2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. Joe Hickman said, "I would never have spoken out, unless I heard you first."(Part 5 of 8)

ImageThis 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 are you doing now? I came across you on twitter...and you have spoken at Congressional hearings...and, you talk about your experience...what is your purpose right now?

When I came back from Iraq...how do I put it? You know, I went through the whole depression phase, where you would drink, and you would just kind of stay to yourself. For years. For years.

It's just ridiculous. You never think, well it'll never happen to me, but it does. It just happens over time.

Like I lost...you jut lose drive. You don't do nothing. You quit working out. You just...you stay away from people. And, it's really...that’s the way it happens.

So, I got out of the military in 05. We moved back to my hometown. I got a job. And there was days I was just so...my head wasn't there.

I would get half way to work, and just call in and just come back home. And it was all like...my wife would said, "What’s wrong?" I'd said, "I just don't feel like dealing with it today."

And then around 2008, you know, I would just talk to some friends ...and I don't know...I was angry at what was going on in the news.

I kept hearing Dick Cheney talking about it...you know I remember him making a comment, "In February 2002 in Guantanamo, this was what was going on." And, I can remember looking to the TV, and I just being mad.

This was not true. He's lying. I used to always keep up with a lot of the issues like Guantanamo...so I happened to be on the Internet one day, and I was reading some article and I came across that UCDavid [University of California at Davis, Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas] thing.

And, exchanged emails with Almerindo [Ojeda, Director] from there. And, then over a couple of months it turned into the...put my energy with them... and which in return...they asked if they could give it to people they knew in the media. [He is referring to his testimony at the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas]

But, honestly I never thought in a million years that it would have got the mainstream media press that it did, so I was quite surprised.

It's just, you know...it kind of grew over the years...about me talking to the media and whoever...but at the same time, it’s really helped me too.

It's kind of like. I've met some good people. I've met some other Guantanamo guys, more and more veterans that have actually reached out to me....

Like you know, you've probably heard of Joe Hickman the guy that spoke about the Camp No with the murder-suicides? Like, I spoke to him right before he even spoke out. He was all like, "Dude, I would never have spoken out, unless I heard you first."


Wow. So, I was kind of like, maybe by me speaking and these guys are feeling better about it...now they are coming forward. So, it's like this kind of like this fraternity of guys, who kind of like, stay close together, by doing this. But it has helped me.

I went to London at the end of 2009.

Then, did that documentary with the BBC where I went and I met up with Ruhal [Ahmed] and Shafiq [Rasul], two of guys from Camp X-Ray.

Then, I came back in December 2009, and it aired in January of 2010...and it was like...that was like my big push to, "Wow! It's time to maybe do something with myself."

So, kind of like it was a big life change event for me. I really got focus back into school. Got focus back on getting myself better.

It really helped me a lot. Like, I really changed. And now, I kind of went on the whole...I didn't speak to anybody in the media for it's been over a year, except in the last couple of months.

I was just getting my life back in order. But you know, I just want this, you know like the whole...at least my story...no...not even mine story...but some of the detainees stories, and those first couple of months I was there...at least let some people know what it was like in my experience...and some of the stuff that what went on. That's all. That's the only thing I was looking for at the time.

Continue to Part 6 of 8

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