See also: (Mindset of Individual Jihadists and Their Families)
In the first weeks of the war on terror, American forces took a large number of prisoners from the battlefield. Estimates are that more than 70,000 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters were captured and screened. Of those, approximately 800 were deemed to be of such high value for intelligence purposes, or to pose such severe threats as individuals, that they needed to be interrogated and confined in a maximum-security locale. These were the men who were sent to Guantanamo.
Fully 92 percent of the Guantanamo detainees are known to have had connections to al Qaeda, the Taliban, and similar terrorist outfits prior to their incarceration. They are neither innocent foot soldiers nor confused Afghan farmers who were unwittingly drafted by the Taliban, as some critics of the prison have charged. They are Islamic fundamentalists from across the Middle East, rabid jihadists who have dedicated their lives to the destruction of America and Western civilization. Among them are al-Qaeda organizers, bomb makers, financial specialists, recruiters of suicide attackers, and cold-blooded killers. Many of these men met frequently with Osama bin Laden prior to their capture. The terrorist Maad Al Qahtani, a Saudi who is a self-confessed collaborator with the 9/11 hijackers, is one of them.
All soldiers and sailors working “inside the wire” have blacked out their name tags so the detainees will not learn their identities. Before that step was taken, the terrorists were threatening to tell their al-Qaeda allies still at large who the guards were. “We will look you up on the Internet,” the prisoners said. “We will find you and slaughter you and your family in your homes at night. We will cut your throats like sheep. We will drink the blood of the infidel.”
On a daily basis, American soldiers carrying out their duties within Guantanamo's maximum-security camp are barraged with feces, urine, semen, and spit hurled by the detainees. Secretly fashioned weapons intended for use in attacking guards or fellow detainees are confiscated regularly. When food or other items are passed through the “bean hole”--an opening approximately 4 inches by 24 inches in the cell doors--some detainees have grabbed at the wrists and arms of the Americans feeding them and tried to break their bones.
When guards enter the cells to remove detainees for interrogation sessions, medical visits, or any number of reasons, detainees sometimes climb on the metal bunks and leap on the guards. Others have crammed themselves under their bunks, requiring several guards to extract them. Some have attacked unsuspecting soldiers with steel chairs. Determined to inflict maximum damage, numerous detainees have groped under the protective face masks of the guards, clawing their faces and trying to gouge eyes and tear mouths.
In 2006, there were more than 3,000 recorded incidents of detainee misconduct. These included 432 assaults with bodily fluids, 227 physical assaults, and 99 efforts "to incite a disturbance or riot."
American soldiers are strictly forbidden from responding in kind. They are constrained to maintain absolute discipline and to follow humane operating procedures at all times, at risk of serious punishment for failure to do so. Documents obtained by the Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show, for instance, that when one U.S. soldier delivered two blows to an inmate's head while trying to defend a guard who had been punched in the mouth by that inmate, the soldier was dropped in rank to private. In a different incident, an MP whom one inmate had doused with toilet water responded by spraying the offending inmate with a hose; for this, the MP was charged with assault. Another American soldier was disciplined for cursing at inmates. And in yet another case, a guard who punched a detainee after being struck and spit upon (while placing the man in restraints in the prison hospital in October 2004), was recommended for a reduction in rank, the loss of a month’s pay, and extra duty for 45 days.
It is noteworthy that the Guantanamo detainees, while exceedingly dangerous and even pathological in their desire to kill Westerners, are generally well-educated and broadly traveled. Several detainees have advanced degrees in law, engineering, and medicine from American and European schools like the University of London. Others are highly skilled technical experts with advanced training and knowledge of electronics and demolitions. Many of them came from middle-class or wealthy families.
Adapted from "Gitmo Jive," by Gordon Cucullu (September 2005).