I firmly believe that the patriotic and moral thing to do is to continue to speak for the rule of law, for the human rights of every human being, and for an America that respects its moral values.
Former Gitmo guard recalls abuse, climate of fear
By MIKE MELIA, Associated Press, Sat Feb 14
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Army Pvt. Brandon Neely was scared when he took Guantanamo's first shackled detainees off a bus. Told to expect vicious terrorists, he grabbed a trembling, elderly detainee and ground his face into the cement — the first of a range of humiliations he says he participated in and witnessed as the prison was opening for business.
His account, one of the first by a former guard describing abuses at Guantanamo, describes a chaotic time when soldiers lacked clear rules for dealing with detainees who were denied many basic comforts. He says the circumstances changed quickly once monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived...
Neely, a burly Texan who served for a year in Iraq after his six months at Guantanamo, received an honorable discharge last year, with the rank of specialist, and now works as a law enforcement officer in the Houston area. He is also president of the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Terry C. Holdbrooks Jr. told the Web site cageprisoners.com in an interview this month that he saw several abuses during his service at Guantanamo in 2003, including detainees subjected to cold temperatures and loud
Neely, 28, describes a litany of cruel treatment by his fellow soldiers, including beatings and humiliations he said were intended only to deliver physical or psychological pain...
Neely's account sheds new light on the early days of Guantanamo, where guards were hastily deployed in January 2002 and were soon confronted by men stumbling out of planes, shackled and wearing blackout goggles.
They were held in chain-link cages and moved to more permanent structures three months later.
The soldiers, many of them still in their teens, had no detailed standard operating procedures and were taught hardly anything about the Geneva Conventions, which provide guidelines for humane treatment of prisoners of war, Neely said, though some learned about them on their own initiative...
Only months had passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, and Neely said many of the guards wanted revenge. Especially before the first Red Cross visit, he said guards were seizing on any apparent infractions to "get some" by hurting the detainees. The soldiers' behavior seemed justified at the time, he said, because they were told "these are the worst terrorists in the world."
He said one medic punched a handcuffed prisoner in the face for refusing to swallow a liquid nutritional supplement, and another bragged about cruelly stretching a prisoner's torn muscles during what was supposed to be physical therapy treatments.
He said detainees were forced to submit to take showers and defecate into buckets in full view of female soldiers, against Islamic customs.
When a detainee yelled an expletive at a female guard, he said a crew of soldiers beat the man up and held him down so that the woman could repeatedly strike him in the face.
Neely says he feels personally ashamed for how he treated that elderly detainee the first day. As he recalls it, the man made a movement to resist on his way to his cage, and he responded by shoving the shackled man headfirst to the ground, bruising and scraping his face.
Other soldiers hog-tied him and left him in the sun for hours.
Only later did Neely learn — from another detainee — that the man had jerked away thinking he was about to be executed.
"I just felt horrible," Neely recalled...
Neely acknowledged that by talking about his experiences, he also has broken the nondisclosure pledge he signed before leaving Guantanamo.
He also says a lawyer told him the document he signed could not be enforced...
Neely said discussing his experience now has helped put it behind him.
"Speaking out is a good way to deal with this," he said.
Testimony of Spc. Brandon Neely