Strong opinions, weakly held

A soldier’s recollection of Gitmo

The Guantánamo Testimonials Project has the written testimony of a US military policeman who was stationed there at the beginning. I expect many more such stories will be told over the next few years:

At 0700 hrs the next day I reported like I was told, and was placed in 1st platoon. Then I was told that we would be deploying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within the next 24hrs. It was not until later that afternoon that we were told that we would be starting and running a detainee facility, not an EPW (or Enemy Prisoner of War) camp. We were told that a detainee camp had never been ran before, and that this would be the first time in history this had taken place since these people would not fall under the Geneva Convention.

There’s tons of awful but enlightening information in the interview. For example, it makes it clear that the infamous “IRF” teams were used not to bring out of control prisoners under control but rather to punish the noncompliant:

As far as IRFing, when I was there, it went somewhat in this order: (1) The block guards would have a problem with a detainee (not listening, maybe saying something, or not following rules). The guards would then contact the duty officer for that shift. We were told “If you were working a block and was having a problem with one of the detainees, and you couldn’t handle it, or get it under control, you should call the duty officer,” who was usually a E-7 (Sergeant First Class) or a 0-1 or 0-2 (First and Second LT). They would come to the block, assess the situation, and make the decision whether to take “comfort items” away or call the IRF team into play. If the latter, then (2) The duty officer would come to the block with an interpreter and tell the detainee to do whatever he was told to and, if not, the IRF team would be called upon. (3) Once the IRF team was called upon and arrived on the block there was no “I am sorry I will do it” from the detainee; the IRF team was going to enter that cage and hog tie that detainee.

Reading the interview what stands out to me is not just the horrible treatment we’ve inflicted upon detainees, but the burden the government placed on the troops who have served in Gitmo and elsewhere. One principle of leadership I believe in is that you should never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. I can’t help but wonder whether most of the officials who designed and implemented the detention policies after 9/11 would be willing to personally subject prisoners to the treatment that they prescribed.

1 Comment

  1. Not sure this is much different than what happens in U.S. prisons everyday. “I am sorry I will do it”? What is that? These are enemy combatants, not 3 year-olds.

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