“I was held at Bagram until February 2003. I saw two people killed there. I was stripped naked, kicked, beaten, and threatened with dogs. Interrogators would hold pictures of my wife and children, and ask me what I thought had happened to them, while a woman screamed near by. By the time I, left I was actually looking forward to going to Guantanamo Bay. It was a 36-hour journey to Guantanamo. I was hooded, shackled, ear-muffed and sedated. I was put into a cell at the maximum security Camp Echo. I remained there most of the time. I was in that cell 24 hours a day, except for 15 minutes out of it twice a week. Guantanamo was more a psychological ordeal. I was released in January 2005.” -Moazzam Begg an Ex-Guantanamo Bay detainee recalled his experience while speaking to Tim Reid of The Times.
Begg, a British citizen, was arrested from Pakistan and was imprisoned for three years without charge or trial. He was picked up by US intelligence officials in Pakistan in January 2002; they accused him of being a member of al-Qaeda, and called him the “Enemy Combatant”. A name that later became the title of his memoir recalling horrendous detail of his 3 years in US detention. Jane Kinninmont, of open democracy, describes him as a devastatingly reasonable, calm, and a highly articulate man. Over the years, Begg has become one of the few who were able to describe, at length, their experiences as a Gitmo detainee. Begg’s memoir discusses grave details about torture, physical and psychological abuse and most interestingly positive words about some of the US guards he met in Guantanamo. However, Begg is one of the many arrested in Pakistan and sent over to Guantanamo. To be more precise I must quote the infamous disclosure by the Ex-President Musharraf Himself in his Memoir “In the line of Fire”:
“Many members of al-Qaeda fled Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan,” he writes. “We have played cat and mouse with them . . . We have captured 689 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars. Those who habitually accuse us of ‘not doing enough’ in the war on terror should simply ask the CIA how much prize money it has paid to the government of Pakistan.”
Although in his book Musharraf conveniently dubbed those arrested as ‘Al-Qaeda’ members, many of them have been released without charge while many others still await charges. Thus the connection between Pakistan and Guantanamo is not an odd one. Begg’s memoirs opened doors to stories of many other detainees held in the notorious detention cell in Cuba. The heart wrenching stories of torture have raised grave concerns globally. Many across the world have questioned these treatments weighing them as staunch violations of Human rights. Most importantly, the American people have shown great concern over the severity of these torture tactics and have demanded public release of the interrogation memos of the CIA. Despite President Obama’s assurance to the CIA officers regarding prosecutions, the concerns of the American people and the world seems to linger on. Reuters reports that sleep deprivation, “insult slaps”, water dousing and “walling”, or slamming a detainee’s head against a wall, were techniques used by CIA interrogators to break high-value detainees, according to an agency memo. The memo goes on outlining that the the goal of interrogation is to create a state of learned helplessness and dependence conducive to the collection of intelligence. Further elaborating the memo the Washington Post stated that after removing the hood, the interrogator opens with a slap across the face — to get the detainees attention — followed by other slaps, the guidelines state. Next comes the head slamming, or “walling,” which can be tried once “to make a point,” or repeated repeatedly.
“Twenty or thirty times consecutively” is permissible, the guidelines say, “If the interrogator requires a more significant response to a question.” And if that fails, there are far harsher techniques to be tried.
This does not end here according to a memo, released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Amnesty International USA and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Certain interrogation techniques place the detainee in more physical and psychological stress and, therefore, are considered more effective tools”, these include waterboarding, electrocuting, fake executions and various other methods of psychological and physical torture. Moreover, the new released memo discloses detailed information of types of psychological torture. BBC reports that on various occasions Agents threatened to kill a key terror suspect’s children and sexually assault another’s mother. The US Justice Department is reported to be reopening a dozen prisoner abuse cases, for which John Durham has been appointed as a special US prosecutor for investigations.
For many of us the question is not only about prosecutions,the concern is way beyond that of prosecutions, it is mainly about the truth that should be made public. The detailed reports on abuse and torture and the assurance that the US is determined to mark an end to it, are of primary concern. The strong emphasis laid on the release of the memos is proof enough that the people demand a detailed answer. An investigation about how and to what extend were the tortures carried out and whether or not the authorities are serious about ‘changing their ways’ seems to be the demand.
So when the world asks if it is time that Americans should stop questioning their response to 9/11 the answer from our part of the world (being the first hand ally of the United States) is a blatant ‘No’. In fact, this is the time to introspect, to ask questions, to explain and to act on. I believe that the truth must be revealed. We have all heard stories of the horrendous torture, its time to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Especially in Pakistan, where anti American sentiments continue to be on the rise. If truth is told and prosecutions are sought, a lot will change. It will reflect that the US is serious about strengthening its ties with the Muslim world in particular and is seriously concerned about its global image.
This could be a significant step forward towards the Muslim world ,which currently feel ‘threatens’ by the existence of such techniques, provided that these could (and have) lead to innocent people admitting to crime under torture.
As we proudly claim to be the first hand ally of the United States , we deem it our right to know just how far has the US gone to get the ‘desired confessions’.As a Pakistani I consider this my right to know details regarding the abuse done. A natural right considering that many Pakistani nationals and foreign nationals arrested from within Pakistan are still detained in Gitmo. With President Obama in the White House, America promised a change not only in America but also on the global front, its time we witness that in action and not in mere words.
NOTE: You can find a turbulated list Pakistani’s being held in Guantanamo- Courtesy Wikipedia