I was there, on the tarmac, and later at Camp X-Ray, when Mohammad El Gharani arrived and was in-processed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on February 9, 2002. What follows is an exclusive excerpt from my book, "Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior," about his arrival:
"A sixteen-year-old Chadian boy, tall (maybe six-foot-two-inches) and very thin (maybe one hundred forty pounds), collapsed in the shower. Petty Officer First Class Juanita treated him with two IVs of Ringer’s solution using 22-gauge needles. The Chadian boy was placed on a litter and put in the shade. There was a jam in the laminator in the ID processing tent, so the whole operation waited about a half-hour before it was up and running again. The Chadian was eventually brought into the medical processing tent. He shivered, as did many of them although it was warm; the shower, shade and breeze combined to have a chilling effect.
"He looked particularly scared and disoriented, and very thin, but not emaciated. He looked healthy physically, but behaved more like a sickly eighty-year-old. I could not help but feel compassion for this man/boy. But the feeling was met by a stronger feeling of deceit.
. . .
"The eyes of a liar are seared into my brain. The tall Chadian was to me a liar, a “get over,” a shirker, a “goldbrick.” I could be wrong, but former Navy SEAL and current E-6 91W (Staff Sergeant, Senior Medic) William David told me our tall friend was “faking it.” “He’s just tired,” he said. And, I added to myself, wanting a bit of attention and conversation. He was very talkative. Wanted to know where he was. We could not tell him. He wanted to go to the bathroom. We could not let him just yet. He didn’t want the body cavity search. We had to conduct it. I considered him dangerous because I believed he was dishonest."
The article is full of Gharani's lies. He was never abused at Gitmo. In fact, he abused guards regularly and was considered a HIGH detention risk. As of 7 May 2008, he had amassed 385 disciplinary infractions, including throwing feces and urine on guards, exposing his genitals, attempted assaults and assaults on guards, according to his 10 page Guantanamo Docket, published by the New York Times here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/guantanamo/detainees/269-mohammed-el-gharani
The "bitter diary of a teeneger" as the journal put it, is a waste of time. Better you read the Docket, which chronicle's Gharani's al Qaeda exploits, including training and operations with groups containing the most senior leadership of the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks of 9/11/01.
His birth date in the Docket lists as 1981, which would have made him about 20 years old when he arrived to Gitmo in 2001, not 14 or 16 as I was told at the time. We may never know the truth about this unlawful combatant Islamist.
We do know that he is among 731 released detainees, none of whom were murdered, executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive; all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.
There is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat their captives. The Islamist equivalent to Gitmo is a pile of heads.
International Committee of the Red Cross physicians I worked with at Gitmo and then later in Iraq told me, "No one does [detention operations] better than the US." Detainees were given free Qurans, prayer rugs/beads, directions to Mecca, halal and special Muslim holy day meals, services of a US military Muslim chaplain, world class health, dental and vision care, books, library, DVD's TV, sports and recreation. Club Gitmo? You betcha!
Released detainees have a habit of lying about their treatment while at Gitmo and downplaying or outright lying about why they ended up there.
Were some less dangerous or important than others? Yes. But remember, in the early days of the official Global War on Terror, there was a sense of urgency to obtain as many high value detainees as possible and then obtain as much valuable information from them as possible, as quickly as possible. Tens of thousands of Islamists were taken prisoner by the US, the Northern Alliance, and other allies, but only just under 800 ever made it to Gitmo, where just 41 remain.
Had circumstances been different, perhaps Gharani may have been executed, or still incarcerated awaiting trial.
His release in 2009 was an aberration. Most detainees should still be at Gitmo, held for security reasons until the end of hostilities. But that's an argument for another time.
I will never forget this man/boy, and how his decision to make war against the United States forced me to miss 2 1/2 years of being with my family for deployments from 2001 to 2006. That is unforgivable. And now it's worse that he is being treated like a celebrity by terrorist sympathizers and anti-Americans.
NOTE: The spelling of the subject's name is different in the article I am commenting on than how I have chosen to spell it, as it appears in the Guantanamo Docket.