Disturbing account of abuse and secrecy at the Guantánamo Bay military prison, tied to the deaths of three detainees.
Proud of his long career in the Marines, Army and corrections, Hickman re-enlisted after 9/11. He joined the Maryland National Guard and was ultimately sent on a yearlong deployment to Gitmo. Although the author had worked in violent prisons in the past, he was shocked by the chaotic atmosphere in the detention units, noting that interrogation personnel were exempted from standard security oversight and that there was a fraught atmosphere of racial tension and mistrust between the Guardsmen and the Navy personnel administering the prison. Although Hickman suspected that many detainees were potentially dangerous jihadi, he was disturbed by the unprovoked harassment and abuse handed out by the guards. His unease climaxed in June 2006, when, on his supervisory watch, three inmates died mysteriously. Hickman was first informed they’d had rags stuffed in their mouths, but the media received an implausible account of a coordinated suicide, which an inscrutable report later supported. Though he was never contacted by investigators, the author remained sufficiently haunted by his experience to contact a Guantánamo-focused think tank at Seton Hall Law School, setting in motion a six-year investigation. They meticulously deconstructed the report and other evidence, determining the deaths may have stemmed from deliberate overdoses of anti-malarial drugs with psychoactive side effects, administered “to break down detainees.” Chillingly, Hickman concludes that commanders as highly ranked as Donald Rumsfeld had decided to use Gitmo as “America’s battle lab,” testing unproven interrogation techniques on its alleged enemy combatants: “I believed we were guards protecting America from the worst of the worst,” writes the author, “…[but] the authorities behind it aimed to create ‘controlled chaos.’ ”
A plainly told, unsettling corrective to the many jingoistic accounts of post-9/11 military action.