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National Geographic film goes "Inside Guantanamo"
Fri Apr 3, 2009 9:14am EDT
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By Randall Mikkelsen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Guantanamo military prison guards call it a "cocktail," the mix of feces, urine and spit that inmates hurl at them and that dramatizes the soldiers' view that they are serving on a battlefield.
The inmates talk of their years behind steel doors, many held without charges, and denounce their American jailers as "attackers of Muslims ... with blood on your hands."
The day-to-day tensions between inmates -- some of whom charge torture -- and the troops who guard them are vividly depicted from both perspectives in a new National Geographic documentary, "Explorer: Inside Guantanamo."
"This is still an integral part of the war on terror," Guantanamo's "warden," Col. Bruce Vargo said in the movie. A former inmate agrees, calling Guantanamo a physical and psychological "war zone."
The documentary is the first in-depth look at the detention center for terrorism suspects that has become a worldwide symbol of U.S. abuses in fighting terrorism after the September 11 attacks. National Geographic Channel will broadcast it on Sunday evening in the United States and other countries.
It may also be the last such look -- President Barack Obama in January ordered the facility at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, closed within a year. His administration is studying what to do with about 240 detainees who remain.
"Guantanamo Bay was the legal equivalent of outer space -- a place with no law," former Navy defense lawyer Charles Swift says in the movie.
Swift's client, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, won major Supreme Court rulings giving Guantanamo prisoners rights in U.S. courts.
The 1-1/2 hour film was shot last August, at a time that the Bush administration was insisting it was impossible to close Guantanamo despite worldwide condemnation.
Crews also visited Afghanistan and England to interview released inmates, and spoke with U.S. policy makers, intelligence officials and lawyers on both sides of the issue.
The movie depicts the daily routine in a cellblock of Guantanamo's concrete-and-steel maximum-security facility. Guards make suicide checks every three minutes; inmates banter or taunt; a Muslim librarian hands out books, or soldiers rush with face shields and rubber gloves to quell a disturbance.
TIGHT SHACKLES, WINDOWLESS ROOMS
It shows the vine-covered ruins of Camp X-Ray -- the open cages where inmates in orange jump suits were first held in 2002 and led tightly shackled to nearby wooden shacks for interrogations in tight, windowless rooms.
The film also traces post-September 11 U.S. policy toward terrorism suspects, from vilification, to the harsh interrogations and the military leaders who fought them, to Supreme Court rulings and to what the military now casts as respectful, humane treatment.
Along the way, former President George Bush denounces militants as "nothing but a bunch of cold-blood killers, and that's the way we're going to treat 'em." Continued...
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