Billed as an exclusive, CNN sent their Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence to cover the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay prison this week. At least two segments aired on Erin Burnett’s program.
The Pentagon decided to have CNN interview a female guard who could talk about the “dire conditions” that guards face at the prison. “For the first time,” Lawrence said, “we’re seeing the faces of those who guard the detainees.”
“They use extremely vulgar language toward females and I have a lot of experience with that unfortunately. So, especially Caucasian females, they don’t like us at all,” the female guard says. “They’ll say things like, ‘I’ll piss all over your face.’” They’ll call her a “whore,” a “slut” and say, “You’re trash now.”
The prisoners engage in “splashing,” where they mix water, urine and feces and throw it at guards. It is, according to this guard, the “biggest way to act out,” and has “been happening consistently for the last month and a half. Every single day there’s a splashing.”
This female guard appears to be pretty young so it is likely she has no idea about the history of the prison and how it was setup by the Bush administration to be outside the law so it would be easier to not give the prisoners due process rights.
Many of these people throwing feces and slurs at her have been imprisoned without charge or trial for over eleven years. Many have not seen their families or home for over a decade.
Interviews and tours like this are all arranged by the Pentagon, and the military only has guards or officers at the prison participate in “exclusive” interviews because it will help the Pentagon present the prison to the public in the way it wants the prison to be perceived. In this case, the segment undercuts allegations of abuse by Guantanamo prisoners’ attorneys and those in the human rights community, as it gives voice to a young female guard, who the Pentagon wants the public to know has been a victim of aggressive acts by prisoners.
There is no context provided for the “splashings.” CNN’s Lawrence does not know how the guards ultimately ended up being hit by “water, urine and feces” or if they ever incite prisoners into acting out. Lawrence does not share whether the “splashings” are a way of retaliating against abusive guards.
That is not to condone the throwing of any mixture of bodily waste at military officers, but rather to say that this report does not help the public truly understand what is going on at Guantanamo.
One might recall in March, the military granted “exclusive” access to Robert Johnson of Business Insider for a report. He purportedly uncovered the “other side of the Gitmo strike.” Prisoners have it pretty good at Guantanamo because they are able to “enjoy a selection of six balanced meals, 25 cable TV channels, classes, and,” most importantly, “an array of electronic gadgetry and entertainment, Nintendo DS consoles and Playstation 3 access with a library full of games.” Why worry about being indefinitely detained without charge or trial when you can eat regular meals and play “Angry Birds” every day?
In the same way that Johnson’s story functioned as propaganda to undercut stories coming out about the hunger strike in March, CNN’s interview functions as propaganda by purporting to tell the untold story of how abusive and difficult it is to be on duty at Guantanamo.
It may be hard to be an active participant in a festering example of cruelty, but the public affairs staff’s intent, in approving this interview, is to show the barbarians are the prisoners, not the guards.
Now, the Pentagon probably does not want guards to empathize with prisoners, but imagine having ten years of life stolen by a superpower in the world. There is little that can be done by the human rights community and the international community, including the United Nations, to force the US to set prisoners free. They are only going to be released when the Pentagon is in such a crisis that they cannot handle hunger-striking prisoners anymore because they are afraid a good portion are going to die.
Whatever stress or abuse guards are experiencing is unfortunate, but this situation exists because the US government setup an offshore prison that could be out of sight and out of mind, where prisoners could languish for years without legal recourse whatsoever. The government is now paying for depriving prisoners of their dignity and rights by abusing, brutalizing, degrading, mistreating and neglecting their humanity over the past decade. And so, the plain fact is there would be no throwing of feces if Obama had followed through with his promise and taken more of a political risk to actually close the prison, as he committed to doing in the first months of office.