“Take him outside,” the interrogator told them. They led me up a flight of eight or nine concrete steps to a long gravel drive. It was pitch black out, and completely quiet. There was no one around. One of the soldiers grabbed my left arm, and another took my right. And then they started running.
I tried to keep up, but my legs were shackled together. First, my flip-flops fell off, and after a few barefoot strides, my legs fell out from under me. The soldiers didn’t even slow down. They kept a firm grip on my arms while my legs bounced and scraped along the ground, gravel biting into them. When the run finally ended, the soldiers brought me back to the interrogation room, bloody and bedraggled.
The next day was a repeat.
And that’s how things went for the next ten days. In the mornings, the nurses gave me IV fluids to keep me alive, and at night, the soldiers literally ran me into the ground.
After years of incarceration and inhumane treatment at the hand of U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo, Lakhdar Boumedienne had enough. He went on a hunger strike and remained completely silent when interrogated. The description above is what happened as a result.
They opened the slot in my cell door and immediately started pepper spraying me. I turned my head, but another soldier was waiting just outside the window, where I could not see him. He opened the window and started spraying my eyes from that direction.
They sprayed and sprayed me. They must have used two full bottles of that awful stuff. They kept spraying from both directions and I collapsed on the floor, my eyes burning. It was an ambush, not a precaution. I had not threatened them, or behaved menacingly. I had acquiesced to their search and was sitting peacefully on the bed when they attacked.
One of the soldiers ordered me to lie down and remain prone on the floor while they entered the cell. Even though I did exactly as he said, the first soldier through the door jumped into the air and landed on my back with his knees, nearly breaking my back. The pain was intense. The rest of the IRF team followed after him, piling on top of me. They they used plastic wire to tie my hands and feet.
The soldiers dragged me out of my cell across the cellblock, and onto the gravel driveway outside the cellblock. They threw me down onto the sharp gravel, and then they proceeded to beat me, punching and kicking with all their might. Someone without my years of karate training could easily have died from such an assault. Praise God, I knew how to take a punch. I knew how to move so that my attackers would do as little damage as possible. I knew my body’s most vulnerable spots and how to protect them.
While the soldiers were laying into me, an officer approached. For a moment, I was hopeful. Surely, the officer would be upset to see soldiers beating a defenseless man. Instead, though, she was only upset about the soldiers’ lack of creativity. She took a high-pressure firehose off the wall nearby and forced the nozzle into my mouth. As the soldiers held my head in place, one of them turned on the water. The pressure was so strong that water started spilling from my nose.
Finally, they were done with the hose. But not with me. One of the soldiers grabbed hold of my fractured finger and started twisting. I cried out that it was broken, but they did not care. They just kept shouting curse words and torturing me.
The soldiers forced my face down against the gravel and held me there. One of the soldiers leapt into the air and slammed down onto me, knees first, with all the force he could muster. For the second time that afternoon, my back was almost broken.
In desperation, I tried a ruse. I pretended to faint, hoping that even these brutes would draw the line at hitting an unconscious man. They dragged my limp body, still bound hand and foot, back indoors and into a cell, where they threw me to the floor. I was hopeful that my ruse had worked.
They began kicking me again. One of the soldiers grabbed me by the hair and repeatedly slammed my head against the bottom edge of the toilet until I lost consciousness.
This is just one incident of torture and brutality inflicted by U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo on Mustafa Ait Idir. There were others.
Witnesses of the Unseen is Lakhdar and Mustafa’s story. Two men picked up in the post-9/11 hysteria, accused of a plot to bomb the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo. A three-month investigation by Bosnian authorities established there was no evidence that either man was involved in any terrorist plot, any terrorist group, anything — other than being peaceful, family men. That wasn’t good enough for the American government, however. Instead of Lakhdar and Mustafa going free at the conclusion of the Bosnian investigation, they were turned over to the American military as enemy combatants and spent the next seven years in Guantanamo.
What is stunning to me, even beyond the torture, about Guantanamo and the black sites and all of this is that our government argued that these individuals had no legal rights. No rights to know what the charges were against them. No rights to a hearing. Nothing. No rights. Individuals held by our government were essentially disappeared and treated as less than human and our government fought tooth and nail to avoid ever having to answer to them in the most basic way.
Eventually, their cases came before the U.S. Supreme Court and thankfully, the court concluded otherwise.
What’s interesting is that, while they were incarcerated at Guantanamo based on allegations of plotting to bomb the U.S. embassy in Sarajevo, when these men finally had their day in court, the government discarded those grounds and instead claimed that they had sought to travel to Afghanistan to join the fight there against the U.S. With absolutely no evidence.
The men, along with several others who made up the Algerian Six, were freed.
As I posted last night, I consider this to be one of America’s Greatest Shames. One that continues to this day as Guantanamo continues to grind away at humanity and what is right. It disgusts me every day to know that my government tortured and incarcerated these men in the name of my security.
Personally, I think every American citizen of voting age should read Witnesses of the Unseen. It is only when we confront this evil and darkness that is amongst us that we will regain our humanity as a nation.