Three excerpts from a book that will be must reading for those interested in Guantanamo Bay …
“I first witnessed the IRF (Instant Reaction Force) team a day or two after my arrival. An MP (military policeman) stopped outside the cage of an Afghani, my closest neighbour at the time.
“He was the detainee with the prosthetic limb, who had been on the two ships with me. The MP demanded to know what the Afghani had scratched into the cement. He had not scratched anything and could not even speak or understand English.
“I heard the MP read, Osama will save us. The detainee had no idea what the guard was on about, yet the MP was furious when he did not respond. Ill teach you to resist, the MP threatened and stormed off.
“Suddenly six MPs in full riot gear formed a line outside his cage. The first one held a full-length shield. He entered the cage first, slamming the detainee, pinning him to the cement floor with the shield, while the others beat him in the torso and face.
“The last to enter the cage was a military dog handler with a large German shepherd. The dog was encouraged to bark and growl only centimetres from the Afghanis face while he was being beaten. In later cases, the dogs bit detainees.”
THE long-awaited book by former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks has been released.
It describes the journey of a young man who left Adelaide in 1999 and returned eight years later after being held a prisoner of war for more than five years by the US military.
Excerpt 3: Guantanamo
I awoke on a concrete slab with the sun in my face. I looked around and saw that I was in a cage made out of cyclone fencing, the same as the boundary fence around my old primary school. Internal fences divided the cage into ten enclosures, and I was in one of the corner-end cells. Around me, I saw five other concrete slabs with what looked like birdcages constructed on top. A fence covered in green shadecloth and topped with rolls of razor wire was wrapped around these six concrete slabs, able to house sixty unfortunate human beings. Hanging on the inside of this fence were signs saying, If you attempt escape, you will be shot, complete with a featureless person with a target for a head.
All around the outside of the shadecloth, civilian and uniformed personnel cleared and flattened grass and trees. They poured cement and assembled the wire cages, calling them blocks. There was nothing much else around us except guard towers boasting large, painted American flags and manned by armed marines.
My block was only the second to have been built, but that would change over time. As this prison grew out of the grass, more detainees, as they liked to call us, rather than POWs, arrived. About a month later, around three hundred and sixty of us lived in these outdoor enclosures. They were open to the wind, sun, dust and rain and offered no respite. The local wildlife was being disturbed as their homes were bulldozed to make room for the concrete blocks, and scorpions, snakes and nine-inch-long tarantulas tried to find shelter in what were now our enclosures.
My cage, like all the cages, was three steps wide by three steps long. I shared this space with two small buckets: one to drink out of, the other to use as a toilet. There was an isomat (a five-millimetre-thin foam mat), a towel, a sheet, a bottle of shampoo that smelt like industrial cleaner, a bar of soap (I think), a toothbrush with three-quarters of the handle snapped off and a tube of toothpaste. When I held this tube upside down, even without squeezing, a white, smelly liquid oozed out until it was empty.
This bizarre operation was called Camp X-Ray. Our plane was the first to arrive on this barren part of the island, and we remained the only detainees for the first three or four days. We had been spaced apart because of the surplus of cages. Every hour of the day and night, we had to produce our wristband for inspection, as well as the end of our toothbrush, in case we had sharpened it into a weapon. These constant disturbances prevented us from sleeping. We were not allowed to talk, or even look around, and had to stare at the concrete between our legs while sitting upright on the ground. If we did lie flat on the concrete, we had to stare at a wooden covering a foot or so above our cages, which served as some type of roof. Apart from blocking the sun for about two hours around high noon, the roof offered no other benefit.
Sitting or lying in the middle of the cage, away from the sides, were the only two positions we were allowed to assume. We could not stand up unless ordered to, while the biggest sin was to touch the enclosing wire. If we transgressed any of these rules, even if innocently looking about, we were dealt with by the IRF team, an acronym for Instant Reaction Force. The Military Police (MP) nicknamed this procedure being earthed or IRFed, because they would slam and beat us into the ground.