December 02, 2005
Guantanamo: Biographies of prisoners
The fact that this report appears in the professional journal of the US military may deprive it of credibility in some corners and augment it in others. But the well-written and edited account gives an overview of the self-reported biographies of about 600 young men held prisoner in the controversial US detention facility at Guantanamo, Cuba, most of whom were pre-9/11 volunteers for jihad and were the trainees and foot soldiers in various Afghan camps run by al-Qaeda and friends. Although the author-analyst at times strays into the silly and stereotyped (the last paragraphs get downright stilted, for example, just ignore), she provides a compassionate and thorough view.
Some interesting things of note:
1 – Most of these recruits joined up for the same reasons most young men have gone to war since the first corps of spearmen walked the Earth in time immemorial: a need to fill a gap in one’s life and gain honor for one’s self and way of life.
2 – Most expected to fight, if at all, in Chechnya.
3 – Al-Qaeda has a fairly slick recruitment infrastructure that is not matched by their post-recruitment preparation, personal care, and training. Contrary to a lot of buzz, these guys had no idea they would become prisoners, nor were they trained in what to say or do if they were captured.
4 – Most appeared to have been caught in a reward-based manhunt for Arabs by the Northern Alliance. Many had no access to their travel documents because al-Qaeda had them hide them.
5- Many were genuinely surprised that their home country embassies did not go to bat for them after capture by the Northern Alliance or the Americans.
6 – The al-Qaeda leadership did not prepare their recruits for the reaction to 9/11 and it is not clear if the leadership themselves were expecting the onslaught.
Other matters of possible interest are in the report.
Posted by Matthew Hogan at December 2, 2005 08:05 AM
Filed Under: US Foreign Policy
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Thanks for this, Matt. The reality turns out to be such a far cry from the clenched way most people were talking about the prisoners when the Guantanamo prison was set up. (Including even a blogger I admire very much, who recovered equilibrium earlier than most.)
Posted by: Nell at December 4, 2005 07:36 PM