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A View from Inside Gitmo By: Gen. Paul Vallely and Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 05, 2006

The following presentation took place at Restoration Weekend Feb. 23-26, 2006, at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix -- The Editors.

Janet Levy: At Gitmo, they’ve actually visited the facility a few times, unlike the UN Human Rights Commission. Well, as you probably know, the UN just released a study, lashing out at U.S. treatment of prisoners at that haven of torture, Guantanamo Bay. They cited a few things like our not allowing the prisoners to commit suicide by starving themselves to death. Apparently force-feeding is a violation of their human rights, as is prolonged solitary confinement.

Last time, I checked, being a prisoner meant that you didn’t have complete freedom, but apparently this is very offensive to the UN. They’ve called for the immediate jury trials for the prisoners or to release them and they’ve also called for the immediate closure of Guantanamo and they want a full and independent investigation of all of our detention facilities.


As Gordon and Paul will probably tell you, we have released prisoners at Guantanamo and some of them have gone on to perpetrate terrorist acts. What’s really interesting too is this study was performed by five experts from the UN Human Rights Committee, the vanguard of human rights protections including member nations like Cuba, Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Sudan. In 2003, they elected Libya to chair the commission, and there were three no-votes: the U.S., Canada, and Guatemala. France, of course, abstained.


What’s really interesting is that, to perform this investigation, although they were invited, they didn’t go to Gitmo. They used the testimony of the lawyers of the detainees, as well as some of the testimony of released prisoners who are currently suing the U.S. government for damages so that you and I, the U.S. taxpayer can pay them for damages for their time at Gitmo.


Paul is a senior military analyst for Fox News. He served for 32 years in the Army, including two combat tours in Vietnam. He retired as a Deputy Commanding General. He served on numerous U.S. security assistant missions. He’s a frequent lecturer and guest on nationally syndicated radio shows on the War on Terror. He is the Military Committee Chairman for the Center for Security Policy in Washington. He co-authored the book Endgame. In April 2000, following the death of his son, he established the Soldiers’ Memorial Fund to provide financial assistance for families of fallen soldiers in times of need.


Gordon is a retired Green Beret Lieutenant Colonel who served in Okinawa, Korea, and Vietnam. After leaving the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian Affairs for the Pentagon and the State Department. He was later a marketing VP for GE Aerospace. He’s a farmer also and he ran the largest alpaca and llama operation on the East Coast. He’s a columnist for Front Page Magazine, which has replaced the Los Angeles Times as my homepage. He also writes for Tech Central Station, the New York Post, the Washington Times, and other publications. He’s appeared on Fox News, WABC in New York, and ABC TV. He’s interviewed frequently on the radio and his book also, I hope many of you have purchased, Separated at Birth: How North Korea Became the Evil Twin.


Please first welcome General Paul Vallely.


General Paul Vallely: Project Gitmo is a project that Gordon and I head up. We have included five different activities within Project Gitmo. One is a book that we’re about two-thirds finished with. The working title is The Myths of Gitmo: Torture, Abuse or the Truth?


The second project that I’ve just discussed with Fox News is to do a 1-2 hour special documentary on this whole issue.


I don’t know whether you saw the Iran special that we did last year, but that showed four times as the most popular special that Fox has done to date. We hope that the management there will go along with our recommendation.


The third part of Project Gitmo are a number of articles which will lead up to the book on specific areas on what is going on in this whole world involving detainees, wherever they may be, and whether we’re actually doing torture, abuse or what is the truth.


Now, the fourth one is a very interesting one. How many of you have heard of Pete Dye? All you golfers? One of the top, if not top golf architects in the world. As we were down in Guantanamo, we’re driving over to the detention center and I noticed this rather arid-looking golf course out there. So I asked the Colonel who was escorting us, “Is that the golf course?” He said, “That’s the Guantanamo Naval Base golf course.” I said, “Does anybody play on it?” He said, “No, we have the troops down here. They scuba-dive. We have soccer, gymnasium.” I said, “So you have a golf course but nobody plays on it.” He said, “Well, we had the Haitian refugees, remember all the boat people came over from Haiti? We put them there. There was no place other than the golf course.” So they put all of these tents on the golf course. That’s where the Haitians lived for months.

Well you can imagine what you do to a golf course when you have hundreds and hundreds of people trampling on it. All the greens were basically destroyed, as well as the fairways and the irrigation system. So we have a team going in next month into Guantanamo by private aircraft, Pete Dye’s team, an agronomist and an irrigation specialist. Guantanamo has never had the money to restore that golf course. So we’re going to the PGA and hopefully we’re going to resurrect that golf course for the troops down there.


One of the plans will be to do a kick-off golf tournament with the troops down there and Tiger Woods or anybody else we can get from the PGA. So I think it’s going to be very exciting, because of those soldiers down there and the sailors and Marines. We hear about all of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and here we have several thousand down there doing very difficult job each and every day, putting in 12-hour shifts and all they do is get ridiculed and lambasted by the left-wing press down there for torturing these poor detainees.


The fifth part of our project, our speaking engagements, to really talk about this whole issue and to take the myths that we’ve already put together by the way. I don’t know how many myths we have so far, about 20 maybe. Here’s one myth: the Koran being flushed down the toilet. Here’s another: that we’re torturing them; we’re abusing them.

I’ve got to tell you: they’re getting fat on four to five thousand calories a day. I’ll get a little more into that.


Let me take you back a little about Guantanamo and how this all started. We captured some 70,000 on the battlefields in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002. The last captured came in 2004.

Out of that 70,000, there were 800+ that were vetted out through the processing points over in Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay. Now when the first arrivals were brought in there in early 2002, there were no facilities for them, once the decision had been made to place them in Guantanamo Bay, keep them out of the United States for a lot of very good reasons. But it was an area we could control. Security would be good. We had certain facilities there, infrastructure that could support some kind of a detention center because we weren’t quite sure then what we were going to do with these bad guys that we policed.


And so, out of that 800+ now we’re down to about 490, 495. The balance of those have all been returned to their home countries or other places. Through the whole process since 2002, there has been a very good process in place that has evolved because we are now involved in something that’s totally different than the Geneva Convention’s provided for. What we used to do with prisoners of war. Now these combatants are in a very special category. These are terrorists and they come from all sorts of different countries.


When we look at that population down there, even Teddy Kennedy got turned around when he went down because he was all for closing Guantanamo Bay. As one sergeant told the Senator, “Senator, what are we going to do with them? Because if we release them and close this down, Senator Kennedy, they’re going to come kill your family in Boston.” I haven’t heard about a thing.


But it took some people to get down there onsite to see what’s really going on. You ought to see the kitchen facility down there. It’s a 24-hour-a-day operation. They have a menu to pick from. That menu changes every two weeks. For those who have decided they’re going to go on a hunger strike, they have doctors and nurses that check them out. Their blood pressure, their weight loss and, when they reach a certain level, then they’re taken to be fed. They are taken from their detention facility over to this hospital, which is about as fine as any hospital you’ll find in small-town America with professional nurses, doctors.


They have to restrain the prisoners when they feed them because they attack the nurses. They spit in their faces. They would kill the doctors or nurses if they’re not restrained. They’re simply restrained for 20 minutes so they can be fed Ensure. They get their choice of four flavors of Ensure. It’s put in a very unobtrusive feeding tube smaller than a normal straw and it’s put in there for 20 minutes, so they get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They get to go back to their detention facility.


Here’s one good example of a myth. We put in a basketball court at Camp 4, which is a communal facility. The Afghans love it. By the way the Afghans are the most compliant of all the detainees. Guess who’s the least compliant? The Saudis. The Saudis cause all the problems. We were then accused of trying to coerce these Afghans into playing Western sports and that we were abusing them by bringing them Western-type cultural sports, when they love playing basketball. These are the things that are so blown out of proportion by the left-wing, it’s just absolutely incredible.


Gordon will touch on this but I want to hit it because I think it’s important. We had an opportunity to meet with our top interrogator and spend 2-3 days with him. He’s in charge of the entire interrogation process. Believe me, it is a process. He was telling us that back in 2001, if you took all of our agencies: CIA, DIA, train people, we had at the most 20 people that could do strategic interrogation. Strategic interrogation is a little different than tactical interrogation, where you actually police the individual up on the battlefield and you’re going to interrogate him immediately as to where his friends are, where are they now, where have they been, where are the weapons caches? Those kinds of questions you want to get immediately on the battlefield.


Strategic interrogation is a longer process where you spend time with that prisoner. Basically, through the behavioral process down there that they use with an interrogator and an interpreter and a behavioral scientist, over a period of days and weeks, we have gotten pretty much all the information out of most of them that has really been very beneficial. That story has not been told yet. We are going to put a face on these terrorists in Project Gitmo.


How many thought Moussaoui was the 20th hijacker? He’s at Gitmo. Guess where they picked him up in an INS processing? Orlando. He would have been on the Pittsburgh flight.

We have bin Laden’s public relations man. We have his driver. We have graduates from Arizona State, Emory Riddle University, Purdue, LSU, two with advanced degrees from the London School of Economics in finance.


We have bin Laden’s finance guy down there. We don’t just have Afghan farmers that we picked up in the battlefield. That picture’s been put out there by the left-wing. The story’s unbelievable and the fact is that these habeas lawyers that they have now representing the detainees carry information from the detainees back. It gets back into al Qaeda’s hands. They also bring messages in.


The Manchester documents really are the al Qaeda Bible. One of the things they teach the al Qaeda terrorists is: if you get captured, if you have any opportunity to interface with the press, make sure you say “torture.” Make sure you say you’re getting tortured.


The other thing they teach them, and we just saw what Saddam Hussein did last week or the week before, if you go before a hearing or a jury, make sure you say “boycott.” These people have been well trained. The habeas lawyers are not helping at all. They’re helping the left-wing to conjure up all sorts of reasons to close Guantanamo.


We have now one of the most professional teams in the world on strategic interrogation. We do not have, other than Guantanamo Bay, a strategic interrogation center, processing the terrorists that we’re getting globally. We have an individual by the name of Noorzai who we policed up in Pakistan. He’s the top narco-terrorist or at least the second one, who raised the money and made all of his revenues from selling heroin out of Afghanistan. He also funded bin Laden through the al Qaeda network. He was snatched in Pakistan. He’s now in a New York jail. You can look him up on Google. Here was one of the top narco-terrorists who knew the whole infrastructure.


Where do we have him? In our criminal system. He should be down a Guantanamo being interrogated every day to tie more of the network together. He now has a lawyer and he has shut up. He’s not talking. So we’re not getting the information out of that high-value individual. I would encourage and ask Senator Bunning even to look into this. We need a national strategic interrogation center for now and the future, because the fact they say this is going to be a long war. There’s going to be a bunch of these people, policed up just like we did up in Toledo last week. We have to look now to the future and Guantanamo, believe me, it provides the best facility for this because it’s secure, we can control it, we don’t have to have those terrorists in the United States. As we look to the future, we will further explain this in our writings and in the book.


Thank you very much.


Lt. Colonel Gordon Cucullu: Thank you Paul. We were really lucky. Paul and I went separately over the summer, spent a day down there, and then we went back about four weeks and spent a week. They were very generous about showing us everything that we could possibly see down there.


I’m always asked, “Did you get to go one-on-one with the detainees?” The answer to that is “no.” Obviously they have restrictions on who they can see and that includes, interestingly enough, a representative from the International Committee of the Red Cross who, by the way, is permanently stationed at Guantanamo and has the right and exercises it frequently to talk to the commander, Major General Hood, or to Colonel Mike Baumgartner, who’s commander of the actual detention facilities. He has a right to go in and say, “I would like to go to Whiskey Block and see what’s going on there and I want to go right now.” He exercises that right and he’s never turned down.

Interestingly enough also, so do the commanders. They’re down there without family and so this is a 24/7 thing for them. Why is this different from Abu Ghraib? Abu Ghraib was poorly supervised and that’s about the most generous thing I can say about it. Abu Ghraib was a leadership failure. At Guantanamo, every camp has a minimum of a field grade officer or higher, that’s a major or higher, and a master sergeant or higher, on the block 24/7. They do 12-hour shifts which means the kids typically do 14-hour shifts because you’ve got to get there an hour early and an hour afterwards. It’s very stressful and, when you hear about some of the real abuse going on down there, it’s going to make you feel sorry for these troops.


Because there is abuse at Guantanamo. I did an article called “Gitmo Jive” that appeared in the American Enterprise Magazine in September 2005. That’s from when Paul and I talked and said, “You know, this really ought to be a book because all we’re getting is this really hard left, anti-American crap out there.”


You’ve got a kiss-and-tell book by Eric Saar who was down there for a short period of time as an interrogator. I think he sat in on one interrogation. Then suddenly he’s got a ghost by this gal who works for the Washington Post and so you can imagine where this is going to come from. There’s a couple of really hysterical looney-tunes books out of the United Kingdom by people who have not been further west than the Isle of Wight and they’re writing about it as if they were there in person.


As Paul alluded to, it’s doctrinaire al Qaeda training for these guys. We’ve discovered you can go on Google and look up “Manchester Documents,” and you can download it and print. You can read their training manual. It was discovered in Manchester by the police when they raided a cell there and they posted it on the internet. It’s there chapter and verse. It says, “Use the resources of the West, the legal system, the human rights, the humane treatment, to exploit your position as best you can. Whenever you go into a court you always shout jihadist slogans. You boycott and refuse to take part in the proceedings. You always, always claim torture and abuse.”


So what’s happened is that last year, because of the court saying that these guys had to be represented, they began to get what we all habeas lawyers down there, because the habeas corpus process is in place. If you Google up the names of these clowns, you’re going to find a lot of them have long track records. They’re on Discover the Network, they’re these hard left attorneys who love to go representative causes that are anti-American, that are pro-Left and pro-Communist. For some reason, I guess it’s the enemy of my enemy is my friend.


But what we have, what we’re seeing now is a resurgence of these Communist-Stalinist people with the jihadists. It really is a very strange political bedfellows thing. But again it’s the enemy of my enemy and this drives these folks together.


We’re going to end the book with two questions. We’ll start from the back and work forward. I think they’re very germane and they’re questions that you can use when you’re talking to people who are criticizing Guantanamo.


Number 1 is that if not Guantanamo, then what? What are we going to do with these guys? They’re enemy combatants, picked off the battlefield. As you heard from Paul, they’re a very small set. What have we got, almost 500 roughly out of 70,000. There have been a few additions from Bosnia and a couple of other places. Basically, this is a very small set. These are the worst of the worst. These are not peasant opium farmers that just got accidentally scarfed up in a sweep by the Northern Alliance around Khandahar. These are people who were screened and vetted and have gone through processes like the combatant status review tribunal where they’re represented and they get to make their case. Or in what’s now beginning the military commissions. This is torturously legal.


We’re criticized for not supporting the Geneva Convention. Under the Geneva Convention, we could take these mutts out and shoot them.


However, we are getting good actionable intelligence information from them and that’s what makes the thing worthwhile. It’s not a cheap exercise. We’re building facilities down there that are comparable to some of the best federal prisons. Why? Because we’ve got consultants coming down from the federal prison system saying, “This is what works for us. This is what you need to do.” Because going through Guantanamo is almost like going through a living archeological dig. You can start with Camp X-ray. This is the B-roll that you get with the jihadis and the orange jumpsuits and they’re kneeling down and they’ve got hoods on them and some Americans look very mean.


This actually existed for four months. A whole four months. From January to April of 2002. That’s when we went through the process at the Joint Chiefs of Staff to decide, well, what are we going to do with these guys? And somebody like me probably did a matrix and said, “okay, Hawaii? no, Marion, Ohio? no.” And went down through the whole thing until somebody said, “Whooh! Guantanamo.”


Guantanamo makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Number one, interestingly enough, the Cubans are not interested in interfering with Guantanamo. There’s an excellent military to military relationship between the base commander, who’s a Navy captain, which is the equivalent of an Army colonel and the Cuban general outside the wire. They meet weekly. My suspicion is—this is unconfirmed intelligence—is that there are prodigious amounts of Cuban coffee and Cuban cigars consumed at this meeting every week, and there probably is some passing of good Scotch the other way.

But it’s much to our relief that, however this relationship goes, the Cubans are very supportive. They’ve already told us, “If any of these guys get out, we’re gonna give ‘em back to you. We don’t want to get involved with this.” It’s nice for Fidel to be able to whine and moan about Guantanamo and get some mileage out of it but he really wants Guantanamo there because it gives him a chance to remind everybody about the oppressive colonial imperialist running-dog American pigs to the north.


The other interesting thing is that earlier this year there was going to be a protest by the usual meatheads, again, the Discover-The-Net download and they’re all over there. They came in and they were going to walk from Santiago the outside gates of Gitmo and protest. The Cubans stopped them about eight miles and said, “Well, we’re really worried about you people. There’s no telling what these irresponsible, crazy American Marines are going to do if you come by there, so we think for your own protection you need to just stop and have the demonstration here.” And the base commander and said, “I don’t want them here, you don’t want them here, we’re not going to let them come over. It just causes too much problems.”


Paul mentioned about how the Afghanis are the most compliant. I want to talk about two distinctions that are made. They sound jargonist but their important to understand about the detainees in Gitmo and detainees is the word du jour. We don’t call them prisoners because we don’t want to imply “POWs.” So we call them “detainees”, which is a big word. I call them terrorists.


These terrorists down there are rated on two things. Imagine a four-way matrix and you’ve got compliant, noncompliant, cooperative, noncooperative. “Compliant” refers to their behavior. Do you listen to the guards? If it’s “yes,” you’re compliant. If it’s “no,” you’re noncompliant. Right now, approximately 10% of the population, which would be 50-some odd, are rated “noncompliant.” These are the guys that still wear the orange jumpsuit and are living in cells that are comparable to a federal maximum security prison.


Compliant is behavior. Cooperation, which is the other aspect of it, is do you talk to the interrogators? So interestingly they don’t necessarily correlate. There are many that are very compliant, but are absolutely uncooperative. They won’t tell you a thing. They won’t even confirm who they are. There are others who are extremely noncompliant, who fight the guards at every chance, but one guy brags and says, “I have killed Americans. All I want to do is kill more Americans. I will kill you if you unshackle me. I’m proud of being an Islamic jihadist.” And he encourages the other guys in the cell block: “Don’t be quiet. Tell these Americans, tell these infidels what we’re going to do with them and what you’ve done. Be proud of it.” Others are following the manual and their lips are shut.


I’ll tell one case in point: Mahad al-Khatani or Prisoner Number 63, as he’s now in the business. He may have been roughed up a little bit. We’re not trying to do an exhaustive history of Gitmo in this thing. I’m going to leave that to somebody else. We’re trying to give a little bit of run-up of how it happened, where it is today and where we might be tomorrow.


You’ve got compliant/noncompliant and cooperative/noncooperative. You are rewarded for compliant behavior. The more compliant you are, the more you listen to the directions you’re given, the more freedom you’re given within the detention system. This can be, how do you reward detainees? Do you give them more outside time in the big cages? Do you give them more interaction with more people? Do you let them in effect have a little bit more free time?


Camp 4, which is the minimum security prison, has groups of 10. They live in blocks where they’ve got communal sleeping area with 10 bunks. They chow together. They pray together. They do their own wash and hang it up on little lines. That’s where we’ve got the basketball and they can play soccer.


We were there when they did the call for prayer. We do the call for prayer five times a day but they believe that we’re doing it at the wrong times to try to confuse them, so they do their own time. Usually it’s very indicative for the guards to watch a couple of things. Who leads the call for prayer in this particular group and then who actually leads the prayers. Because then we know who the natural leaders are. When we were there, it was interesting because you could hear it going in different languages. Not that I speak any of them but I’ve been around foreign languages enough to be able to tell when he’s saying something different from him. You could tell it was Pashtun and then the Saudis over here were getting out doing their thing.


There are representatives in Guantanamo from 17 different nations and goodness knows how many language dialects. One of the things that the military and the intelligence services always take a hit on is language capabilities. No matter what happens. I can remember back when we were assisting the Israelis in one of the many wars since 1948 that had gone on there. We got really reamed in the military because we didn’t have enough speakers of one particular enemy or another. It’s almost like how do we crank out people who can speak this much this fast? I had a year and a half of Korean language and then studied it in country for a decade or more. I’m great at cocktail parties but I would not have wanted to do business seriously with Koreans and I certainly couldn’t have interrogated. I knew one warrant officer who could interrogate in Korean.


These languages are every bit as difficult. You get into Afghanistan and it’s not enough that you can speak Pushtu or something, you’ve got to speak the dialect of this particular place. At the intelligence summit this last weekend, where Paul and I both were, they were doing the Saddam Hussein cabinet meeting tapes. They said it wasn’t enough to speak the Iraqi language, you had to know the Tikriti dialect or else a lot of the words didn’t make sense. Then you had to know Ba’athist jargon. It’s very difficult.


Then with a native speaker, you’ve got the issue of “We know who pays him but do we know who he works for?” This is always a tough call. This is where we are in this. We always take these big hits on language but guess what gets cut first whenever we have defense or intelligence budgets? Language training is expensive. It takes a couple of years to put somebody through this. I’m speaking as somebody who went through the program and then was rewarded at the end of my 20 years by being told, “We really don’t need you anymore.” This is in the late 80s when the Army hit the point where they were saying, “Hey, if you’re a trigger-puller, we’re interested in you.” I wouldn’t have minded you know going back to that. But if you’ve had all these other things, well then they’re not interested.

But then suddenly—boom! Another place in the world explodes and we get ragged on from every outside influence—media, Congress, opinion writers and speakers, about how sorry we are because we didn’t have like 2,000 Pushtu speakers all lined up and ready to on September 10th. Well, who knew?


But the interrogation process is very highly supervised. The oversight is complete. A lot of this stuff is filmed. All of it’s recorded and it’s done in a way that’s nonconfrontational. Confrontation abuse, torture, doesn’t really work in the long term.


But that’s what’s called tactical intelligence. Where are your people, what have they got, what are they coming after us with, what unit are you with? I need to know that right now so that I can make decisions that are going to be life and death decisions for my troops and my ability to carry out my mission. Then I evacuate him to the rear because we figure we got what we know. Or as it sometimes has happened, they fool us. Don’t think that we’re 100%. Out of that 70,000 a lot of them fooled us and got away. “Oh, I’m just a poor opium farmer. I was driving a taxi in Khandahar and the first thing you know I mean here I am with an AK in my hand and God Almighty, what’s going on?”


What really helped us in Afghanistan were our National Guard and Reserve Special Forces Unit. These guys were so good. Because with active duty you’re always churning and burning. Okay, you’ve been in Germany, now it’s time to go Okinawa. Then in Okinawa, now it’s time to go to the Philippines. Wherever. But these guys have been going to their meetings and studying specific areas for years and have gotten very, very good at it. During my three years of being an A-Team commander, I probably had three different team sergeants, goodness knows how many medics and demo guys and weapons guys. They’re the same team for 10 years or more in some cases. That’s made them very effective. This integration of the military has really worked.

But there is abuse at Guantanamo that I want to talk about. I think you need to know this. The abuse comes from the terrorists to the troops. It’s these orange jumpsuit 10% guys. They’re in places like Camp 5, which is a maximum security prison. What they do is, every day when the kids come in, they pelt them with feces, urine, semen and spit. When you try to get the detainees out for anything, which might be a medical appointment, a feeding if they’re hunger-strikers, an interrogation or a meeting with their habeas lawyers, there’s always a fight.


By the way our people are not armed. There are no weapons inside the wire. For one reason, you don’t want to use a weapon to these guys. The whiskey block people have told us that the detainees are trying everything they can to catch an American guard. I can only imagine the horror that would be inflicted on that soldier, that man or woman who’s inside the wire guarding these guys if that happened. They want that because then they know it would make all the news all over the world and it would be seen as an AQ victory for the movement.


You go into the cells to get these guys and our people have the padding, the helmet, the visors. The detainees will try to get up under the visor and tear the lips, pull the nose or the ears, gouge the eyes out. In one case, one detainee had gotten his teeth into a soldier’s cheek and when another soldier came running over with what they call a brick, which is a hand-held radio, and hit the detainee a few times to get him off. The soldier who did the hitting got an Article 15 because he’s not allowed to hit the prisoners. I really thought that was pushing it too far. But that is the example of the disciplinary standards that these young people are held. They’re 18, 19, 20 years old. Some of them are back on repeated tours. They have to take the abuse, go outside, get scrubbed, get medically checked to make sure they’re okay, and then the next day show up ready to go again.


The professionalism and the dedication of these kids is amazing. One of the things that’s been my big objective in this book is to let the American people know that these kids who have been called from the Senate floor by Senator Durbin and others as worse than Pol Pot or Nazis or all kinds of names are as fine a group of troops as we have anywhere in the world. I also wrote in that same issue of The American Enterprise Magazine about comparing military culture of today to Vietnam to World War II. I think that what we have today is the Army that we wished we had in the 1960s and 1970s. This is what we yearned for instead of the drugs and the draftees and all this sort of folks.

I want to tell you a couple of stories about individuals. There’s Prisoner No. 63, Mahad al-Khatani. Khatani was a rich, well-educated Saudi kid. He went through this process called “it-seem” [phonetic] which is a conversion to Wahabbist Islam. He decided he wanted to go be a jihadist. He made his way to Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden. He gave his “biat” [phonetic] or his pledge of fealty to bin Laden and he did well. He trained at al-Farouq, he went to Tamak Farms. He went to all these AQ training camps in Afghanistan.


Bin Laden said, “I want you for a special mission. You are going to attack the Great Satan.” So he flew to Dubai, got on a flight to London, got on Virgin Atlantic in London and flew to Orlando and was in Orlando, in August of 2001, trying to get through immigration. He had $2,000 in cash. He had no credit cards and this is a little suspicious for international travelers. He knew someone was going to meet him, but wouldn’t say who. He knew that he was going to be somewhere, but didn’t know where, and he didn’t have a return ticket.


So he had been well trained on the muscle end, but he hadn’t been well trained on how to get through immigration and naturalization. So they said, all right, “we’re gonna take you in a private room.” They grilled him there. He didn’t get any better. Finally, he said, “Okay, I’m going to leave,” and so he went back.

Waiting for him in the receiving area of new arrivals, were Mohammed Atta and the other pilot who took the plane into the North Tower in New York. So we know he was destined for that mission and, because he didn’t have time to go to flight school, he had to be muscled. He was right out of the camps. So he was probably going to be a throat-cutter on the Flight 93 that went down in Pennsylvania. And you have to ask yourself, “Would one more armed jihadist on that plane have made the difference between the guys taking it down or not?”


Here’s another question that I raise in the book. Moussaoui says proudly, “I was here to hijack airplanes.” That gives us 21. How many other planes were supposed to be taken down that day? If there were crews of 5 and we now have 21 identified, are there others that were supposed to be taken down but were grounded when we grounded the whole civil fleet? Remember, everybody was told, “Get out of the air.”


I heard a report, and I think it was on the 11th or the 12th, that, after the fleet had been grounded and they searched all the aircraft, they had found knives or box cutters in 8 other aircraft. I think there were more than the 4 and that’s why we got 21.


There’s another one called Mohammed Balul. Balul is a classic example of what happens when America cuts and runs, because he came out of Somalia. He was recruited by bin Laden during the Mogadishu, the Black Hawk Down affair. He became very close to bin Laden, including being a cook, a body guard, and a driver. It sounds like sort of servant’s work but, if you realize that, in this culture, the cook and the body guards had to be extremely trustworthy persons. The driver has to be trustworthy, so that he doesn’t drive you into a contrived ambush. To be all three like that means that you were really trusted.


Balul was one of the two that was taken before the military commission in mid-February, where he held up the sign “boycott,” and the people who were there said that he had drawn the T’s to look like the twin towers.


There’s one white guy down there, by the way, David Matthew Hicks, who’s an Australian. There’s a website that’s called “Fair go for David,” and all the left-wing are all into this “free David Hicks” and everything. Hicks is an interesting young man. His father describes him as “adventurous.” He went to Kosovo and joined the Kosovo liberation army at the tail end of the Bosnian thing. He left not a wife but a girlfriend and two small children to do this. Then he came back to Australia, got some money, went to Northeastern Pakistan and joined an outfit called the LAT, which is an anti-Indian Islamic terrorist group. He fought in Kashmir against the Indians a little bit and then got a letter of recommendation—-you know, hard work and everything. They sent him to with a letter of introduction to bin Laden to go to one of the al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan. So he trained at al Faroq.


He went up to Tamak Forums and bin Laden asked him if he wanted to do a martyrdom mission and he said, “I think I need a little more training.” So he wasn’t quite the jihadi that he thought he was. But we got him north of Kandahar. The toughest thing I’m having research on is how we actually snatch these guys. I was in SF and you don’t talk to people like me when you’re still in active duty, and I’m trying to find people that are going to tell me about it.


Johnny Walker Lindh, you may remember, the American Taliban: he wasn’t Taliban, he was al Qaeda. He didn’t go there to join the Taliban, he went there to join bin Laden. So Taliban is a misnomer. It has kind of a ring to it and the newspapers like it. But he was a bin Laden protégé. He had pledged his fealty to bin Laden. He was up there in that same group that was dispatched up to the Kandahar airport, and that’s there the Northern Alliance scarfed up a bunch of these people and brought them to a compound. That’s where there was the prisoner revolt, you may remember, and Mike Span, the Marine CIA from Northern Virginia was killed. It turned out that there were hundreds of these revolutionaries. It was a real battle. Hicks is going to be tried soon in the military commission.


There’s another group that I call “the bomb squad.” These are the guys who have, in some cases, advanced engineering degrees. One of them has a masters of science from Purdue. Several others are technologically very proficient and they are bombers par excellence. Many of them are talking to our interrogators and giving information which is helpful in the anti-IED, improved explosive devices now in Iraq. So this is actionable intelligence information that we’re getting.

There’s another group of about 20 detainees there that we’re trying to release but can’t because we can’t find a country for them. We will not release anyone to a country that will not guarantee that they won’t torture or execute them. This is how we bend over backwards. So that excludes Egypt, that excludes the People’s Republic of China. We’ve got about 10 or so of these folks that are called Uighurs. They are from the western province, of Xingjian province in China, which is an Islamic province. They were in Afghanistan to learn terrorism so they could take it back to China. A couple of them are still in Camp Ford, but they’ve decided, after they went through the review process, that these 9 do not fit the profile for being terrorists.


There’s two reasons that we would release people: either we feel like they don’t have intelligence value any longer or they don’t pose a threat to the United States or our allies. They have to meet both of those. So, once they’ve been interrogated, these guys were decided, well, they’re ready for release but we can’t send them to China and what are we going to do with them? Well, Finland may take them.


Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who’s one of the baddest of the bad, and his name comes up in a lot of this research because they were sending some of these terrorists to Pakistan to get advanced training and missions from Khalid Sheik Mohammed or KSM. You may remember that the Pakistani ISI, along with our Delta or Seal team guys, took him down. He’s at one of the black camps, one of the no-longer secret camps.


There’s a lot of complaining that these people are kept in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement, by definition, is that you can’t see or speak to anyone else and you have no outside time or rec time. Nobody is in solitary confinement. There are many who are in isolation. They are individual cells. They can talk to the people across the halls or shout to people down the hallway. In Camp 5, they go out usually go out three times a week. And, because they hate the orange jumpsuit, they’re always told, “Hey, you know, you want to change out of that orange jumpsuit? And get into a nice beige or white, you know, loose-fitting cotton outfit? All the style. Hang out with your buddies. Just do what we tell you. That’s all. It’s no big deal. Just do what we tell you.”


But they don’t and so they’ll go to the hospital and they’ll go after the nurses, they’ll punch the guards. I mean, you cannot ever, ever let your guard down with these people. There’s two of them there that speak English very well and the guards have told me they’re constantly trying to get into their heads. Constantly. When the guards are doing their patrols, they’ll say, “You know, hey, mate! How you doing? What’s going on in the outside? Well, I hate being in here by myself.” Trying to engage them in a conversation because they know if they can get you talking, if they can get you relaxed, at some point, you’re defenses are going to be down and then, boom! They got you.


In the more lenient camps, we have Navy personnel called Masters at Arms, which are like military police or air police in the different services. They go through a very intensive training camp in Fort Lewis, Washington, that’s actually a mock-up of Gitmo. They say they don’t get human feces thrown at them, but they’ll get other stuff, so that they said it was a relief for them to do three weeks at that camp and finally get to Gitmo. When they say that, you know that’s good training.


In the maximum security prisons we’ve got MOS 31 Echoes, specialty prison guards who come out of places like Army stockades in Germany or Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. These guys and gals are very, very professional and tough and they join the Army to be prison guards. Bless their hearts, I’m glad they do.


These detainees get 4200 calories a day. Because the decision was made that, even though they’re not going to be given Geneva Convention status, they will be treated humanely. They’re so overfed, weight is now an issue with a lot of these guys.


A lot of them have come with battlefield wounds, and with diseases or injuries that predated their capture, many of which have been fixed. A couple of the Afghans that were released actually went out and said, “Boy, I got better treatment here than I had at home. Look at my new leg, you know. Others who are the real hardcore ones who should never have been released, say “You know I was tortured, I was abused, they beat me, they chained me, they had nude women running around, they wrapped me in women’s underwear.”


The interrogations just aren’t done that way. We watch interrogations and talk to the head interrogator. I talked to a lot of the people that are doing it. The tactical interrogation that I talked about earlier is totally different than the strategic interrogation. This is where you want to get long-term things. How does the organization work? How do you move your money? What’s your source of funding? How are you organized? How do you recruit? What are you looking for?


It’s not well known that al Qaeda wants college graduates. If you want to be an al Qaeda terrorist, it helps if you’ve got a sheepskin. At the very least, you have to have had some college. These are not stupid people. They don’t mind using soldiers to do the dirty work. You get some kid and pump him up with amphetamines and tell him that he’s going to be a jihadi and tie him to the car and time it so that it goes off. That’s fine. He’s done his job. But who’s doing that? These are smart, smart people and we diminish their intelligence only at our maximum danger.


We should never, ever underestimate the absolutely commitment of them to eradicate Western civilization. That’s why I asked the, if not Gitmo, what? We’ve got to keep these people in confinement. The other question is, if not Gitmo, where? This was a question that one of the sergeants asked Ted Kennedy. It’s also helpful to note, and I say this to audiences, too. More people have died in Ted Kennedy’s car than have died at Gitmo. This is what we call a true fact.


The hunger strikes only began when they began to get the visits from these lawyers. It started with just a few and on September 11, 2005, it heat a peak of 131. Now there’s 4. A lot of them would like hunger strike for 10 days, then eat for a week, then go hunger strike for a few more days. They’d get their Ensure and they’d take the tube and put it over their ear and then walk around, chatting with their friends. They were under a lot of peer pressure to go on hunger strike. So they could say, “Hey, I’m on hunger strike. They’re making me do this.” But the tube is 4 mm and of course the habeas lawyers are saying, “Oh, it’s as big as a fire hose, they’re chained. They rip it out and blood flows and then they stick into the next guy without changing it.”

One of the problems we had is that our medical people get so protective about them. It’s almost as if you go to like a wildlife rehab center and you’ve got these rabid animals in there but you’ve got people that are so concerned about helping out animals that they’ll do anything to keep them alive, and they’re really, really good about this. And so they were acceding to what the hunger strikers were asking them, which was to just stay on 1,000 calories a day. The detains would look very wan, and so then, the attorneys could say, “Oh, he’s barely alive. He’s right at death’s door. Any second now.”


Finally General Hood said, “Forget this. We’re gonna tell them how much nutrition they’re gonna get.” Then a specialist was called in from California. This is all SOP—Standard Operational Procedure—with hunger strikers in American federal prison system, because we had the same guys do that here. General Hood said, “I want them up to 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day.” Then they began to look great hunger striking. Color’s back in their cheeks and everything. It was a great psychological blow, because if I don’t look like I’m hunger striking, then I might as well eat. So that’s when the number of hunger strikers went from 141 to 4. It was a great idea, though I probably wouldn’t have thought of it. By then some of them were actually going in and demanding certain things, such as what flavor of Ensure they wanted.


The hospital that Paul talked about has two operating rooms. It has MRI and CAT scan equipment and full dental facilities. It has digital radiological equipment which the troops in their hospital don’t have. The detainees can go on sick call at any time.


There are no women at Gitmo and no minors. There’s one guy there who’s now 19. He’s a Canadian named Mohammed al Qadr. He was scarfed up the battlefield when he was 15 years old. He comes by terrorism naturally. Hs father and two older brothers were killed in the fighting in Afghanistan and a sister’s been arrested for terrorist activities in Canada. He threw a grenade at some of our Army special forces guys and killed a special forces medic. He’s being tried. As he goes through the process, he’s one that’s going to be identified for war crimes as an “unlawful combatant.” That designation removes from Geneva Convention protection.


One of the important questions besides “if not Gitmo, where?” is, “if not Gitmo, what?’ In the last couple of months, we’ve had escapes from detention in Bagram. One of those guys was a Bali bomber. We’ve had the guy involved in bombing the USS Cole get out of Saana in Yemen. We haven’t had anybody get out of Gitmo. We’re building more facilities down there.

General Vallely served 32 years in the Army, is the Military Committee Chairman for the Center for Security Policy, and co-authored Endgame: Blueprint for Victory for Winning the War on Terror. Gordon Cucullu is an FPM columnist, and his most recent book is Separated at Birth.

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