‘Don’t interact, don’t talk, they are not humans’ - Gitmo guard's basic orders
Such a degradation methods, the former US soldier said, were used on innocent men. Holdbrooks, who wrote a book about GITMO prisoners, claims that it is the inmates’ religious perseverance in the face of pain and humiliation made him convinced that US was not fighting for the right cause.
RT:What did you experience at the detention camp that changed you?
Terry Holdbrooks: To be honest with you I would not even know where to begin with that. Initially seeing religion practiced the way that the detainees practice Islam is a really life changing experience in itself. I have not really seen any kind of any serious devotion, the faith like that growing up in the US.
The torture and information extraction methods that we used certainly created a great deal of doubt and questions in my mind to whether or not this was my America. But when I thought about what we were doing there and how we go about doing it, it did not seem like the America I signed up to defend. It did not seem like the America I grew up in, I grew to believe in. And that in itself was a very disillusioning experience. There was a great deal of personal growth that took there as well.
RT:Could you describe the relationship between the guards and detainees at Guantanamo back when you were serving (and how has it changed since then)?
TH: I suppose that if we’re going to take a stroll down the memory lane, Brandon Neely was there first. He was there when it was camp x-ray. It was essentially dog cages, nothing more. It was dog kennels, I suppose you can say. When I was there camp Delta was in full swing. Delta housed about 612 men that would be the general population of the camps.
RT:Were you given any orders as how to treat the inmates?
TH: Our interaction with the detainees was such that we were told not to talk to them, not to treat them as humans, to not engage in conversation with them whatsoever. And the army sort of made a mistake by allowing somebody who is inclined to sociology and to studying people by leaving me with individuals from all over the world unsupervised for eight hours. I was very low in rank so I was delegated all the work, while those who were higher in rank were sitting in the air-conditioned shacks, nurturing their hangovers. So the instructions I was given were simple – don’t interact, don’t talk, they are not humans.
RT:There have been reports of torture and other human rights violations happening at the prison camp. Could you tell us what you saw?
TH: We can begin with experiences I had the pleasure of having. Myself, Eric Sarr and another Guantanamo guard were involved in this. Eric was a linguist and he was working with an interrogator.
We took the detainee into interrogation and throughout the interrogation the interrogator took off her clothing. She essentially gave the detainee a lap dance, tried to arouse him and then let him believe that he had menstrual blood on him. We then took the detainee back to his cell and were told that he was not allowed to have shower privileges nor fresh water for days. The idea behind this being that if he could not clean himself he would not be able to pray, if he could not pray, he could not practice Islam. Essentially it was an idea to break him down spiritually.
Omar Khadr and a number of other detainees, I remember hearing
just few moments ago Shaker Aamer, they were privileged to
something we called the frequent flyer program, where we would
essentially move them every two hours. Whether we were moving them
from camp Delta to camp Echo or moving them from Bravo block to
Charlie block, be it a little move or a big move, the idea is that
every two hours they would be moved and they would not be able to
sleep. This was essentially to wear down their psyche and make them
more probable to give out their information during
But what has questioned me ever since I first saw it, it seemed that most of these men were innocent and as numbers are starting to show, we’ve sent over 600 of them home, so they must have been innocent; if we knew that we were purchasing men that were innocent, why were we trying to interrogate innocent men? What were we hoping to get from them?
Some of the tactics I saw practiced in Guantanamo, I just want to never want to relive again and then a great deal of regret takes place and then I did not take the most productive use of some years after Guantanamo. I tried to drown away some of those memories and that is something you cannot do. You have to confront it.
Holdbrooks has written a book, entitled "Traitor?", to be published in the Summer of 2013