This is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.
Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .
I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.
Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.
What is powerful for me about what you just said was the fact that...you know, I think that something really inherently good about being of service to our fellow man. Now, obviously there is a sphere a life that is uncivilized...in certain cases if you just look at human history. But fundamentally, when we go to war with an unjust cause...and a dishonest mandate...it creates essentially misery and destruction. And you go, and you...through a serious of events you find yourself...it sounds to me like making amends, and suddenly that situation gets turned around. I think it’s actually quite beautiful to tell you the truth. I mean, in its ugliness. Sometimes, and I am speaking to you personally...maybe...this probably won't go in...I think that sometimes the worst things that happen to us actually...we regret them...but at the same time they make us useful, because we are able to be of service to people...and actually speak from a point of actually having been there.
There have been like so many responses I've got from TV. It's crazy the amount of emails or stuff I have had sent to me.
I think one of the best emails or comments I got was after the BBC documentary.
The BBC got an email form a woman...she was a school teacher in Iraq in Baghdad, and she emailed them and asked them could they send her a DVD of the documentary, because she wanted to show her students that Americans weren't bad people. That they do get along with Muslim people, and that they're not anti-Muslim and that they're not out to kill them, like some of the people, some of the soldiers were.
She said the way the some of the kids were being raised she wanted to show them that all people of all walks of life could get along. That was kind of like good...this woman is already in Iraq, and she's seen the show...but she wants to spread the message there for her school kids there.
It's like, "Okay, if this is the only person that sees it and it did that." I mean well that was good enough for me. I mean that was it. That was one of the bright spots of doing something like that.
That is so awesome. Totally awesome, man. How long have you been on social media? You connected with a lot of people through Facebook and I came across you on twitter.
Well twitter, I just got on.
I got on twitter for a reason. And, I hadn’t been on very long at all.
But Facebook, you know, I have been on Facebook for a while. Facebook was actually where I came across Shafiq [Razul]. It's amazing, there is a lot of former detainees that are on Facebook.
You just go to Facebook and type in their name and they are on Facebook.
And you see it's crazy how social media is contacting people. But at the same I've had people who've contacted me with messages or thanks...but also, at the same time other veterans, You know, "Hey man"...You know, there another guard...you know I've talked to a lot of the former guards, who have spoken out....but recently...I don't know if you have read the Truthout article with David Hicks, that Jason Leopold wrote?
The other guard in there, Albert Melise, who actually took part in some of the interrogations...he had actually talked about how he had short-shackled detainees...turn the AC all the way up...or turn the heat all the way up...turn loud music up.
He actually reached out to me two years ago. He was like, "Hey, Bro. Watching you and seeing what you're doing basically saved my life. All, I've done"...I mean he's never been to Iraq or Afghanistan.
All he has ever done was he was at Guantanamo for one year. But, I never realized...Guantanamo affected me...but not a much...for me it was a mixture of Guantanamo and a mixture of Iraq that kind of pushed me over the top.
To see the effects that Guantanamo alone has had on some of the other guards that were there after me. The effect it has had on their lives. It's amazing. I did not realize how much Guantanamo effects these guys, until they started to contact me.
But him in general. He was drinking a bottle of Bacardi 151 a night. He had no drive, nothing. And, that article was his first...where ever really said anything publicly.
But, he's just torn up inside...because he took part in that, and he feels horrible for it. And he's just lost. And it's sad to watch and hear him talk. It's just unreal.
Brandon Neely Interview: