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posted 6.3.11
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The Prison Tour At GTMO – My Perspective

By Natalie Stovall

Ok. SO my husband is such a fantastic story teller he’s starting to make me self conscious of my blogging abilities. ;) I highly encourage you to read HIS blog BEFORE you read this one if you haven’t yet. (it’s right after this one) I second EVERYTHING he said.

The prison tour was by far one of the most memorable parts of this trip and just about any other trip. They had told us early on that we would get to tour the prison, but I had NO IDEA we would actually see the detainee’s walking around. That blew my mind.

The detainees (not prisoners… they have not been tried yet… but their countries want nothing to do with them) have it about as well as they possibly could. For guys that were caught doing unimaginable things… they really have it good. However, they want everyone (including their families and friends at home) to think they are being mistreated. They KNOW the media and others (like ourselves) are taken on tours of the facilities…. and just like a high school gymnasium…. they make posters for us to read in hopes that people will feel sorry for them.

It’s funny. As we were sitting in the briefing room watching slides and listening to the General talk about the abundance of things they make sure the detainees have (movies galore, a 22 channel flat screen tv, a wide variety of meal options, art/language classes, 24/7 medical attention, etc) I was thinking, “Wow. We sure do treat them well.” But it turns out… anything we can do to keep them busy is a good thing. For many of them, their whole objective in life is to make the guards’ lives a living hell. And nothing is above some of these guys. They will take their own feces and urine… rub themselves in it and also use it to throw at the guards. And you know what the guards can do about it? NOTHING. Not even react. Their training teaches them that the less they can react – the more it defeats what these guys are trying to accomplish… which is get a rise out of them.

We spent a lot of time talking to the guards after our shows. And one thing that James and I both noticed was how they didn’t complain about it one bit. Many of them talked about the verbal abuse they had gone through that day. Or the feces and/or urine cocktails that have been made and thrown on them…. but they get cleaned up (many times the uniforms have to be burned… some of the detainees have hepatitis) and return to their jobs as quickly as possible. And they are proud to do so.

This is not to say it isn’t psychologically trying. And some of these men and women have had a really tough time. A female guard even fell in love with one of the detainees a few years back… quite the scandal. But for the most part, these young men and women just take it in stride as part of their duty. They may not have ever envisioned this as part of their service… but it IS part of their service. And they are proud to serve.

And let me tell you. It is inspiring to be around.

They can’t force the detainees to do anything – not even eat. And they use hunger strikes as a way of defiance often. But when they don’t eat, we have to get nutrition into them somehow. So they are given 2 Ensures (through a tube in their nose) 3 times a day. One of the detainees is on such a mission to make life hell for others… he takes his own feces and puts it up his nose. Yes. You read that right. But when he does this, it means the medic putting the tube up his nose and down his throat must clean out the feces first. And the detainee feels this will demean him.

It’s interesting to me that he has such little respect for himself that he will go to such lengths. Isn’t he demeaning himself MORE by being the guy that will put his own feces up his nose to spite someone else? Isn’t HE the one that suffers the most? I guess he overlooks that part.

And the detainees can also offer to be interrogated or “talk” to us. Now… why would they do that? Well… they get a private room with a nice comfy chair… meal of their choice and movie or conversation. (Or maybe it is just a break from the other 8 guys they spend every waking hour with) Many are ego-maniacs and once they get to talking… they may or may not reveal pertinent information. But it’s interesting because if they are on a hunger strike – they may offer to be interrogated, order a large pizza, eat the whole thing and then go back to their “brothers” and brag about how hungry they are, but how they would never eat the meals we provide.

More than one person also mentioned that they will notice cracker crumbs in the beards of the so-called hunger strikers. And apparently there is a universal love for “Shrek” among the detainees. They can’t get enough. And when they heard there was a Christmas special? Forget it! They were chomping at the bit to see it. Yes. The Christmas Special.

They are also given the option to shower daily but most of them wait at least a week or so. The record for one guy was 62 days with no shower. Mmmmm….

That tour opened my eyes to things I had never even thought about or would have ever thought about. And I just can’t believe what some of our servicemen and women go through.

More to come tomorrow.

Peace. Love. Fiddle.
~natalie