Jumah al Dossari has an op/ed piece, “I’m Home, but Still Haunted by Guantanamo,” in today’s Washington Post. In the article, he recounts his mistreatment while in U.S. custody, from the time he was imprisoned in Afghanistan to the day of his return to Saudi Arabia.
We were taken to Camp X-Ray, which consists of cages of the sort that would normally hold animals. Imprisoned in these cages, we were forbidden to move and sometimes forbidden to pray. Later, the guards allowed us to pray and even to turn around, but whenever new detainees arrived, we were again prohibited from doing anything but sitting still.
Physical brutality was not uncommon during those first years at Guantanamo. In Camp X-Ray, several soldiers once beat me so badly that I spent three days in intensive care. My face and body were still swollen and covered in bruises when I left the hospital. During one interrogation, my questioner, apparently dissatisfied with my answers, slammed my head against the table. During others, I was shackled to the floor for hours.
In later years, such physical assaults subsided, but they were replaced by something more painful: I was deprived of human contact. For several months, the military held me in solitary confinement after a suicide attempt. I had no clothes other than a pair of shorts and no bed but a dirty plastic mat. The air conditioner was on 24 hours a day; the cell’s cold metal walls made it feel as though I was living inside a freezer. There was no faucet, so I had to use the water in the toilet for drinking and washing.
I was transferred to the maximum-security Camp Five in May 2004. There I lived — if that word can be used — in a cell with cement walls. I was permitted to exercise once or twice a week; otherwise, I was alone in my cell at all times. I had nothing to occupy my mind except a Koran and some censored letters from my family. Interrogators told me that I would live like that for 50 years.
Hundreds of detainees received similar assurance that they would be imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Many, including al Dossari, attempted suicide during their time at Guantanamo. But despite the government’s assurances that these were terrorists—”the worst of the worst”—the majority have since been released.
All of these prisoners were brutalized by America’s fearfulness. We should familiarize ourselves with each of their stories in the hope that their undeserved misery will provide some small innoculation against torture and tyranny during our next crisis. This is what happens when you don’t care about what happens to people because they’re “bad.”