Lost Innocence at Guantánamo

June 6, 2013 by  


By Karin Friedemann, TMO

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Karin Friedemann

Rebuffing President Barack Obama’s latest plea, House Republicans last week proposed keeping open the military-run prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, barring the administration from transferring its terror suspects to the United States or foreign countries, and giving the Pentagon $247.4 million to upgrade Guantanamo.

Former Guantánamo guard Terry Holdbrooks, who worked at Camp Delta from June 2003 through July 2004 and wrote a book about his experiences entitled “Traitor,” said that the US military base in Cuba “was essentially chosen for the legal limbo that it posed so long ago, being that it was not under Geneva Convention soil. We have held people there in nearly every conflict, particularly, WW2, Cold War, Desert Storm, and now this. At any rate, there is no longer a concern for legal limbo, as with the War on T’error’ and the bills that have been passed, Bush, and now Obama can essentially do as they please, legal or not, and claim that it is in the best interest of the US.”

There are currently 166 men left at Guantánamo. They are indefinitely detained at a cost of $1 million a year per inmate, despite nearly all being cleared for release. The only men at Guantánamo who are still considered guilty of terrorism are the so-called “masterminds” of 9/11: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.

“I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is famous for confessing.

These five men are not being held with the general population, but housed in Camp 7, otherwise known as “Camp No.” Holdbrooks told TMO he has never seen them and has no idea who is in charge of guarding them. He has no doubt the men are being severely tortured, but also expressed certainty that there is nobody who cares.

“No one is coming for them. It would not matter if the men in Guantánamo were in the US, they would still be locked up, and no one would come for them.”

The U.S. Justice Department released a 2005 memo which states that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 alone. As a result of these interrogations, he confessed to 26 pages of terrorist acts around the globe.

The US government seriously charges him with “training hijackers to hide knives in carry-on bags before boarding the planes. Under Mohammed’s direction, the hijackers learned how to slit the throats of passengers by practicing on sheep, goats and camels.”

On May 5, 2012 CNN reported, “The five refused to co-operate with court proceedings in various ways. They are each charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.”

The actual evidence against the five men ranges from wiring relatively small amounts of money to suspicious persons to repeatedly applying for US tourist visas after being rejected. They seem to be most guilty of not recognizing the US government’s authority to try them and using the trial as a platform to make political statements. 

During his pretrial hearing, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed stated that the U.S. government sanctioned torture in the name of national security and compared the plane hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people to the millions who have been killed by America’s military. After Mohammed’s remarks, military judge Captain James Pohl refused to allow any other personal comments by the accused at trial.

“If martyrdom happens to me today, I welcome it. God is great! God is great! God is great!” Binalshibh told his trial judge, Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann.

While it appears that the five men are seeking execution as a way of escaping prison, many more men are starving themselves to death to protest their indefinite detention.

“Emaciated and frail, more than 100 men lie on concrete floors of freezing, solitary cells in Guantánamo, silently starving themselves to death,” reports Terri Judd in the Independent, UK.

“They’ve lost hope. They’ve decided it’s better to die,” Holdbrooks said. “One of them is down to 70 pounds… With nothing to do but read a book you have memorized, or pace in a 6 by 8 cell, there really isn’t much to be hopeful for.”

Terry Holdbrooks described their situation: “You are on an island, surrounded by a mine field, surrounded by fences with lookout towers, in a cage within a larger cage called a block in a larger cage called a camp in a larger cage known as Camp Delta. You have at a minimum 4 sally ports to make way out of, each requiring ID, keys, and searching of persons. The cells are guarded by people like me, who walk up and down a block all day and night… Guantánamo is not a place people can break out of, it is impossible, literally, impossible. 90 miles from land (Florida) surrounded by mine fields, men in towers, automatic weapons and grenade launchers and sniper rifles…”

Author David Hicks, an Australian man who was kidnapped in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and sold to the US for bounty wrote in a letter to his father that his confessions made at Guantánamo were false and made only to get released. Hicks told his father that he was pressured into pleading guilty to a wide-range of war crimes charges and he feared that if he didn’t comply he would be sent to “Camp 5,” a “very bad place with complete isolation…”

“Know that if I make a deal it will be against my will,” Hicks wrote. “I just couldn’t handle it any longer. I’m disappointed in our government. I’m an Australian citizen. If I’ve committed a crime I can be man enough to accept the consequences but I shouldn’t have to admit to things I haven’t done or listen to people falsely accuse me. We can’t let them get away with it.”

“I feel bad about the idea that Guantánamo is even in existence,” concludes Holdbrooks. “I would love to see Guantánamo given back to Cuba and for the facility and land to be free of US persons. None the less, what will happen with Guantánamo when these men go home is what worries me. It will get filled again, probably with Americans… Guantánamo is really, to me, nothing more than a blatant example of where we as a country are heading if citizens do not take back control of our own country.”

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