison camp at Guantánamo since early 2009, the United States Southern Command headed by Obama appointee Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, has requested of Congress $49 million to build a new prison building at Guantánamo for special detainees, bringing the overall cost of renovating the prison camp to $195.7 million (the federal government’s appropriation to the National Endowment for the Arts in 2012 was $146 million). According to the New York Times, in making the case for the refurbishment of the camp, General Kelly told a Congressional hearing that the “renovations were necessary if the prison was to remain open for the indefinite future.” So, for art teachers looking for job security, Gitmo is it!

If you wish to apply for the artist position at Guantánamo Bay, please visit the Federal Business Opportunities website, and click on the May 28, 2013 “See Solicitation” link located in the right column. Good luck!

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