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The Gitmo experience through the eyes of a former guard

It took Terry Holdbrooks four times of getting turned away from the U.S. Army recruiting office before he realized it was time to nix his blue hair, ear gauges plentiful enough to set-off any security screening miles away, and arms covered in tattoos.

He said it was not only time to restore order in his own life, but to “kill some terrorists” as this was in the wake of the 9-11 bombings.

But he was in for a different awakening when he finally arrived at Guantanamo Bay by the summer of 2003 to be the facility’s newest prison guard.

“It takes you out of reality and steps you into a new world,” Holdbrooks recounted. “It takes probably a good month or two to acclimatize to Guantanamo and to really be operating back to capacity again. Essentially, I can’t think of anything more devastating than possibly having to deal with Guantanamo again.”

He said as soon as you step onto prison grounds, the facility’s unique smell overpowers one’s senses.

“It’s a collection of urine and feces that’s been baking in the sun for five days on top of men that are living in aluminum and concrete cages.”

He said more than ten years ago when he arrived at the prison, it was filled to capacity, housing 780 of the world’s deadliest criminals.

But today, he said the prison is clearing out, after the U.S. is finding more than 80 percent of its prisoners not guilty.

Holdbrooks said the experience seeing prisoners as young as 12-years old sparked his interest to befriend some of the detainees and learn about the Quran. From there, he said his life was changed and turned to Islam.

In 2012, the Washington Post released a survey showing 70 percent of the American population agreed with President Barack Obama’s decision to keep Gitmo open.

Idaho State University assistant professor of political science Daniel Hummel said innocent Muslims are being detained and accused of plotting acts of terrorism because of the “Islamaphobic” attitudes circulating through many U.S. communities.

“Because of the Defense Authorization Act of 2011, it becomes possible to arrest and hold indefinitely,” Hummel said. “All they have to do is label you as a terrorist, and when there is an issue with a Muslim and they go to court, there is no way they can get a fair trial. They are automatically labeled as a terrorist.”

Hummel and Holdbrooks believe the $64.5 billion prison will soon start housing Americans who have been wrongly accused of standing behind crimes of terrorism.

To this day, Holdbrooks faces criticism from some who believe his thoughts on Guantanamo are anti-American, but he believes it’s the opposite.

“Guantanamo is anti-American. This is a place where we’re illegally holding individuals without due process. It’s 100 percent antithetical to the basis of the U.S.,” Holdbrooks added.

Hummel said he believes one day the accusations will span across more than just the Muslim population, and other minority groups will stand trial for crimes they haven’t committed, nor will ever commit, citing the movie ‘Minority Report’.

“The government will feel like it can do this to anybody, and then there will be no limits of power,” Hummel added.

There are now 160 detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

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