The guards at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp are the “overlooked victims” of America’s controversial detention facility in Cuba, according to a psychiatrist who has treated some of them.Professor John Smith, a retired US Air Force captain, treated a patient who was a guard at the camp. “I think the guards of Guantánamo are an overlooked group of victims,” Smith told the American Academy of Forensic Sciences annual meeting in Washington DC on Saturday. “They do not complain a lot. You do not hear about them.”
The patient (‘Mr H’) is a national guardsman in his early 40s who was sent to Guantánamo in the first months of its operation, when prisoners captured in Afghanistan were beginning to flood into the camp. Mr H reported that he found conditions at the camp extremely disturbing. For example, in the first month two detainees and two prison guards committed suicide.
The taunts of prisoners and the things his superiors required him to do to them had a severe psychological impact on Mr H. “He was called upon to bring detainees, enemy combatants, to certain places and to see that they were handcuffed in particularly painful and difficult positions, usually naked, in anticipation of their interrogation,” said Smith.
On occasion he was told to make prisoners kneel, naked and handcuffed, on sharp stones. To avoid interrogation the prisoners would often rub their wounds afterwards to make them worse so that they would be taken to hospital. Some of the techniques used by interrogators resulted in detainees defecating, urinating, vomiting and screaming.
Mr H told Smith he felt profoundly guilty about his participation. “It was wrong what we did,” he said.
Well it’s good he now realises that and it is good he is getting treatment, but he did as he was told and followed orders, such is the effectiveness of military psychological conditioning, such was the lack of character and independent moral activism of the people they selected to staff the camp. It also is a function of the worship of militarism found in all empires, it is a cultural phenomenon, it is not good to make people into order following objects. Sometimes that might be necessary in self defence (cf. suicide bombers perhaps) but that certainly is not the case with any western state, blind obedience and authoritarianism are not desirable in a person or a culture. The correct and admirable and honourable action is to refuse such orders and to support organisations that help legal and moral personnel think critically and resist a corrupt military & political establishment.
– The US has 731 military bases throughout the world.
– In the attacks on Fallujah in 2004, over 12,000 Iraqis were killed and ID’d as “insurgents.”
– Although we usually hear the term “enemy combatant” in the context of the Gulag at Guantanamo, the phrase is commonly used by the military in Iraq to describe insurgents and people who get killed who may not be insurgents.
– Returning veterans from the Iraq War reported seeing no rebuilding of the country and that construction by contractors was limited to US military installations.
– National Guard members at Fort Dix in New Jersey have been trained to run over little children in the middle of the road on the grounds that they may have explosives strapped to their bodies.
– Soldiers in Vietnam were given no training regarding the treatments of civilians and prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
– Throwing Vietnamese people out of helicopters was so common that soldiers were ordered to do prisoner counts after the helicopters had landed, not before.
Over 150 people attended the event in Manhattan and saw a truly disturbing video from the Winter Soldier project. It started with horrific house and business destruction in Iraq by the US military, and then went on to the horribly mutilated bodies of people killed in bombing attacks ordered by the Bush regime. The video footage was shot by veterans when they were in Iraq.
One of the speakers at the event said, “We went easy with the video.” Yet, the images in the video were so repulsive and frightening that I had to keep forcing my eyes open. Psychological services were offered for veterans who might be traumatized by reliving what they saw in Iraq. I just don’t know how our troops cope with the terrible things they see and are ordered to do in Iraq.
There was a group of chickenhawks protesting outside, misappropriating American flags for their pandering to Big Oil, corrupt mercenary companies, and defense contractors. They attempted to look intimidating, but they didn’t harass me as I went in. (Being male and over 6 feet tall does have its advantages.) However, they did harass and try to intimidate an Iraqi woman who went in anyway. The vets running the fundraiser pointed out that none of the people outside were veterans.
Also Dave @ Complex System of Pipes has an in depth review of Nick Broomfield’s The Battle For Haditha-
Watching the Haditha massacre after a feature-length introduction to the victims and perpetrators made me feel so rotten inside that I wanted to vomit and, in that sense, this was far and away the worst film I’ve ever seen. But then that’s the only correct reaction to war. It’s been said that it’s impossible to make a truly antiwar movie, because any cinematic depiction of war is fundamentally pretty exciting. TBFH tears that conceit to shreds like so much Iraqi flesh; it captures horror and confusion and serves them up on a cold, documentarian plate.
Occupied Haditha is no more exciting a place than occupied Warsaw, and if we’d all seen this in school it would have taken a bit more than implausible hyperbole to sell the invasion. In that sense, it’s among the best and most important films I’ve ever seen; little golden statues or no, everyone should go and see this.