Guantanamo: My Journey
CSHRA has read Hicks' memoir, extracted the testimonies of abuse recounted in it, classified them according to the types of abuse they involved, and posted them categorized below.
(DH3) However, as time passed the plastic cuffs started to feel tighter. Soon the pain in my wrists dominated all of my senses. Eventually, I lost feeling in my hands – I could not even tell if I had hands, like they had been severed with a blunt knife. The cuffs were not removed until fourteen hours later. || It felt like forever until the helicopter finally landed. I was unstrapped from the floor and marched into the bowels of a large plane, which I guessed to be a C-130 Hercules. For some reason I can’t remember now how I was transported in that first plane. Some incidents I remember clearly, including some things that were said to me and conversations I overheard, while other things I cannot. But I will never forget the agony of the cuffs digging into my wrists (Guantanamo: My Journey, 190).
(DH4) I would eat a lot of MREs in the future, and they were only ever half full (Guantanamo: My Journey, 208).
(DH6) I was awake but extremely exhausted when the plane began its descent, when, without warning, a needle was stabbed into my thigh through the overalls. I learned later it was morphine intended to disable us for the coming landing, and it exaggerated my exhaustion to near delirium (Guantanamo: My Journey, 211).
(DH8) When I came to, I was kneeling and leaning forward, trying hard to keep my balance. Someone kept hitting me in the back of the head and yelling, ‘Head down!’ At times I was so groggy and weak that I could not tell what position I was holding my head in, and I kept being hit for not following orders. I was not allowed to sit on my haunches, so my thighs and knees had to take the full weight as I leaned forward on sharp gravel. I had to fight to keep from falling forward. Whenever my legs gave way and my backside came to rest on my feet, I was hit and screamed at until I sat up again (Guantanamo: My Journey, 212).
(DH9) They [= the open enclosures] 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 (Guantanamo: My Journey, 214).
(DH10) 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 (Guantanamo: My Journey, 214).
(DH11) I first witnessed the IRF team a day or two after my arrival. An MP 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. ‘I’ll 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 Afghani’s face while he was being beaten. In later cases, the dogs bit detainees. || When they had finished, they chained him up and carried him out. His face was covered in blood. A few hours later an MP washed the blood off the cement with a scrubbing brush and hose. To add to that injustice, an MP told me some weeks later that he himself had scratched that statement into the cement before any of us had arrived at Guantanamo, while they had been training and awaiting our arrival (Guantanamo: My Journey, 215).
(DH12) We were offered fifteen minutes of exercise outside our cages in a small fenced-in area twice a week. However, the restraints had to stay on and we were forced to walk so fast that the ankle restraints cut us and we bled. Our chins were pushed into our chest by one or two hands; the extreme pressure applied the whole time hurt the neck. The hands that gripped the chain around our waists were used to rip us violently about from side to side when they directed us to change direction. They performed their duties so recreation resembled a punishment. It was payback for the ICRC persuading the officers to allow this small freedom. The soldiers could not be bothered and did not want to give us ‘rec’ (Guantanamo: My Journey, 220).
(DH13) Around lunchtime a gang of MPs forcibly removed a detainee from his cage in the block opposite me. I had a clear view of them throwing him against a fence, boxing him in, then standing around, kicking their boots into him. It looked like some violent street fight (Guantanamo: My Journey, 220).
(DH15) They would arrive at the cage and say 'Exhibition', which meant it was time for interrogation. Later they changed the word to 'reservation'. Over the radio they said, ‘The package is en route,’ then we quickly shuffled to the portables, watching the skin rip off our ankles. I swear some cuffs felt like they had been sharpened. After a while, so many detainees had to have their ankles bandaged that the medics complained. But their concern was not for our treatment; it was just that these injuries caused a lot more work for them. So the MPs began placing the ankle cuffs over the top of our pants (Guantanamo: My Journey, 223).
(DH16) The main physical danger during daily life in the camp was being IRFed. Sometimes MPs would pretend that a detainee they were escorting, especially at times of restraint removal, had resisted or lashed out aggressively. In response to this imagined slight, the MPs would strike the detainee with hard blows, sometimes ramming him into the concrete. They seemed to look for any opportunity to physically assault us – and definitely appeared to enjoy doing so. IRF teams have smeared faeces on detainees, sprayed pepper spray in their eyes (one detainee lost vision in one eye due to such an attack), shoved detainees’ heads into toilets, sprayed high-pressure hoses up their noses to simulate suffocation, and broke bones (Guantanamo: My Journey, 228).
(DH17) Usually the detainee would have finished praying by the time an IRF team arrived, but I remember a day when an MP entered a cage on his own while the detainee was still praying and had his forehead on the ground. The MP began to ram his head into the concrete, but the detainee ceased his prayer and out-manoeuvred the MP, getting the better of him (Guantanamo: My Journey, 230).
(DH18) The worst IRFing I witnessed involved a Bahraini detainee. Early one afternoon, he made some jokes that elicited laughter from the majority of detainees in our block. In response, the IRF team was sent in. Before they entered the cage, they ordered him to lie facedown on the concrete, which he did – he even placed his hands behind his back for cuffing. Sergeant Smith, who was to enter first with the shield, threw it to the side instead and ran in, jumping high into the air. He was in full riot gear, including knee pads. Smith tucked his feet up behind him and landed with full force onto the detainee’s upper back with his knee pads. We all heard the crack. The next two MPs entered quickly and crisscrossed their bodies over his, pinning him to the floor while wedging their feet into the wire fence halfway up the sides. The last two MPs to enter remained standing, kicking him continuously with their boots. || In the meantime, Sergeant Smith had grabbed the detainee by the hair with both hands and began lifting and slamming his face repeatedly into the concrete. After twenty or so blows, Smith then used one hand to hold his face, cheek-down, to the concrete. With his other hand, he pounded his exposed cheek. The detainee looked lifeless by the time they had finished with him. They put the restraints on, picked him up and carried him away. Then, as I had seen in the past, the blood was hosed and scrubbed away with a brush. || Many other soldiers had been standing around the outside of the cage while this attack took place. I said to one who was not far from me, ‘Are you seeing this?’ || He replied, ‘I don’t see anything,’ and walked away. || As with all such beatings and general IRFings, this event was filmed. || The beating occurred only days before we were moved to the new camp. The ICRC filled us in on his condition. If I remember correctly, he had a few broken ribs, a broken wrist and a broken nose. He rejoined us some weeks later, and I saw his bruised face, his arm in plaster (Guantanamo: My Journey, 231).
(DH21) To avoid being hit, I remained as still as I could, but I soon learned that no matter how carefully I followed orders, I was to be struck and screamed at anyway (Guantanamo: My Journey, 236).
(DH25) The MPs ran through the blocks, spraying as many of the detainees who were kicking their cages as possible. Because we did not know what was going on, many detainees were caught unawares and sprayed in the face. Once an hour or so had passed, multiple IRF teams blitzed the camp, working hard as they entered cage after cage, punishing the detainees who were making the loudest noise and forcibly searching for bits of metal (Guantanamo: My Journey, 246).
(DH26) Later in the day [the detainee in the cage opposite to mine] wrote something above his window in Arabic using toothpaste. He then rolled up toilet paper into a thin rope and stuck it onto the toothpaste, outlining the words more clearly. When the MPs saw this, they ordered him to take it down. He refused, so the MPs restrained him and entered the cage themselves to remove the writing. Returned to his cage, he desperately hacked into his arm with a small sliver of metal. Blood pooled in the crook of his arm, which he used as ink to rewrite the words with his finger. When the guards noticed what the detainee was doing, they took him away. I do not know what became of him; I never saw him again (Guantanamo: My Journey, 246).
(DH35) A number of interrogation rooms were converted into torture chambers. They comprised four main ingredients: stress positions, temperature extremes, erratic lighting and noise. || Imagine: two soldiers come to your shipping-container cage and they strap a three-piece suit on you. You are led into a dark room and short-shackled to a ringed metal bolt in the floor. You cannot sit, lie down or rest. At first it is uncomfortable but then the position quickly becomes painful. It is quiet and dark, and the temperature starts to rise or fall. Whichever way it swings, it continues to become more extreme until it is unbearable. Then the room will switch to the opposite extreme, and you are left for hours either sweating, nearly passed out from the heat, or shivering desperately from the cold. The room could remain dark or become bright enough to hurt your eyes. Continuously flashing strobe lights seemed a favourite. A combination of the three is always a possibility. That gives you some idea of what we endured (Guantanamo: My Journey, 262f).
(DH36) You could be chained painfully to the floor, freezing cold, strobe lights going mad and tooting steam trains reverberating in your ears, then pounding in your head, then resounding through your whole being – hour after hour. You could be really unlucky and have to remain there for a day or two. You might have one session now and then, but you would be more likely to suffer daily doses over weeks before being allowed any respite (Guantanamo: My Journey, 263).
(DH38) There were also new, innovative ideas for punishments. Instead of just losing all ‘comfort items’, a detainee might find his room sealed up and a can of pepper spray pumped in. It was common not just to be sprayed but drenched with an oil-based pepper spray, then carried into a freezing-cold shower that would disperse the oil over the entire body, intensifying the burn. Next, you would be placed in an isolation block with the reddish glow: November, Oscar or India blocks. These would be pre-chilled, and you would stay for a day or two before your clothes dried and the burning ceased (Guantanamo: My Journey, 264).
(DH39) At least half the detainee population was exposed to these torture rooms and sleep-deprivation programs – possibly even more because some detainees would not discuss what had been done to them (Guantanamo: My Journey, 264).
(DH40) We [myself and one of the first six detainees chosen for military commission] spent a long time together, and he eventually shared something personal with me. He lifted his trouser legs to expose a number of large, deep holes in his calves. The skin looked as if it had been melted at the bottom. He told me he had been electrocuted (Guantanamo: My Journey, 264f).
(DH44) He was being told to sign a false confession, which he refused to do. In order to persuade him, he was receiving two eight-hour sessions of interrogations within a twenty-four hour period every day. The guy looked a mess. He said they had been submitting him to this for weeks before we came along. He was neither eating nor sleeping, and he confided in us that he had to endure being stripped naked and dragged about on the floor during interrogation. The rest he kept to himself. || The three of us watched as he was removed from his cage and marched out of the block every day and night. He was taken away fully clothed, then literally dragged back hours later. He was so exhausted he was unable to walk. We could see he had been undressed, because he was often returned with only his pants on, and they would be inside out. He was really taking a beating. Not only could we see him battling to maintain his sanity, he looked to be battling to stay alive. He was so skinny, sickly, and weak, yet they kept on abusing him (Guantanamo: My Journey, 272f).
(DH45) These were really serious beatings. Lightweight detainees —unfit, slow and malnourished— would fight with all their strength against these five- or six-man teams fully suiting in kevlar, face guards and full-length shields. The detainees gave it a good go and would get terribly pummeled and seriously injured […] To keep up soldier morale after an event such as this, some soldiers were even awarded purple hearts, which I think is a good example of the propaganda the soldiers received (Guantanamo: My Journey, 274).
(DH46) [The cut plumbing] prevented water from being thrown on guards, stopped detainees from being able to wash pepper spray off themselves and sped up detainee fatigue by dehydration. It also interfered with their prayers. Guards would then close up blocks and fill them with multiple cans of pepper spray, releasing them into big industrial fans set up at the front of the block (Guantanamo: My Journey, 274).
(DH47) The MPs filled the detainee’s enclosed isolation cage with pepper spray. When the IRF team entered, they found the occupant standing on the metal bunk at the back of the room. They grabbed his ankles and ripped him down. As he fell, he hit the side of his head and landed on the floor. The MPs then beat him, after kicking him first. He was carried outside and taken away. || Whatever had caused his injuries, the detainee was in hospital and would be chained to the same bed for years. He could not talk, feed himself or go the toilet unassisted. He twitched and shook uncontrollably. Because of this, the MPs nicknamed him ‘Timmy’, apparently after Timmy in the cartoon South Park. I would see him on odd occasions when I attended the hospital in the years ahead. It was sad to see a man reduced to the state of a dependent baby (Guantanamo: My Journey, 275f).
(DH61) One of my earlier memories of this time was when I was being transported to Camp Echo to see Mori. As usual, I was blindfolded and had the three-piece suit on. The guards grabbed me as if I was a battering ram and drove my head into the door twice before throwing me against the wall of the inside of the van. When we made it to Camp Echo, they threw me out of the van and I fell to the ground. When I told Mori, I showed him the marks on my arms where they had cuffed me tightly. I was furious. He complained on my behalf but, of course, nothing was done to the offending guards (Guantanamo: My Journey, 343f).
(DH63) The cages in Sierra Block next door had been converted into perspex cubicles. It was used as a punishment block and detainees sweated by day and shivered in the early hours of the morning. The only item they were allowed was a single pair of shorts, sleeping directly on the metal floor. Often I heard them being IRFed, and they would yell out that their boxes were being filled with pepper spray (Guantanamo: My Journey, 348).
(DH69) We all complained about the air vents [of Camp 5]; some detainees even went on hunger strike for no reason other than the cold temperature and the adverse effects it was having on their health. It was that bad, but nothing was ever done because the whole point was to make us uncomfortable and undermine our health (Guantanamo: My Journey, 356).
(DH72) A week or so passed before the news of the deaths reached us in Camp Five, but it made sense when it did. On the day it occurred, every detainee in our camp had every item confiscated. With no explanation the guards rushed my room, as well as everyone else’s, and left me with nothing except a pair of shorts. For a whole week, I slept directly on the concrete floor and froze in the glare of the lights (Guantanamo: My Journey, 362).
(DH75) A few months before, I heard that soldiers had fired rubber bullets at the detainees in Camp Four, which resulted in a protest. In Camp Six we were told we could not be trusted and needed to be punished. There would be no improvements to living conditions – not that it had ever been their intention (Guantanamo: My Journey, 371).
(DH81) X-Rays exposed a fracture in my right hand from when it had been kicked and crushed by military-issue boots (Guantanamo: My Journey, 405).
See also: DH1, DH2, DH20, DH32, DH41, DH43, DH54, DH56, DH68, DH79.
(DH23) The interrogator’s associate, who had remained quiet until now, said they had a proposal for me: they would place me next to the various English-speaking detainees over a period of time, and I was to milk each one for information and report it back to the interrogators. If I agreed to do this, I would be allowed fifteen minutes with a lady from the Philippines. I instantly refused and requested to be sent back to my cage. For the first time during this interview, I saw hate on their faces as they ordered the MPs to escort me back to Charlie Block (Guantanamo: My Journey, 239f).
(DH42) Another detainee was chained to a chair while a female interrogator taunted him by touching her breasts and rubbing them on his back. Frustrated that the detainee would not respond, she left the room. When she returned, she placed her hand down the front of her pants. She then pulled it back out, covered in menstrual blood, and wiped it across the detainee’s face and down the front of his shirt. She then left the room saying, ‘Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself.’ Interrogators turned off his water so he could not wash the ‘blood’ off. The US government has admitted the event and even defends the action, saying it was only ‘fake blood’ (Guantanamo: My Journey, 266).
(DH29) I was given an injection. Within an hour or so I couldn’t help but huddle in a corner of the cage. Physically, I felt comfortable, even though it was an odd thing for me to do […] Getting the slight shakes was another side effect of this medication. Some time on the second day I began to feel normal again and came out of the corner (Guantanamo: My Journey, 252).
(DH30) I think it was the day after, when I began to feel normal again, that I was given another injection. I was scared and pleaded for them not to, but I was threatened with an IRFing if I did not cooperate. A majority of detainees were being IRFed by then for refusing medication, so I just surrendered my arm, thinking that the needle might snap off in my shoulder if they jabbed me during a beating. I was quickly aware of the results. I went straight to the corner again and curled up but, unlike last time, I was under no illusions about what was happening or why. I tried to fight this chemical reaction but was powerless. My mind was clear and alert, and I could identify my behaviour as abnormal, but my body would not listen to my mind. I had no control and remained in the corner, despite wanting to move. This time around the experience was very distressing. All I could do was wait for the effects of the medication to wear off a full day later (Guantanamo: My Journey, 252f).
(DH34) Level Four detainees were only allowed a pair of shorts. Anything more than a pair of shorts was now classed as ‘comfort items’. We were no longer entitled to toilet paper and such necessities – even guys with false limbs had them taken away on Levels Two, Three and Four. It is hard to comprehend how at times we were required to use the bathroom without any toilet paper, not allowed any soap to wash our hands and then expected to eat with our fingers. All this was perfectly acceptable to our captors (Guantanamo: My Journey, 261f).
(DH53) After [muscle mass in] my chest had disappeared, I was left with two golf-ball-sized lumps behind each nipple. They were very sore to touch and caused me discomfort if I slept on my stomach. I had been complaining to the medics for the last few months to have the lumps examined but had always been ignored. I mentioned all this to the representative and stressed I was afraid that they might be cancerous (Guantanamo: My Journey, 293).
(DH56) I was having a terrible time with lower-back pain and relentlessly complained to guards, medics – anyone who would listen – but nothing ever happened. It probably pleased them to hear I was in pain. The cages were not designed for long-term use, but I had lived in them continuously for years. There was nowhere to assume a stress-free posture and I was in constant agony (Guantanamo: My Journey, 318).
(DH66) I was sent to the clinic on that second occasion and told I had stress fractures from running in such a manner in flat shoes. I asked for supportive shoes and was denied, and I was not given painkillers or a walking stick or crutches to take the pressure off my feet. What was I meant to do? The conditions forced upon me were destroying my health – I had tried to do something about it on my own initiative but made things worse. ‘You’re not meant to be healthy or comfortable,’ was the reply (Guantanamo: My Journey, 351).
(DH80) Without thinking, I swallowed the liquid. I don’t know what it was, but the stuff was very strong because within ten minutes I couldn’t stay awake any longer. Very little time had passed when I was woken by a loud banging on my cell door. I was very drowsy and had difficulty comprehending what was happening, but I could make out a large group of people looking in at me. One of them addressed me: ‘I am here to formally charge you. I can read the charges here or we can go to a private room.’ What he had said registered in my brain, but I was too drowsy to be emotionally affected by this disastrous revelation. I managed to stand up while they shackled me and was escorted to an interrogation room. Two men read the new charges, but I could barely stay awake and was returned to my cell without any of it sinking in. All I cared about was sleeping (Guantanamo: My Journey, 381).
See also: DH6, DH15, DH32, DH50, DH57, DH67, DH69.
(DH48) My end of the bargain was that I had to verbally repeat my story, agreeing with anything they added, even when they dictated my thoughts, beliefs and actions incorrectly. They also fed me things to say about other detainees as well. I did so obediently, even though I knew they were all lies. I struggled terribly with this and hated every minute of it, especially when they brought up other detainees. I searched desperately for the courage to resist and renege on the deal. I had no recourse. I had crumbled and was fully theirs (Guantanamo: My Journey, 277f).
(DH58) One of the guys I talked with almost daily decided to open up and share his private information with me. He was one of those detainees who had agreed to testify with made-up stories in exchange for privileges. He was also one of those who thought the Americans legitimately liked him for doing so and was motivated by their encouragement. I had seen him smoking in the rec yard, an act generally regarded as impossible, and had glimpsed a massive flat-screen TV in his room. || He told me of another two detainees within Camp Echo who had agreed to give false evidence as he had. I also saw these two in the distance. They shared one house, had outside access all day and played loud music late into the night (Guantanamo: My Journey, 330f).
(DH62) While I was still in Tango Block I had come back from a shower and noticed a book and some paperwork missing. The guards admitted to taking the book, but not the papers. The book was about illegal interrogation techniques adopted by the US during the War on Terror, called The Torture Papers. I had had it for a year, and one of the editors was my US civilian attorney, Joshua Dratel. The military claimed it contained information I was not privileged to view. However, it was the papers that worried me. I had spent days writing down the various legal options I had, depending on what moves the US government made. It was part of my defence strategy (Guantanamo: My Journey, 347f).
(DH70) One of the guards asked me what I had done, because I had apparently ‘pissed somebody off’ and Camp Five was my punishment. I replied that I didn’t know but suspected I was being punished for complaining to the consular official (Guantanamo: My Journey, 357).
(DH74) They searched my room and picked up my legal notes. I alerted the soldiers to what the papers were and asked that they be put back. Instead, I was ignored and the papers were confiscated. When I was unshackled and back in the cell, I demanded to know what was happening to my paperwork that was supposedly private and protected by client-attorney privilege. I was told to relax, that it was just being photocopied, and I would get it back soon (Guantanamo: My Journey, 367f).
(DH78) [M]ilitary interrogators had been known to pose as lawyers and, on one or two occasions, even as the ICRC (Guantanamo: My Journey, 373).
(DH79) I had refused to see the Australian consular official since being punished for speaking with him about the conditions back in Tango Block, but I was told on this occasion I could not refuse or I would be IRFed (Guantanamo: My Journey, 379).
See also: DH55, DH57, DH61, DH80.
(DH1) I do not sleep much because my captors tell me it is not allowed. Yet, even if I do manage to sleep, my fears fuel my nightmares – fear of pain, fear of the beatings, fear of the strange mind games I am subjected to. My captors never sleep. They work around the clock, devising new ways to harm me and the other detainees. In other camps I have listened to the screams of fellow prisoners, watching them being taken away for their ‘special treatment’, listening to their accounts of what they endured when they were returned. These are the experiences that scare me now. They have not stopped. My captors claim they will always continue. There is no warning of these assaults – any time, day or night, I am never safe (Guantanamo: My Journey, 3).
(DH2) The procedure of ‘hooding’ consists of slipping a rough, itchy, hessian-like material, shaped like a pillowcase, over the head. Duct tape is then wrapped four or five times around the head at eye level on the outside of the bag and then another four or five times around the neck, securing the bag tightly. Even though some of the bags used were of a lighter material similar to an actual pillowcase, breathing could be difficult. This hooding occurred every single time I was transported (Guantanamo: My Journey, 188).
(DH5) Once I had the overalls on, painted-over ski goggles were placed on my head instead of the hood. Then industrial-style earmuffs were fastened over my ears and orange oven mitts taped onto my hands. I was then made to sit on the ground, all rugged-up, and wait. I sat there for a few hours until my goggles, mittens and earmuffs were removed (Guantanamo: My Journey, 209).
(DH14) Interrogators used the letters to their benefit, blacking out entire sections, even ‘I love you’. To censor in that way is very personal – they are not just interfering with me, but with my family (Guantanamo: My Journey, 221).
(DH20) Sleep was a major issue in Camp X-Ray, and would remain so for all the years I was in Guantanamo. Camp X-Ray was illuminated so brightly, with so many floodlights, that night was turned into day. As time passed we did not have to produce our identification armbands every hour, thanks, I believe, to the ICRC. Nor did we have to show our toothbrushes; they had taken them away. However, the officers came up with a new rule that was just as bad: we were not allowed to have our hands or faces covered at any time. When we slept at night, they could not be covered by the single sheet provided. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Once I had managed to fall asleep, my hands often acted as a pillow, because we did not have one. I would be woken by a soldier kicking the cage and screaming as loud as he could, only centimetres from my face, ‘Show your hands’ or ‘I need to see skin.’ || It was madness – and a horrible way to be woken. If I did manage to keep my hands and face exposed while I slept, which takes some training and discipline, I would be disturbed by the kicking and screaming directed at another detainee nearby (Guantanamo: My Journey, 232).
(DH22) The entire enclosure [at Camp Delta] must have been no bigger than an average suburban toilet, the floor space definitely smaller than a double mattress and twice as small as the cages at Camp X-Ray. The worst realisation was that we were now all being housed in shipping containers (Guantanamo: My Journey, 237).
(DH24) We were kept in strict incommunicado with the outside world and not allowed to know the time, date, year or any other information to orient ourselves. This allowed the interrogators to create a new reality for us, one where they manipulated and controlled what we thought, knew and believed (Guantanamo: My Journey, 244).
(DH27) My average weight is around 81 kg, but I started to lose noticeable weight in Kilo Block. I began my time there around 72 kg and, very soon my weight was down to 58 kg (Guantanamo: My Journey, 249).
(DH28) The increase in food resources, now that hundreds of detainees and thousands of personnel had moved in, created a veritable population explosion in many species. It began with swarms of ants […] they made a huge, grotesque body. Then came the mice. They also swarmed into the shipping containers in near-plague numbers. They were constantly scampering through my cage and became so bad that, whenever I managed to fall asleep, they would yank the hair from my head, probably to line their nests with (Guantanamo: My Journey, 251).
(DH31) ‘Some of you will never leave here. For those of you who have cooperated fully, you will return to your families and loved ones. Some of you still have more to tell your interrogators. The sooner you tell us the truth, the sooner you will go home. And those who refuse to cooperate… you will stay here forever’ (Guantanamo: My Journey, 256).
(DH33) Ramadan fell during this period, and detainees had to participate whether they wanted to or not. We were given half a cold MRE at about 5 am, before sunrise. Then at sunset we were given three dates each with which to break the fast. We then had to wait until about 8 or 9 pm, sometimes even later, to receive a ‘hot’ meal. The meal consisted mostly of rice, the serve so small it could fit in one hand. The higher-ups referred to all meals over the years as being ‘culturally appropriate’. It was a very difficult period to endure. The chaplain at the time saw this and complained on our behalf, but it was a purpose-run program to starve us and then have us wait a long time for a meal. Between eating the three dates and the hot meal four or so hours later, Arab detainees who had not cooperated so far were taken to interrogation. They were placed in special rooms – half kitchen and half lounge. In these rooms, beautiful Arab women made and served large, hot meals, truly cultural meals, the type mother used to make. These meals were placed under the nose of the starving detainee, while an interrogator tempted him to give in and eat. Because this program required detainees to be literally starving, the whole camp had to suffer. Whether you were Arab or not, or had cooperated or not, we were all subjected to the same program (Guantanamo: My Journey, 259f).
(DH37) Other, ‘lesser evils’ were used to break wills and ensure cooperation. Operation Sandman was a sleep-deprivation program in which a detainee could be moved every hour for weeks on end, never given a chance for meaningful sleep or the right to refuse to participate (Guantanamo: My Journey, 263f).
(DH41) A detainee’s mother passed away in 2003. The interrogators thought that they would inform him. He was taken to a torture chamber and chained to the bolt in the floor. As the strobe lights lit up his surroundings, he was shocked to discover that the ground and walls were covered with pictures, either of a pornographic nature or the macabre – corpses, blood, and guts – taken from a highly offensive internet site. Each time the room was bathed in the strobes’ glare, these images were hideously revealed. As the minutes passed, he noticed someone standing in a corner. This mysterious individual was dressed as the grim reaper, complete with scythe. Once he had been spotted, the costumed man came forward and said something like, ‘Your mother is dead and sucking Satan’s cock in hell,’ and continued to taunt him. Unsurprisingly, this detainee went mad. This inexcusable event was quite a big story among military personnel and they discussed it openly and often (Guantanamo: My Journey, 265).
(DH49) They were using [Delta Block, Camp 1, Camp Delta] to house those detainees – about forty at the time- who had developed mental health issues and could no longer function normally. In my opinion forty is a large number, considering we had only been on the island for seventeen months (Guantanamo: My Journey, 285).
(DH50) The nightmarish noises that came out of Delta Block were disturbing. It was a frightful reminder of what I could become if I was not mentally strong enough. Losing my ability to reason, my very identity, and to have my brain wiped clean and replaced with a twisted stranger’s was a much scarier prospect than the worst physical torture, which I could maybe recover from in time. To become like some of the Delta Block inhabitants was a life not worth living, as far as I was concerned. || For hours at a time, detainees would scream like donkeys, monkeys and creatures unknown, or hammer out droning, mesmerising rhythms upon the metal bunks. At times it sounded like a zoo, at other times like a perverse party. The most sickening part of this operation was that the MPs specially hand-picked to work this block actually encouraged this behaviour. They would stand around, laugh and egg them on, while medics kept them full of antidepressants like Prozac. The medication and encouragement fuelled the detainees’ madness. I can remember the Bahraini detainee, who had suffered the horrific beating back in Camp X-Ray, yelling out to me from the rec yard, ‘Come and join us – just try to kill yourself’ (Guantanamo: My Journey, 286).
(DH51) In the years to come I would witness the worst example of someone having lost their mind while I was in hospital. This particular detainee would insert his fingers into his anus, then remove them and place them in his mouth. He masturbated chronically and played with his urine and faeces. Apart from this, he was constantly wriggling about and making strange noises. He was fine on arrival, the same as any one of us, but his mind slowly withered away. He was now unable to function and would need a high level of care if he ever re-entered society. The scariest thing was that it could have happened to any of us (Guantanamo: My Journey, 287).
(DH52) I was only allowed to use this rec yard in the night-time. This meant I would not see the sun for the next sixteen months. Eventually it took lobbying from my lawyers for me and other detainees to be able to take recreation during daylight hours (Guantanamo: My Journey, 291).
(DH54) Since being in Guantanamo, each meal consisted of an average of twenty flat teaspoons of food with a piece of very old fruit and a slice of stale bread. I wrote an exact menu of the meagre portions, spoonful by spoonful, and still have it today (Guantanamo: My Journey,, 305).
(DH55) However, back in Camp Echo I was having other troubles. My letters from home were being heavily redacted. Sometimes entire pages were blacked out so I could not read them at all. I wondered why they even bothered giving them to me. Other letters had too many redactions to be of use: ‘The baby now has blank teeth. John has turned blank years old. We have moved to number blank on blank street,’ and so on. Words of encouragement, news, information and love were blacked out at the bottom of letters. Anything Mori wished to bring into the room had to first go through inspection and censorship. This meant food, shampoo, letters from my family and all the legal paperwork, even defence-strategy material (Guantanamo: My Journey, 309).
(DH57) For weeks interrogators had subjected [the detainee] to rigorous cruel psychological conditioning, including sleep deprivation, combined with daily injections. He claimed these unknown chemicals caused one of his testicles to swell painfully. This detainee knew I was in the same camp, and interrogators convinced him I was in the room next door, which I was not. They instructed the neighbouring detainee to bang innocently on the wall as a means of saying hello. The author of the diary was convinced by interrogators that it was actually me banging, and that I was directing my anger at him. || Interrogators had him further believe that I was producing documents at the time that would send him away for life, and that I had agreed to testify and lie in the commissions because I apparently hated him. It was all untrue, of course. They convinced him that the only way to save himself was to bring his own false accusations against me. By the time the interrogators had finished playing with the poor guy he was a total mess and did not know what was going on, since he had started writing the diary at their insistence. It was only when they stopped the injections because of the side effects it was having on his testicle that he realised what he had done. Interestingly, this occurred not long before I was charged. || The above is a very typical example of the type of miscarriage of justice that is to be found in Guantanamo, and I would say that much of the so-called evidence has been obtained through torture, lies, deceit and any other underhanded way (Guantanamo: My Journey, 329f).
(DH59) In Camp Echo, there was not even any energy for reassurance. Nothing. No indication that anyone was near – just this intense, consuming sense of being alone. I felt like the sole occupant of an entire universe, and the infinite isolation was maddening. I truly felt I was flirting with the realm of the insane (Guantanamo: My Journey, 333).
(DH64) One new, mind-boggling technique the military had devised to torture detainees was the ‘noise machines’. They had taken chainsaws and removed the blade so that it was only the compact engine. It was then placed in a small frame welded together especially for this purpose and left on full revs right outside the detainees’ cages. When it ran out of fuel they just refilled it and kept it going. Soldiers could easily pick up these contraptions and move them about. At times I had even heard soldiers whoop, as if it was great fun. There were also smaller engines in frames that looked like whipper snippers with the long shaft removed (Guantanamo: My Journey, 348f).
(DH65) I saw ICRC members walk through the camp while the noise machines were revving away and say something to the guards. When I had my interview with them during that visit, I asked them what they thought of the devices. They said their first tactic had been to argue for the detainees’ health. When that didn’t work, they changed tack and highlighted the damaging effects it would have on the soldiers’ hearing. To solve that problem, the guards were issued disposable earplugs and industrial earmuffs, and went right on with business as usual (Guantanamo: My Journey, 349).
(DH67) Sometimes we had to wear the same clothes for a month or longer and, when the clothes were eventually changed, the smell of the previous detainee was strongly infused in the new ones. It took a couple of weeks for my own sweaty smell to replace the stench of the other detainee. When I complained about this I was laughed at. Many detainees were having problems with ingrown toenails, including myself, apparently due to not wearing shoes and being flat-footed. The toilet hole in my cage floor was constantly blocking, and the flush would get stuck. As a result, my cage flooded with sewage - faeces floated about in two inches of dirty water - and I had to walk about in it with untreated open wounds on my big toes. The room flooded this way at least once a week (Guantanamo: My Journey, 351).
(DH68) Another issue on the list was how I had been left to urinate on myself while being short-shackled, or just plain shackled, in the interrogation rooms for hours. This was very common for all detainees; some had also been forced to defecate as well. I was left in a stress position for hours when I was made to wait in the interrogation rooms before or after an interview. Sometimes I would just be taken to the interrogation room, shackled to the floor for half a day to a full day, then taken back to my cage without having seen anyone. It was demoralising and humiliating, especially if I had to keep wearing my soiled pants till the next time the linen was changed (Guantanamo: My Journey, 352).
(DH73) For the first time I decided to hunger strike. My theory was that if I did not eat for long enough I would become so weak that I would sleep my time away, oblivious to my surrounding environment and what I was being made to endure. I could no longer tolerate the waking moments and needed to escape. I lasted thirty days on liquids alone and lost a lot of weight. It was a visit from Mori, the smell of the McDonald’s he brought, the news he relayed concerning the Hamdan case and the fact that most personal items had been returned that made me decide to eat again. Another visitor around the thirty-day mark was the Australian consular official. He dismissed my hunger strike as nonsense. I really disliked this man. I had stopped eating for myself, not to get attention. In fact, my hunger strike was largely secret so I wouldn’t be punished for it. I still accepted the meals – I just flushed them down the toilet (Guantanamo: My Journey, 363).
(DH76) But food itself had become a form of punishment. Meals such as green, powdered scrambled eggs would be served along with oranges so extremely freezer burnt that no moisture was left. Hard-boiled eggs were first cooked and de-shelled on the US mainland, deep-frozen and reheated months later at Guantanamo, leaving the whites the consistency of leather. All hot meals were cooked in thick oil, and if they were served cold the entire meal solidified into a single gooey conglomerate. In Camp Six, the soldiers used to put our hot meals in front of a large air-conditioner duct for a couple of hours before serving, which made it practically inedible (Guantanamo: My Journey, 372).
(DH77) One of the posters showed Saddam Hussein hanging from a noose […] In large Arabic script angling across this poster was what someone translated to me as, ‘Saddam refused to cooperate with lawyers and look what happened to him. This could be you’ (Guantanamo: My Journey, 372f).
(DH82) In the early days, there were occasions when I had to get up and practically run out of restaurants while attempting to have dinner with family and friends. On one occasion, I was even unable to enter a restaurant. The crowds and noise were too much, and I suffered anxiety attacks. I have come a long way in that regard, but I can still have bad reactions; even simple socialising can be quite a challenge (Guantanamo: My Journey, 405).
(DH83) An interesting and common effect of isolation is losing the ability to talk and explain oneself sufficiently. Even the few guys I had spoke to in Yatala who had spent a year or more in isolation noticed this effect. It is most notable when you attempt to engage someone in conversation, such as during visits. It is not unusual to forget words and have a complete mental blank, no matter how hard you try to remember. Everything becomes a big, confusing muddle. The words you’re searching for is often right on the tip of your tongue, but nothing comes out, and it only gets worse a time passes (Guantanamo: My Journey, 406).
See also: DH6, DH10, DH16, DH34, DH35, DH36, DH39, DH43, DH44, DH71.
(DH32) The other poor soul was in his late nineties and could only shuffle along with the assistance of a walking frame. Even so, the MPs chained one of his wrists to the frame, while another two held him with the four-point contact (Guantanamo: My Journey, 258).
(DH19) As previously mentioned, the military had nominated a Muslim chaplain to be on-site full time. This was after we had been there for a month or so. He was able to arrange Qur’ans for all detainees who wished one, and for the call to prayer to be announced over a loudspeaker five times a day. This seemed to enrage the military personnel in general, and hostility towards detainees’ religious practices increased. The soldiers created more disturbances during times of prayer, and there were numerous instances of Qur’ans being kicked or thrown about during cage searches. On more than one occasion, Qur’ans even ended up in the buckets of urine and faeces (Guantanamo: My Journey, 232).
(DH60) One of the first things we noticed as the days passed was the level of detainee harassment in the camp. Comments disrespectful to Islam were announced over the loudspeakers, especially at times of prayer. Derogatory statements were made daily about Mohammed and Islam in general (Guantanamo: My Journey, 337).
See also: DH17, DH42.
(DH43) We also heard stories of detainees who had been chained to the floor in interrogation booths. They would then have American and Israeli flags wrapped tightly around them while being taunted with photographs of Muslims who had been killed by foreign military forces. They would be left alone for hours, still wrapped in the flags, the visual images left in front of them (Guantanamo: My Journey, 266).
(DH7) We all remained in place for an hour or so before a voice boomed over a megaphone: ‘You are now the property of the US Marine Corps. You have reached your final destination. Welcome to Cuba’ (Guantanamo: My Journey, 211).
(DH71) There was a lot of open hostility and harassment from the guards at Camp Five; even simple orders were screamed. Their worst policy was making us sleep on our backs with our faces towards the lights. I tried many ways to shield my eyes from the brightness. We were not allowed, and never had been allowed, to use a sheet or blanket to cover our faces (Guantanamo: My Journey, 358).
See also: DH21, DH41, DH47, DH60.