Guantánamo Bay is a bay located in Guantánamo Province at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the largest harbor on the south side of the island and it is surrounded by steep hills which create an enclave that is cut off from its immediate hinterland. It is the home to the US governed Guantanamo Bay detention camp, which has made news headlines in recent years, but this strategic bay has had a long bitter history. The United States assumed territorial control over the southern portion of Guantánamo Bay under the 1903 Cuban–American Treaty. The US exercises complete jurisdiction and control over this territory. The current government of Cuba regards the US presence in Guantánamo Bay as illegal and insists the Cuban–American Treaty was obtained by threat of force in violation of international law. In the second part of this program we see rare footage obtained from the Guantanamo detention camp as allegations of torture is be discussed with interviews from both the guards and former inmates and their lawyers. The closing-down of the Guantanamo Prison has been requested by Amnesty International in May 2005, by the United Nations in February 2006 and the European Union in the May of the same year but almost a decade on nothing has been done by the United States, a country that ironically considers itself the defendant of human rights in the world.
Transcript – Part 1
Commander Richard Butler: Guantánamo Bay. It's a US Navy Base but it's in Cuba, in a leased piece of land.
René González: This is Cuban territory, illegally occupied.
Rafael Hernández: The vast majority of the Cuban population is against the continued presence of the US in Guantánamo.
René González: The hostility from Guantánamo Bay has been constant. They use it as a possible pretext for military intervention in Cuba.
Carlos Alzugaray: Well the Naval Base in Guantánamo represents what was wrong about Cuban-US relations.
Commander Richard Butler: So, thus, GTMO.
Part I: The Other Side of Guantánamo
René González: The idea of annexing Cuba and joining it to the United States is an old idea that goes back a long way in US politics. Every single US President throughout the nineteenth century was animated by this idea. And they always had the ambition to take Cuba because of what Cuba represented geopolitically in the US expansionist strategy.
Animated Text: "I candidly confess... that I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of states." President Thomas Jefferson, 1823
José Sanchez: On the 24th February 1895, the Cuban War of Independence breaks out and from this point on, the US starts mobilising for military intervention in Cuba.
René González: The decision to intervene in Cuba's War of Independence had already been taken by the US government. So they needed a pretext, and the pretext they used was the explosion of the Maine. The US first accused the Cubans of having planted a mine under the ship. They then accused Spain of being behind the explosion, even though, at the moment the ship exploded, the Spanish government was holding an official reception with the ship's officials. In any case, history leaves us in no doubt that this was the pretext that the US used to realise their ambition of taking Cuba.
Rafael Hernández: Guantánamo is one of the four biggest bays in Cuba. It's a bay that provides ample space, yet has a very narrow entrance. This was of great advantage, not only for refueling, but that the space right in front of the bay provided a perfect polygon in which to conduct naval exercises.
René González: The world's great naval powers such as England, France, Spain and Holland had for a long time been aware that Guantánamo Bay was privileged
because of it's physical characteristics and its location in the Caribbean. And because of this, before deploying their troops in Cuba, the first thing they did was occupy Guantánamo Bay.
Rafael Hernández: It's important to realise that this territory was occupied before the naval base was ever built there.
Commander Richard Butler: In those days you had a lot of coal and oil burning ships so it was primarily a good fueling station for the US navy. So that's why we wanted to keep it.
René González: The US threatened that they wouldn't withdraw their occupying force, thereby denying Cuba its independence, unless Cuba approved the Platt Amendment.
Rafael Hernández: One of the points of the Platt Amendment is that Cuba will yield up territory to the US for naval stations for coal refueling.
René González: At the time when the naval base agreement was signed, the US Governor of Cuba, Leonard Wood, wrote a famous letter in which he said, "You either sign the agreement for the naval base, or we don't leave."
Carlos Alzugaray: The treaty, being drafted in a permanent way, there is no exit clause or termination clause. It only says that in order to terminate the treaty, both sides have to agree. So that means that even if Cuba wanted to eliminate the base, it couldn't because the United States would argue, 'I have to agree'.
Rafael Hernández: In international law, a treaty that doesn't have a termination date is an invalid treaty. So it's a totally bizarre lease. It's like having somebody rent a room in your house and being allowed to stay as long as they like.
Animated Text: Platt Amendment III. The United States may exercise the right to intervene.
René González: And the amendment also granted the US the right to intervene militarily in Cuba whenever they considered that their interests were threatened.
Animated Text: "There is, of course, very little independence left under the Platt Amendment." General Leonard Wood, Governor of Cuba, 1901.
René González: The US intervened in Cuba from the Guantánamo Bay naval base in 1906, 1912 and 1917.
José Sanchez: With the objective of protecting US economic interests and to protect 'the American way of life' in Cuba. In this way, in 1906 when President de la Palma was running for re-election, in the midst of a volatile situation across Cuba, the US army crossed the frontier and intervened in Cuba.
René González: The same happened in 1912 with the rise of the 'Independent Movement of Colour'; a movement of black people, who, feeling extraordinarily marginalised, embarked on an armed struggle to try to win their rights.
José Sanchez: In 1917, there's another internal movement known as the 'Chambelona'. The US intervenes from Guantánamo Bay for a third time. It's little known that in 1917 the US established an occupying force of 35 000 soldiers in Cuba. 35 000 soldiers on a small island; at that time the Cuban population was only slightly over one million, so 35 000 soldiers meant a military presence throughout the whole country.
Animated Text: "The day is not far distant when three Stars and Stripes at three equidistant points will mark our territory: one at the North Pole, another at the Panama Canal, and the third at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally." William Woard Taft, President of the United States, 1912.
José Sanchez: Throughout the twentieth century, the US military would use Guantánamo Bay as a staging ground from which to intervene in countries throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Thereby putting pressure on any national liberation movement that might rise up.
René González: Guantánamo Bay at this time was essential to the US's geopolitical strategy. It made up a strategic triangle, together with Puerto Rico and Panama.
Carlos Alzugaray: And the Panama Canal was also an American military occupation zone. So the base was designed to support the military occupation of Panama and the military control of the Panama Canal by the United States navy.
René González: One of the most significant military interventions launched from Guantánamo was the 1914 intervention in Mexico. US troops also set off from Guantánamo to occupy Haiti, US troops also departed Guantánamo to fight against Sandino in Nicaragua, US troops also left from Guantánamo to intervene in the Dominican Republic. If we were to categorize the role that other US military bases have played on the world stage, then the role of US bases in Europe during the Cold War was to contain Communism, the idea of the US bases in Asia was to contain Chinese and Korean Communism, whereas the role of the US naval base in Guantánamo was that of a launching pad for aggressions against the Latin American continent. I don't think there's any other US military base in the world that has participated in as many military interventions as Guantánamo Bay.
René González: The dictator Fulgencio Batista was the US's man in Cuba. They themselves saw him that way. He was the best defender of US interests that Cuba ever had.
José Sanchez: War broke out across Cuba and a rebel movement starts fighting against the Batista regime.
Carlos Alzugaray: Batista was murdering a lot of people and there was a lot of outcry in the United States for that purpose.
José Sanchez: And, under pressured from public opinion around the world, the US found itself forced to impose an embargo on sending weapons to the Batista regime.
Carlos Alzugaray: When the State Department insisted that there be an embargo on weapons to Batista, the Batista air force started to be supplied with weapons in Guantánamo.
José Sanchez: Military bombers and other aircraft in the Batista air force would land at Guantánamo, where they were refueled and loaded up with ammunition and bombs, including napalm bombs, before setting off to gun down and bomb peasants and rebels.
Rafael Hernández: I lived through a bombing campaign by Batista's air force in December 1958 in the village where I was born, Cabaiguan. They bombed the outskirts of this village, gunned down peasants and terrorised the population, because there is nothing more terrifying than hearing, in the middle of the night, a plane coming to bomb you.
René González: This motivated Raúl Castro to mount an armed propaganda operation known as 'the anti-air campaign'.
José Sanchez: Twenty-three US sailors were kidnapped and detained while on their way back to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.
Animated Text: "We saw ourselves obligated to detain the North American citizens: a. to attract world attention, b. to put a stop to the criminal bombings, which included fire bombs, rockets and even napalm bomb." Raúl Castro
René González: It was a rapid operation and in fact Fidel Castro gave the order to Raúl Castro to quickly free the detainees so as not to give the US a pretext to invade.
Up until the Batista dictatorship in 1952 - 1958 the base was an area of close military collaboration between Cuba and the US and this collaboration continued up until the rebel army entered Havana.
Animated Text: "The base has always been part of the plans and operations conceived by Washington to overthrow the revolutionary government." Fidel Castro
José Sanchez: For the victory of the Cuban Revolution on 1 January 1959, Guantánamo Bay was turned into a place where US authorities conspired against the new revolutionary state
René González: Over twenty counter-revolutionary groups operated on the outskirts of the Guantánamo naval base, and US naval intelligence in Guantánamo Bay provided these groups with military preparation and logistical support.
Rafael Hernández: As well as this, from these first years the base was a point of confrontation because the US and Cuban armed forces were head to head and from there, in the 1960s most of all, a huge amount of provocations took place, including throwing stones, obscene acts, verbal provocations, and even shooting at Cuban soldiers standing guard on the Cuban side.
José Sanchez: And we have the example of Ramón Lopez Peña and Luis Ramírez López. Young men in their early twenties, who were assassinated while they were standing guard on the naval base frontier. Workers were also tortured, a fisherman
was assassinated, and all this was done with the aim of provoking, because the US was looking for a pretext to invade.
José Sanchez: Between March and April 1961, the internal and external counter-revolution received a resounding defeat at the hands of the Cuban Revolutionary forces.
Rafael Hernández: In the wake of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, it was obvious that 1500 Cuban counter-revolutionaries, armed and trained by the United States; by the CIA and by the US army were not capable of toppling the Cuban government. So the US now realised that the anti-Castro Cubans didn't have the military capacity to topple the Cuban government and the Cuban armed forces. So at this point the US comes up with a new strategy: generate a situation in which the United States could justify sending in their own armed forces, in which they had full confidence, to destroy the revolution.
Animated Text: "We should stage an attack on Guantánamo" Christian Herter, US Secretary of State
Animated Text: "The quicker we do it, the more tempted Castro might be to actually attack Guantánamo" Dwight Eisenhower, President of the United States
René González: There was a famous operation prepared by the CIA, which had the objective of provoking an incident from Guantánamo Bay between the US and Cuban military forces.
Rafael Hernández: The idea was connected with an attempt to assassinate Raúl Castro who was due to give a speech in Santiago City in Cuba.
José Sanchez: They planned to shoot both Raúl Castro and members of the crowd with bazookas. There was even a backup plan for if the assassination attempt failed; to assassinate Raúl, the Minister of Defense, on the road to the airport in Santiago City.
René González: This operation was prepared by the CIA, using various Cuban counter-revolutionaries from the groups that operated in close proximity to the base.
Rafael Hernández: And immediately, counter-revolutionaries posing as Cuban soldiers would launch an attack against the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. And the plan was to present this as a crazed Cuban attack on the US naval base; as a knee-jerk reaction ordered by Fidel Castro upon learning of his brother's death. This was to be the scene in which this political theatre was to play out.
José Sanchez: The plan fell apart because of the effectiveness and experience of Cuban Intelligence.
Interviewer: Has the base ever been used as a base from which to organise assassination attempts against Cuban politicians?
Commander Richard Butler: Not to my knowledge.
René González: 'Operation Mongoose' is another well-known US operation. One of the ideas floated in this operation was to blow up a US ship within the Guantánamo naval base. Another proposal was to shoot down a US civil airliner with students on board, while flying over naval base territory, so that this could serve as justification for US military intervention. They were trying to fabricate a pretext - a modern-day Maine - to justify US military intervention in Cuba.
Rafael Hernández: These days it's not being used as a naval base, it's a territory where the US has put a prison to hold prisoners beyond the reach of US law.
Carlos Alzugaray: The United States argued in the Supreme Court that US laws don't apply in Guantánamo because Guantánamo is a Cuban sovereign territory.
Rafael Hernández: From a strictly legal point of view, what happens in Guantánamo Bay is happening in a foreign territory, because technically, Cuba still exercises sovereignty in this territory. This explains why the jail is there right now.
Carlos Alzugaray: It's very easy to do whatever they want to do with these prisoners without anybody looking, supervising or controlling what's happening there.
Rafael Hernández: They have chose to put the prisoners there because it's a legal no man's land that allows the US to keep them there indefinitely.
José Sanchez: And it causes us indignation that this beautiful city and it's noble citizens are now linked with the international imperialist prison that they've built in the base.
René González: Ever since the base was first established the US employed cheap manual labour from Cuba and other countries in the region.
Miguel Barnes Allá: Until very recently, there were provinces and people and maybe politicians too who weren't aware that here in Guantánamo City there were still Cuban workers commuting to and from the base every day.
José Sanchez: I've calculated that over the course of the twentieth century around 50 000 Cubans have worked in the base. Various generations of Cubans trying to earn a living and put bread on the table.
Luis de la Rosa: My father worked for just three months in the local sugar refinery. After that he was scraping by. By working at the base, I realised I could help my family out.
René González: The last workers at the base have now retired. The Cuban government always respected their right to work at the base.
Luis de la Rosa: My last day of work in the naval base was the 28 December 2012.
Harry Henry: De la Rosa and I were always saying to ourselves, who ever would have thought that we would be the last two workers to leave here! And especially him and I, because he has his character and I have mine, we are very different characters.
Luis de la Rosa: There was a time when those on the US side called us communists, but then when we crossed over to the Cuban side, they'd call us imperialists! So we were outsiders there, and outsiders here. But over time both sides came to understand that it wasn't like that. We were neutral.
Luis de la Rosa: It was an historic moment because now, for the first time, the frontier is completely closed. Because with us having packed up our bags, there are no longer any workers who enter there. It's now closed.
Vox Pop 1: I don't know why the base is still there. I think the time has now come to find an agreement between both nations where they return the base.
Vox Pop 2: This territory should be ours, not theirs. And they are oppressing people there. We hear real horror stories about that place.
Vox Pop 3: There are many beaches there. If we had access to those beaches, the whole province would be able to enjoy them.
José Sanchez: Often we focus on the political side, but we should also look at the economic effects the base has had. Let's imagine California without San Francisco Bay. Well that's what's happened with Guantánamo!
Rafael Hernández: Cuba's problem with the base is not ideological. Rather, the problem is one of sovereignty, of international law, and of Cuba's right to recuperate it's sovereign territory.
René González: Cuba doesn't have diplomatic relations with the US. But its not because Cuba doesn't want to have them, it's because the US doesn't want them. The US economic blockade on Cuba persists, and on top of this, the US insists on keeping Cuba on their list of state sponsors of terrorism. So of course, if the US keeps up these hostile policies, we shouldn't delude ourselves that the presence of the Guantánamo Bay naval base is something normal and unproblematic.
Carlos Alzugaray: To get back the base is not a question of principle. It's a question of principle in the long term but not in the short term. In the short term what we should do is try to avoid any use of the base for military purposes against Cuba, and that's contained.
René González: It would be the pretext - the modern-day Maine - that they've coveted for over half a century, from the start of the revolution, but they've never been able to get.
End of Part 1
Transcript – Part 2
Commander Richard Butler: Honor bound to defend freedom? It's a motto. If you look within the United States military.
Guard 09171: We're bound to defend freedom and rights.
Chaplain Terry Edinger: Using the phrase honour bound means that we adhere to a uniform code of military justice.
Commander Richard Butler: You know units and organisations tend to have a motto to rally around.
Guard 09766: Not a lot of people get the chance to even come down here to Guantánamo
Medic 1 ("Anhinga"): Why are we honour bound to defend freedom?
Medic 1 ("Anhinga"): That's what we do in the military. That's what we do in the United States military!
Commander Richard Butler: A clear idea of why they're here and uhh...
Guard 09171: So it's kind of one of those things where it's like: "Just do your job".
Captain Robert Durand: So the motto "honour bound to defend freedom", I think came about in... We do our jobs with honour... detaining... enemy combatants and unpriveleded beligerants. We have a very distinct role in defending freedom against those who would threaten it.
Part II: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom
Moazzam Begg: When I was much much younger I used to hear this song called 'Guantánamera'. And I didn't know, because of it's cadence, that it was actually 'Guantanamaera' I thought it was just 'One dollar mirror'. And as time went on and I eventually got to Guantánamo and I heard some of the guards sining the song, I realised that this is the song that I used to hear as a child: Guantánamera, the girl from Guantánamo. So I guess that that was my first ever subconscious knowledge of Guantánamo.
GTMO Tour Guide 1: Welcome to Camp 6, it was originally constucted in 2006 at a cost of 37 million dollars.
GTMO Tour Guide 2: Coming off of it there are four blocks. Each block has both an upper and a lower tier. And each tier has between 12 and 14 cells. If you follow me this
way I'll show you a standard cell. Every individual in the facility is on either a one of a three minute check. Every compliant individual in the facility is offered a minimum of four hours of media time a week.
Moazzam Begg: Ill-treatment is something that I think everybody in Guantánamo has suffered. There's not anybody who's been held in Guantánamo who would say that "I was treated very very nicely in the way I should have been." In addition to that; religious abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, being held in solitary confinement for extendedly long periods, 2, 3 years at a time.
GTMO Tour Guide 2: This is a standard cell in Camp 5. It meets all the American Correctional Association standards. On the top display are basic issued items for compliant detainees and the bottom display is for non-compliant.
Moazzam Begg: The people who kidnapped me - the word I use, and I have to say kidnap because there was no police present, this was not a legal operation, this was very much a kidnap - these people were Pakistanis, but there were also Americans present physically and I believe that they were the ones ordering, orchestrating everything that was going on.
GTMO Tour Guide 2: We do offer them laundry services twice a week, however some of them elect to do their own laundry, so we've installed these drying hooks which are designed to give way at 40 pounds of pressure. And that reduces the possibility of any unintended consequences.
Moazzam Begg: First I was held in Pakistan and then I was sent to Kandahar. And the process of being handed over by the Pakistanis to the Americans meant being beaten and put into a bowing position and stripped naked. I was being dragged through the mud by American soldiers and being punched and kicked and stripped naked again and photographed and shakled and spat and shaved forcably. And that was my introduction to America.
Andy Worthington: What the United States did after 9/11 when it began capturing prisoners was that it was determined not to give them rights under the Geneva Conventions as prisoners of war, and also was not interested in pursuing a traditional criminal complaint against people that it captured who were allegedly involved in terrorism. So you know the United States wanted to hold people as 'Enemy Combatants' - people who had no rights - so that they could do whatever they felt was appropriate.
Captain Robert Durand: The purpose of Guantánamo, primarily, is law of war detention. The detainees here are removed from the battlefield, removed from the fight. They're not here to be charged, they're not here in anticipation of charge, they're here because they're accused of criminal wrong doing. They're accused and maintained here as unpriveledged beligerants, kept off the battlefield as prisoners of war.
Clive Stafford Smith: The bottom line when you ask what legal arguments are made for justifying the prisoner's detention in Guantánamo is actually that's coming at it from the wrong end. They just say "they don't have any rights." So one of the problems with
Guantánamo Bay from the very beginning is the Bush Administration argued the US Constitution doesn't apply there, that's why we put these people on this island that's not America and, by the way, we as America have never signed any international convention that's enforcable against us, so these people have no legal rights.
Interviewer: What about the Geneva Convention?
Clive Stafford Smith: You tell me the Geneva Convention is applicable in. I mean you've got to have a place to enforce it. So the US hasn't signed up to the ICC - the International Criminal Court - so you can't strew them there, they haven't signed up to anything that you can enforce in the International Court of Justice, the American courts say they don't have juristiction.
Interviewer: Are we in Cuba at the moment or the US?
Commander Richard Butler: We, we are in, we are in Cuba. It's a US Navy Base, but it's in Cuba, in a leased piece of land. It's not part of the United States in so many terms as far as uhh... we don't own the land, let's put it that way.
Clive Stafford Smith: So it's very very hard in all but the most limited cases to get any legal rights for the prisoners and that's why the law has played such a small role in Guantánamo Bay.
Andy Worthington: Oh well it was chosen so that it would be beyond the reach of the United States courts. And, you know, when you realise that it was cynically chosen for that purpose, you have to say, well if that was the purpose then what was the United States trying to do holding people where lawyers and judges wouldn't be able to have any juristiction?
GTMO Tour Guide 3: So right here, these are the older cell blocks, so these are the original blocks right here. They're basically an 8 by 8 cell, cage all the way around it. These showers were used when the detainees were first brought in as a delousing station, so they would come in here and they would cleanse the detainees. So in this area, these two guard shacks before they had to go on their tours and they would walk their camps and do their patrols and also it was used as the internal security force incase something bad were to happen.
Andy Worthington: Well I would say that there are three categories of prisoner in Guantánamo essentially. There are a very small number of people who allegedly are involved in acts of international terrorism. And honestly that seems to be no more than a few dozen at the most of the people who've been held. There are many hundreds of other prisoners who were involved in military activity, so to some extent they were either fighting with the Taliban or they were in a support position for the Taliban in their struggle against the Northern Alliance before the 9/11 attacks. So this is obviously Muslims against Muslims. What the hell does that have to do with 9/11 and international terrorism and Al-Qaeda and it basically has nothing to do with it. The rest of the people are either people who were in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons completely unconnected to any kind of militant activity. People who were in the area for reasons of
humanitarian aid, or as missionaries, or as economic migrants. But I would say the, you know, the main things are the humanitarian aid workers and the charity workers who made up I would say hundreds of the prisioners who were captured.
Interviewer: Do you think it's just that there are prisoners here, who after having been kidnapped, have been imprisioned here for over a decade, without ever having been charged or facing trial?
Commander Richard Butler: Yeh, I think that the... given how those detainees have been classified and how we view them as those facing prosecution, some, you know, law of war detainees, and then some that are actually prisioners, then it's absolutely appropriate for them to be down here in this facility.
Animated Text: Current Guantánamo Prisioner Population: 166
Interviewer: What is indefinate detention?
Guard 09171: Indefinate detention would be like you're not charged with anything, you are not accussed. Well you're not charged with anything. You're just detained somewhere but it's like nothing's going on, you're just going to stay there.
Interviewer: Is that taking place at Guantánamo?
Guard 09766: I wouldn't know. I mean indefinately it's only been twelve years. Um, you know so, indefinate, if it's generation after generation after generation and my kids kids and kids kids and you ask them the same question then it would probably be a lot easier to answer other than, hey it's been twleve years and there's still legal battles going on. Are they detained indefinately? I would have to say no.
Animated Text: Prisioners Officially Indefinately Detained: 46
Andy Worthington: Of the 166 men still held, President Obama designated 46 of them for indefinate detention without charge or trial. He did that himself, in an executive order in March 2011. Now everybody else is accidently detained indefinately without charge or trial. But the only people that he's personally responsible for having designated for indefinate detention without charge or trial are those 46 men. Now the fact that it's only 46 men is supposed to, you know, amongst 'reasonable people' we're supposed to say 'yeh but it's hardly anybody. You know, and it's part of the problem that he inherited from Bush of these, you know. I'm sure they're all dangerous, he says they are and, you know, we know terrible things happen but they must be bad guys which is why he can't release them. A: I don't think that's true, but B: Even if it's only 46 people, he owns this policy of indefinately detaining them and that shouldn't be happening under any circumstances.
Animated Text: Prisioners due to face trial: 44
Animated Text: Innocent: 86
Andy Worthington: Of the 166 men still held, 86 of them were approved for transfer out of Guantánamo.
Clive Stafford Smith: That's 52 percent of the prisoners there have been told that they're cleared for release. Sometimes the US has got upset when we've refered to it as the Guantánamo Gulag,' but frankly there was never a gulag in Soviet Russia where 52% of the prisioners had been told they were cleared for release but they couldn't go home.
Interviewer: Are there innocent people who are imprisoned here at Guantánamo.
Commander Richard Butler: Yeh, once again I'm giong to leave that up to the process. Once agin we've got a lot of people working on that, we've got processes in place to determine that. As long as we're told to keep hem here then I'm quite confident that we can do that well.
Moazzam Begg: I don't know what the reason for my release was from Guantánamo to this day other than the fact that there were no charges after three years of interogations and torture. There's never been an appology or an acknowledgement that a crime was committed against me or against the prisoners. They've never acknowledged that we were tortured or beaten or abused and that a crime was committed against us by the governments. The only thing that's happened so far is that former US ministers and former US soldiers and former US generals have offered appologies.
Interviewer: We both know there are prisoners who are being held here, some of which have been held for over a decade which the US government themselves have admitted that the don't have a shred of evidence against, and also that have been cleared for release. Why are those prisoners still being held here?
Commander Richard Butler: Well, ehhh, to your point about cleared for release. It's not really the exact term we use. We use cleared for transfer.
Andy Worthington: They used the words approved for transfer rather than cleared for release because obviously there are lawyers telling them, cleared for release, you know, makes it sound as though they might have a case against us. It's all very carefully worded. Approved for transfer meant that they weren't saying that these were innocent people, they weren't accepting any responsability for capturing people by mistake, they weren't even necessarily saying that there wer going to be released outright.
Commander Richard Butler: So they're cleared for transfer to uhhh specific or already determined specific countries or, you know, in the future it will be determined what country they go to based on the conditions of those countries.
Andy Worthington: This is not who America likes to think it is, this is not who America pretends it is, or likes to think it is. Holding people indefinately without charge or trial is something that totalitarian regimes do. And America doesn't like to think that it's like that.
Clive Stafford Smith: I've said this before, and I really mean it, that when I was spending 25 years in America I represented a lot of people on Death Row and I went to most of the death rows in the deep south of the United States. Guantánamo Bay is worse than any Death Row in America and it's worse for two reasons. One is because frankly the prisioners are physically abused in Guantánamo in ways which would be unthinkable on the American mainland. But the second, which actually has the greater impact, is that the psychological abuse of telling a prisioner, "You're cleared for release but you can't go and we're not going to tell you when you can go and you might stay here forever", is traumatic in the extreme for prisioners.
Moazzam Begg: The hunger strikes have been taking place in Guantánamo right from the beginning. And the prisioners use it as a weapon or as a tool in order to get some of their rights. Primarily hunger strikes took place because of detention without trial, that's the real reason why anybody's doing it.
Medic 2: We take the patient to the restraint chair, then restrain the patient. Once the patient is restrained for safety then the medical group will take over and proceed with the enteral feeding process.
Moazzam Begg: The present one that's taking place now is one of the longest and it's also the largest number of prisoners hunger striking.
Andy Worthington: What was underlying that was the very understandably despair, actually, that many of these men were feeling after 11 years, that they weren't getting out of Guantánamo, that there was no way they were getting out of Guantánamo unless they were dead.
Medic 3: Sometimes they will put up a bit of resistance for the guards for movement but most of them, and that's very rare itself, once they get into the chair they're very compliant.
Medic 2: It's measured from the nose to the ear, down to about the xyphoid process, roughly about 40cm or so depending on the detainee.
Clive Stafford Smith: The whole force-feeding thing is an anathema to me. I mean look, first you've got the issue of whether you should force-feed a competent person at all. And for years we've respected people who go on a hunger strike for a protest. A non-violent peaceful protest is really all the prisioners can do. And the World Medical Association said in 1975 it's unethical for doctors to involved in force-feeding someone who competently doesn't want to be force-fed.
Interviewer: I didn't understand whether it was force-feeding or not.
Medic 4: Negative. Enteral feeding.
Interviewer: It's not force-feeding?
Medic 4: Correct. We're going to use the term enteral feeding. And that's it.
Medic 3: Most of the detainees will let us know which side to put it in, uh, you know, and
they'll direct the whole process.
Interviewer: So that's why it's not force-feeding?
Medic 3: Correct. That's a choice that they're making.
Commander Richard Butler: We're on firm legal and medical grounds when we do the procedure down here. We're doing a proceedure that we did not you know invent down here at Guantánamo Bay.
Andy Worthington: The military is very good at keeping hunger strikers alive at Guantánamo. There's one man who's been on a hunger strike since 2005. He's certainly been force-fed daily since January 2006 with a tube stuck up his nose twice a day. He's still alive. Somehow this man's body has held out.
Medic 1 ("Anhinga"): Like it or not, our mission is to safe-guard these detainees, keep them alive, keep them medically healthy, and that's helping the global war on terrorism. That's what we're hear for. So, yes, we are honour bound to defend freedom. And we do do that every day.
Animated Text: By June 2013, 122 Guantánamo prisoners were on hunger strike
Medic 2: Depending on the patient, one or two cans of a various feed solution, again depending on doctor's perscription, by our SOP or standard operating proceedure, the detainee's in the restraint chair for no longer than a two hour block of time. Average feed, again depends on the detainee but it's roughly a half hour of actual flow rate of enteral feed solution. Ummm, the completion of the feed...
Moazzam Begg: The prisoners that I met, clearly, evidently, most of them, I'd say 99% of them had never been to America. They had no idea what America was, but America had come to them, and it had shown them a face that they didn't know existed, because as far as they were concerned, America was this great superpower with freedom, democracy, human rights and all of these sorts of things, but the reality was, as far as they were concerned in their experience in life, was going to be that America is an oppressor, it is an abusor, it is a torturer, in some cases a murderer.
Interviewer: What does freedom mean to you?
Commander Richard Butler: What it means to me? It means uhhh...
Guard 09171: Freedom is the right to voice my opinion, be who I want to be, live how I want to live.
Commander Richard Butler: It means a lot of things but, you know, primarily it means that ummm, you know for me personally, that ehhh, that I ehhh...
Guard 09171: You know as long as it's not hurting or taking away from someone else.
Guard 09766: That's an awesome definition. I'd have to agree with that one.
Medic 1 ("Anhinga"): The safety of yourself, the safety of your family, the safety of your loved ones.
Chaplain Terry Edinger: But at the same time it also means that every other individual has those same rights and that my quote unquote freedom cannot impinge upon theirs and theirs doesn't impinge upon me.
Captain Robert Durand: I think freedom is probably the highest organising principle of the American society: Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom to choose your leaders, democratic societies, so I think freedom is probably the one thing that most US services members can agree on that's important to them.
President Obama: This first executive order that we are signing by the authority vested in me as president by the constitution and the laws of the United States of America in order to effect the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense at Guatánamo and promptly to close the detention facility at Guantánamo consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice I hearby order.
Andy Worthington: President Obama promised, when he took office in January 2009, to close Guantánamo within a year and then failed to fulfill that promise. One of his plans for closing the prison was to move prisoners from Guantánamo to a prison that he was hoping to buy in Illinois. But it didn't happen. The Congress blocked President Obama from buying a prison, they blocked his ability to move prisoners to the US mainland to face trial, they then imposed bans in legislation preventing him from bringing prisoners to the United States for any reason. And then in the last couple of years they imposed restrictions on the release of prisoners to anywhere. These are serious obstructions. But to let President Obama off the hook, is not really acceptable because he is the President of the United States.
President Obama: I think it is critical for us to unders
tand that Guantánamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive, inefficient, hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessons cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for exremists, it needs to be closed. Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close it.
Andy Worthington: There was a waver in this terrible legislation passed by Congress, which enables him to release prisoners without consulting Congress, if he believes it's in the national security interest of the United States to do so. When he's spoken about Guantánamo he always fails to mention that he has this magic card that he can play. He has been saying that the continued existence of Guantánamo and indefinate detention is a shame for the United States but he won't act. But without him doing it, we will end up with the widespread presumption, and accurate presumption, that he doesn't mean
what he says; that he says great things, but that he has no intention of actually fulfilling them.
Clive Stafford Smith: It's not that difficult to close Guantánamo Bay. First you take the 86 people who we agree should be released and we release them. Then you've got the other prisoners; another 80 people. Now you've either got to try them or you've got to set them free. And you've got to give them a proper trial. And there is nothing that prevents the US from giving them proper, American, civil trials, either in America or in Guantánamo Bay where they have real trials, not these military commissions. That could be done. And then if you convict them, you convict them, and you put them in a prison, but if you don't convict them you've got to set them free, that's all there is to it.
Moazzam Begg: The President first of all, needs to create the climate that ensures that the world recognises that these men are innocent, so all he needs to say, instead of saying that Guantánamo is no good for us, it's against our ideals, what they should simply say is that these people are innocent, and the moment he says they're innocent, people will start thinking, "Oh my goodness, let's welcome these people back." Countries to where these prisoners can't go for fear of torture or execution will start welcoming them instead of saying, "We don't want these men." And once that happens, the process of closing Guantánamo or emptying the place of Guantánamo becomes so much easier.
Andy Worthington: If they don't do something this will go on forever. And that's the problem, Guantánamo doesn't have a time limit on it, these guys don't have a sentence that they finish, the war doesn't end. Without something happening, in ten years time it's going to be there, in twenty years time, in thirty years time it's going to be there, and one by one, these guys who were what - the average age of them when they arrived was what, their early 20s - they're going to die. They're going to die decades from now, some of them, but they will. When you stand back and look at it the longer this prison goes on the worse it is for their long term reputation so, I hope that that will lead to something but I can see that the impulse of American political life is, is to do nothing.
Interviewer: How do you feel when you hear that music?
GTMO Tour Guide 3: Patriotic. You're not going to get much more out of me than that.
GTMO Tour Guide 4: Gives you a little reminder of what you're fighting for.
GTMO Tour Guide 3: It reminds my of playing sports, being at a ball game, it reminds me of serving my country.
GTMO Tour Guide 3: And it reminds me of freedom, absolutely.
Animated Text: During the production of this documentary, 2 prisoners were
transfered from Guantánamo. 164 remain.