A broiling Cuban evening, October 2003. Major General Geoffrey Miller, a squat, rebellious artillery officer who is now commandant of the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, stands in the shade of a palm tree by his headquarters.
His interrogators, he said arrogantly were developing enormously important intelligence, which had foiled terrorist strikes in both America and Britain, and that he thought of Guantanamo as the interrogation battle lab in the war against terror.
He said that their methods were humane. Occasionally dealing with a hardened prisoner, they might have to become aggressive, but that usually, they got their information by building a rapport and that the inmates gave up their secrets because they’ve come to appreciate the kind, civilised values that Guantanamo represents.
To watchers of the acclaimed film drama The Mauritanian, the real story of former Guantanamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Geoffrey Miller’s assertions may seem difficult to believe.
Captured in his home country on the edge of the Sahara after a bogus tip-off that he was an al Qaeda revolutionary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was taken to Guantanamo in 2002.
On Geoffrey Miller’s watch, he was reduced to shackling in excruciating stress positions for hours on end and to extremes of heat and cold, sleep deprivation, sexual embarrassment and beatings. He was even made to drink seawater when he said he was thirsty.
The use of these enhanced interrogation methods has long been documented in US government reports, in relation not only to Mohamedou Ould Slahi but to hundreds of others.
Eventually, in 2016, after more than 14 years, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who was now 50 years old, went home, cleared of all charges, and the years of torture and isolation had been for nothing, and whatever he may have told his interrogators, it couldn’t have stopped any terror strikes because he was never a revolutionary.
As for Geoffrey Miller, by the time he was given a Distinguished Service Medal on retiring in 2006, he’d been publicly accused of overseeing the abuse of detainees not only at Guantanamo but at the prison he ran both before and afterwards, at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
Efforts were made to prosecute him for war crimes, and he faced interrogation by the US Congress, but he vehemently denied being accountable for cruelty and claimed orders he gave were misinterpreted.
Now, Guantanamo seldom makes the news, particularly in Britain, and the last of its 18 British detainees, Londoner Shaker Aamer, was released in 2015.
Of course, some of those detainees probably were revolutionaries, but then two wrongs don’t make it right, and some of those detainees had nothing to do with what they were being accused of, and these people had no trial to determine whether they were innocent or guilty, and that was just pure evil.
And some of them were there without any evidence or trial, and suspicion is a weak justification for abusing human beings.
The worst thing of all here is that they all deserve a fair trial, but you know what people are like, all they care is that they’re humans, and frightened human beings will say whatever you want so that they don’t get a beating or the threat of being sexually abused.
Human beings are being treated like animals, but animals can only be threatened in the moment so can’t be controlled. So, they are treated like animals, but they’re actually human beings, and whatever these people might have done, or not done, they still have human rights.