The Journal of History     Fall 2006    TABLE OF CONTENTS

Army insider blows the whistle on torture at Guantanamo!

For the first time, an army insider blows the whistle on human rights abuses at Guantanamo

Paul Harris in New York
Sunday May 8, 2005
The Observer

An American soldier has revealed shocking new details of abuse and sexual torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in the first high-profile whistleblowing account to emerge from inside the top-secret base.

Erik Saar, an Arabic speaker who was a translator in interrogation sessions, has produced a searing first-hand account of working at Guantanamo. It will prove a damaging blow to a White House still struggling to recover from the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

In an exclusive interview, Saar told The Observer that prisoners were physically assaulted by 'snatch squads' and subjected to sexual interrogation techniques and that the Geneva Conventions were deliberately ignored by the US military.

He also said that soldiers staged fake interrogations to impress visiting administration and military officials. Saar believes that the great majority of prisoners at Guantanamo have no terrorist links, and little worthwhile intelligence information has emerged from the base despite its prominent role in America's war on terror.

Saar paints a picture of a base where interrogations of often innocent prisoners have spiralled out of control, doing massive damage to America's image in the Muslim world.

Saar said events at Guantanamo were a disaster for US foreign policy. 'We are trying to promote democracy worldwide. I don't see how you can do that and run a place like Guantanamo Bay. This is now a rallying cry to the Muslim world,' he said.

Saar arrived at Guantanamo Bay in December 2002, and worked there until June 2003. He first worked as a translator in the prisoners' cages. He was then transferred to the interrogation teams, acting as a translator.

Saar's book, Inside the Wire, provides the first fully detailed look inside Guantanamo Bay's role as a prison for detainees the White House has insisted are the 'worst of the worst' among Islamic militants. His tale describes his gradual disillusionment, from arriving as a soldier keen to do his duty to eventually leaving believing the regime to be a breach of human rights and a disaster for the war on terror.

Among the most shocking abuses Saar recalls is the use of sex in interrogation sessions. Some female interrogators stripped down to their underwear and rubbed themselves against their prisoners. Pornographic magazines and videos were also used as rewards for confessing.

In one session a female interrogator took off some of her clothes and smeared fake blood on a prisoner after telling him she was menstruating. 'That's a big deal. It is a major insult to one of the world's biggest religions where we are trying to win hearts and minds,' Saar said.

Saar also describes the 'snatch teams,' known as the Initial Reaction Force (IRF), who remove unco-operative prisoners from their cells. He describes one such snatch where a prisoner's arm was broken. In a training session for an IRF team, one US soldier posing as a prisoner was beaten so badly that he suffered brain damage. It is believed the IRF team had not been told the 'detainee' was a soldier.


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