Former Army Sgt. Erik Saar has come out of the woodwork to talk about his 7-month long experience as a translator in the Guantanamo detention center. His book, Inside the Wire is scheduled for a May 2nd release. Saar, meanwhile, recently did an interview with CBS discussing his experience at Guantanamo. The book appears to verify a lot of previously-discussed interrogation abuses, including alleged incidents of women sexually harassing detainees as an interrogation strategy. One somewhat new allegation, meanwhile, is that mock interrogations were staged for members of Congress and other visitors to the Guantanamo prison.
Saar said the military chose detainees for the mock interrogations who previously had been cooperative and instructed them to repeat what they had told interrogators in earlier sessions. ‘They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information,’ he said, calling it a ‘fictitious world’ created for visitors.
This isn’t entirely surprising. Lawyers who have visited the prison had suspicions that the interrogations were choreographed. But this is disturbing stuff. If Saar’s account is true, the whole argument that torture and illegal interrogation procedures occurred because of a lack of concrete rules and oversight becomes moot. If in fact the military was choreographing an “alternate” interrogation procedure for outsiders to see, then it seems obvious that they understood the difference between what was acceptable and what was not.
Some might argue that the military staged these interrogations because they knew that “outsiders” can’t understand the circumstances of the war on terror, and are therefore not in a position to understand the lengths that interrogators have to go to. But the fact that Saars, and others, are telling these stories reveals that even those on the inside have difficulty understanding the violence and racism that seem to pervade the “war on terror.” In the end, it’s probably better for the military to confront these issues head-on (an independent investigation into detainee abuses would be a good start) rather than have disillusioned soldiers continue to circulate insider accounts.