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You have been: poked by your ex-gaoler
January 12, 2010 7:24 AM   Subscribe

"I was pretty new to Facebook and decided to type in their names to see if their profiles popped up and I came across Shafiq's Facebook page. I decided to send him a little e-mail," says Mr Neely.

How one Guantanamo guard got in touch with his former captives
posted by Hartster (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's a start.
posted by jquinby at 7:27 AM on January 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


One finds decency on the level of individuals. Sadly, it doesn't scale.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:27 AM on January 12, 2010 [25 favorites]


A universal truth: people treat people better when we see them as individuals and stop seeing them as the Other.
posted by Slothrup at 7:32 AM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


These are the guys from the movie Road to Guantanamo.
posted by naju at 7:41 AM on January 12, 2010


[blinks]
posted by orange swan at 7:42 AM on January 12, 2010


"Yes, yes we're all such great Facebook buddies.. now if you can just slip your left arm behind your back a little bit more Mr Ahmed will go get the jumpsuit and the black hood".
posted by MuffinMan at 7:43 AM on January 12, 2010


I hope to God they do keep talking. I wonder how much of Mr. Ahmed's forgiving Neely may have been because he felt pressured by the cameras being there and it being such a public moment. I mean, maybe he's able to forgive Neely -- but forgiveness isn't always such an easy, facile thing, and I'm hoping he didn't feel like he had to in that specific moment.

This sounds so much like the account from Simon Wiesenthal's book THE SUNFLOWER, in which Wiesenthal is pulled off a work crew and brought to the bedside of a Nazi officer who's mortally wounded. The officer wants to confess to an atrocity he committed against Jews, and that's why instead of calling a priest he says he wants to confess to, and be forgiven by, another Jew. Neely's confessing to one prisoner and asking for forgiveness for an act he committed on another prisoner reminded me of this.

In THE SUNFLOWER, there are arguments for and against whether Wiesenthal should have forgiven the officer or not; it's a profoundly complex issue. I just can't help but think that Ahmed may have felt a little pressured into offering a forgiveness in front of the cameras, and I hope that if he is feeling that, that he finds his way to work through all of what he must be feeling right now on his own with Neely later.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Any step toward Good is a step away from Evil.
posted by RussHy at 7:46 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Isn't there anyone else who finds this story more than a little weird? A prison guard searches for the names of his former inmates on Facebook? He then travels to Britain and reunites with them on camera?

Just weird.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:58 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's an Onionesque story for sure.
posted by orange swan at 8:05 AM on January 12, 2010


I don't find it weird, exactly, but there seems to be a bit of the story missing just before "It was at this point that the BBC asked if both sides would be prepared to meet in person."
posted by Phanx at 8:10 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


They can make a reality show out of this. We could pitch it as:

- Dancing with the camp guards
- Guantanamo's List
- Concentration: it's not just a camp
- Rummy's Worst
- NIMBY: Cuba
posted by jsavimbi at 8:43 AM on January 12, 2010


I don't find it weird, exactly, but there seems to be a bit of the story missing just before "It was at this point that the BBC asked if both sides would be prepared to meet in person."

Yeah I was wondering about that too. Was Neely roommates with the BBC? I don't get it.

And, I realize that it's the BBC and not US journalism, but it makes me feel a little hopeful to see the Guantanamo program dealt with as an unequivocal wrong in this article without any of that ridiculous 'some have said' or 'critics claim' bullshit.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:47 AM on January 12, 2010


Yeah, this is sweet and all now, but wait till they get tired of each other's Farmville updates.
posted by brundlefly at 9:09 AM on January 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this is sweet and all now, but wait till they get tired of each other's Farmville Mafia Wars updates.

FTFY
posted by SirOmega at 9:12 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aww, the guy who was illegally imprisoned is cool hanging with the dude who passively supported it. Those two are best buds now. Look at them in that picture. They are like shoving buddies. This is so awesome. I guess Guantanamo ain't so bad, after all nothing mattered in the end.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2010


KokuRyu: Isn't there anyone else who finds this story more than a little weird? A prison guard searches for the names of his former inmates on Facebook? He then travels to Britain and reunites with them on camera?

Pfft, change it to a story about someone and their ex-s.o. and you've got a few dozen AskMe questions.
posted by mkultra at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


TwelveTwo: “I guess Guantanamo ain't so bad, after all nothing mattered in the end.”

Yeah, don't read it or anything. That'd spoil the fun.

Mr Ahmed, quoted in the article: “He's realised what he did was wrong and he's living with it and suffering with it and as long as that he knows what he did was wrong. That's the main thing.”
posted by koeselitz at 9:31 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wonder how many rules and regulations (or even laws) the ex-camp guard broke by contacted the former inmates - imagine if a former state prison guard tried independently contacting former penitentiary inmates out of the blue on the internet. It's almost like stalking behavior.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:33 AM on January 12, 2010


TwelveTwo: "Aww, the guy who was illegally imprisoned is cool hanging with the dude who passively supported it. Those two are best buds now. Look at them in that picture. They are like shoving buddies. This is so awesome. I guess Guantanamo ain't so bad, after all nothing mattered in the end."

So, expressions of regret are verboten, or forgiveness of ones who do you wrong aren't to be celebrated, or the BBC's all in my face trying to rewrite history? Which nugget of bitterness are you trying to highlight here?

Stories of people trying to make sense of bad situations and taking some responsibility deserve front page everywhere, in my books. Have a good rest of the morning, sunshine.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:36 AM on January 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


The BBC's Newsnight TV show is running a series on the Guantanamo Bay detention camp all of this week and therefore I presume the BBC approached Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul to see if they would be willing to be interviewed as part of this not knowing at the time that there was this remarkable new aspect to their story that they had been exchanging emails with a former guard.

The BBC showed an interview with Brandon Neely in his Huntsville, Texas home last night on Newsnight and the meeting between him and the two former detainees will be shown as part of tonight's programme which will probably be a good deal longer than the bit shown on the website.

I think they are willing to forgive him because they understand that he'd basically had been lied to by his senior officers and had been told that all the prisoners were terrorists who had been picked up on the battlefield whilst fighting US troops. That the responsibility for their detainment and mistreatment lies someway above him in the chain of command.
posted by electricinca at 9:38 AM on January 12, 2010


I applaud him for not poking the former inmate.
posted by srboisvert at 9:43 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't there anyone else who finds this story more than a little weird? A prison guard searches for the names of his former inmates on Facebook? He then travels to Britain and reunites with them on camera?

Just weird.

No, I don't at all. The article says Mr. Neely is 22 -- very young. When emotional things happen to you when you are young like that, you remember them. Most everyone I know still remembers high-school bullies, first loves, best friends, terrible teachers or bosses, etc. People nurse grudges, pine after lost loves, want to make amends, etc.

(When you are older -- not so much. Either you start to have more compassion and empathy and lower your expectations a bit, or you run out of energy; I haven't figured out which yet.)
posted by jfwlucy at 10:22 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't a secret.

On December 4, 2008, Specialist Brandon Neely approached CSHRA with testimony he wished to contribute to the Guantánamo Testimonials Project. He believed that insufficient attention had been paid to "the hell that went on at Camp X-Ray." He would be in a position to know, as he arrived in Guantánamo while the cages of Camp X-Ray were still being welded, and escorted the second detainee to hit the prison grounds. In this interview, Specialist Neely provides testimony of the arrival of the detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, possible isolation regime of the first six children in GTMO, utter lack of preparation for guarding individuals detained during the War on Terror, and his conversations with prisoners David Hicks and Rhuhel Ahmed.
posted by dhartung at 10:42 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the interview with former detainees from the TAL Episode Habeas Schmabeas

ABDULLAH: They asked me “Tell me the truth. Are you a terrorist or not?” They were told that I am a terrorist, but they still ask me. Why? Because of doubt in their hearts. They still have doubts. Those people are not, they don’t seem like as we’ve heard. And then we start talking and talking and talking. Most of the guards, they told me like, um, when they first came here “I was trained that everybody here is, like, monsters. They’re gonna jump from the cages and gonna like, tear you up and everything.” They said, “We thought it was different. We thought the American forces captured you in a battle or something.“ So some people, they are forced to treat us bad, but you can see, you can tell from their eyes and some, they feel like this is not the right thing to do. They feel this is wrong. They told me themselves. Some of them told me, like, “If I don’t follow orders, I’m going to be in your place.” I really miss them now.

(transcript)
posted by phoenixy at 10:53 AM on January 12, 2010


Yeah, we had an FPP about Neely's interview before. He's not someone who thought the prison was all fine and dandy and from what I understand he's become something of an activist. Or at least he's wearing an "Iraq Veterans against the war" T-Shirt in this picture.

I can't seem to find the old FPP though.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2010


I mean, maybe he's able to forgive Neely -- but forgiveness isn't always such an easy, facile thing, and I'm hoping he didn't feel like he had to in that specific moment.

I was actually really impressed with his answer because I think he realizes that it's not his place to forgive or not forgive. He instead defers to the process of repentance:

"He's realised what he did was wrong and he's living with it and suffering with it and as long as that he knows what he did was wrong. That's the main thing."
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:20 AM on January 12, 2010


One finds decency on the level of individuals. Sadly, it doesn't scale.

Is that universally true? Krishnamurti seems so convincing when he says: "Society is made of individuals, but every individuals blames society and circumstance..."
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2010


Call me a bad guy...but I thought in a fair world, the former captive would have been a customs agent who greeted his former guard in a small room at Heathrow with 10 other agents and a bag of cocaine that they "found in a suitcase you were traveling with".

Thats just me...I don't know about you.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:37 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is an amazing story, but would have been much more powerful and meaningful without press/tv cameras etc.
posted by russmaxdesign at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it weren't for the press and the TV cameras, we wouldn't have heard about it.

And hal_c_on, revenge just perpetuates the cycle of violence and hate. Let's acknowledge the past as the past, and not make it the future as well...
posted by Fraxas at 11:50 AM on January 12, 2010


Thank you for this fpp. This is a powerful and touching story - one that needs to be aired in full (the 'trailer' is a bit sketchy; the link to Neely's testimony shows there is much more behind this story). BBC's program will be worth watching.

... and over in America -- how will the media mark Obama's 'deadline' for closing Guantanamo? I imagine NYT and FOX will continue their shrill dogpile on american naïveté for setting the evil terrorists loose. Rambo to the end.
posted by Surfurrus at 12:09 PM on January 12, 2010


He decided to Friend him only to defriend/block him to continue the pain.
posted by stormpooper at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2010


I, personally, am disturbed. I certainly wouldn't want those that participated in crimes committed against me to search me out in FaceBook. I hadn't thought of this before; now I realize the possibility exists and am uncomfortable.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:33 PM on January 12, 2010


And hal_c_on, revenge just perpetuates the cycle of violence and hate. Let's acknowledge the past as the past, and not make it the future as well...

The line between what some call "justice" and others call "revenge" isn't so fine. It separates the people who have experienced institutional violence, and those who have watched.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2010


The line between what some call "justice" and others call "revenge" isn't so fine. It separates the people who have experienced institutional violence, and those who have watched.

What does that mean?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:00 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see some comments here have a jaded edge. I guess the current media [reality TV] world makes us skeptical of every motive. I don't know, but I think it is good the former prisoners and former guard could all meet and do so for others to see. Reconciliation [or at least an acknowledgment of injustice] has to begin somewhere. And it usually does when we see people as people - not as labels that we apply to them.
posted by Rashomon at 2:16 PM on January 12, 2010


This reminds me of one of the most moving and unforgettable tours I ever took, at Robben Island, off Capetown in South Africa.

The story of people imprisoning and mistreating other people is an old one, and I've been on more than my share of prison tours. (Acre Prison, in Israel, is a particularly grim place to visit.) Mandela, with many others, was treated brutally there. Former ANC prisoners always lead the tours of the Robben Island prison, and describe what it was like to be there. I've never experienced anything quite like standing in Mandela's cell.

The twist with Robben Island, of course, is Mandela's determination to find a way to forgive the people who abused him, and to reconcile his country. That decision transformed South Africa.

There's a lot to be said for forgiveness. It can produce a beautiful fruit.
posted by bearwife at 3:06 PM on January 12, 2010


The line between what some call "justice" and others call "revenge" isn't so fine. It separates the people who have experienced institutional violence, and those who have watched.

What does that mean?


it means hal_c_on didn't read the link in this comment.
posted by dubold at 3:12 PM on January 12, 2010


My bad. I pointed to the wrong media sites as the ones most likely to be the first to dogpile american naivete regarding closing of Guantanamo.

This story was on the radio just this morning: PRI's Katy Clark returns to 'debrief' on Gitmo . Clark interviews guards at Guantanamo and asks them if they fear revenge from released detainees. She found at least one who would Fuel the Fear with her.

Oh ... and Clark also remarks on the new "babysitting role of Guantanamo" ("they have turned an interview room into a television room with refrigerator for detainees use. ")

Horrors, humane treatment!!
posted by Surfurrus at 4:14 PM on January 12, 2010


One finds decency on the level of individuals. Sadly, it doesn't scale.

Jury's still out, Joe, and, no offense, I hope you're wrong.
posted by jonmc at 4:32 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just heard this on NPR this afternoon and was touched. It's a great story.
posted by leftcoastbob at 6:25 PM on January 12, 2010


it means hal_c_on didn't read the link in this comment.

I'm sorry if I seem "jaded"...but I don't think a public apology, a facebook stalk, and an inconsequential ACADEMIC testimony does any good for the people who had their basic civil rights taken away for no reason.

Sorry...too little, too late in my book.

The two gentleman in London may be strong enough to face their guard and be able to have laughs about it. On the larger hand, there are many who have trouble walking outside their front door because of the mental, physical, psychological, and sexual terror they faced at the guards hands...for no reason at all.

So yeah...whatevs.

But I guess what matters is that the white doughboy can sleep at night just fine now! Problem solved...America is back on top now!
posted by hal_c_on at 10:24 PM on January 12, 2010


But I guess what matters is that the white doughboy can sleep at night just fine now! Problem solved...America is back on top now!

Yikes. I think issues of punishment, atonement, forgiveness, and repentance are a little heady to be so flippant about it. Though I understand you taking all of the damage done in aggregate, this is a store about three individuals as well as a story about nations. If they can find some way to reconcile, I think it says much more for us than a continually retributive and cynical outlook that we all know and want so often. I don't want this guy to find two angry and wronged former prisoners when he's having his bag checked. I don't want anyone to have that, really. One of the hardest things to come to grips with is the people that you've personally wronged intentionally or not. I don't think he is sleeping well at night and I don't think he will any time soon; he's the type of person who has already gone to great measures he didn't have to in order to wrestle with his previous sins. While most of us never admit wrongs and of course don't go to lengths to correct, he has. He's no saint, but he's the type of sinner I would rather have in the world. I wish him no harm, and hope that these three men can come to terms with each other and what they were a part of.

Oh, and unless you're referring to WWI American soldiers, the term doughboy is uncalled for. Is he a worse person because he's larger than the other two? If either of the Brits were heavy guys, would you refer to them as doughboys?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:57 AM on January 13, 2010


It seemed to me that the Ahmed and Rasul were very very happy about the fact that Neely had decided to come forward. Not so much because of the apology he made (and in fact one of them said that they felt he didn't need to apologize, as he was only following orders), but because he lent credence to their claims that they had been badly mistreated at Guantanamo. Former "detainees" are a less believable source, at least to the general American public, than a former Marine who actually served there. We can infer from first principles that Neely is likely right now being demonized and discredited by certain rabid sectors of the right wing who do not welcome his testimony.
posted by tractorfeed at 4:03 AM on January 13, 2010


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