Most guards are active-duty soldiers and sailors on two-year assignments. Some of them guide journalists and censor pictures if a snapshot is taken of an empty guard tower or the fence line. Every photo is reviewed and deleted if deemed improper.

Senior Chief Jodi Myers, a perky, well-spoken 41-year-old from Pennsylvania, says prisoners quickly learned of Obama's order to close the camp from their lawyers and word-of-mouth. "They know what's going on; they know the dates and stuff like that," she says, surrounded by empty cells in the common area of an unused block. "The guards maintain a very professional attitude, so we never give [detainees] any information. But they get to read the newspaper."

Jeff MacRay, a heavyset 32-year-old guard from Michigan, says the prisoners are tough to deal with, but uncertainty over the camp's future and the widespread hatred of Guantánamo back home are worse. "It's a difficult occupation," he says softly. "Sometimes, things get misconstrued, and it's frustrating."

Mahvish Khan, a former University of Miami law student, worked as a translator and wrote a book called My Guantánamo Diary.
courtesy of Mahvish Khan
Mahvish Khan, a former University of Miami law student, worked as a translator and wrote a book called My Guantánamo Diary.
Omar Khadr was 15 and near-death when captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002.
AP Photo/Janet Hamlin, pool
Omar Khadr was 15 and near-death when captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002.

Cultural advisers now teach guards about Ramadan, fasting, and the importance of daily prayers to Mecca. For inmates, there are art classes, a couple of hours of daily rec time, specially prepared halal meals, and a library with more than 14,000 books in 22 languages. "We take great pains to respect the religion of these men. Five times a day they get prayer calls, we have respect for their Korans, we have respect for their communal rules," Vargo says. "We've . .  . been continuously working to mature our camps."

The way Vargo sees it, what has been lost in all the hand-wringing over the treatment of the detainees is why these men are here. He insists no one has been tortured on his watch and disputes the idea that holding them without charges is against international standards — because they're "prisoners of war."

"These guys are bomb-makers, forgers, leaders. You know the list of who is in here, you know the type of acts they've done, so you know what that says about them," Vargo says. "What they will be like in the future, I suppose is up to them. I'd say bomb-makers are pretty dangerous people."

Later that day, in a double-wide trailer across camp, a translator named Zak offers a different perspective. A Jordanian in his 50s, he has a prominent nose, light skin, and salt-and-pepper hair. Before moving to Guantánamo in September 2005, he lived in Baghdad, where he risked his life to work as a translator for the U.S. officials who decided which Iraqis to imprison and release.

For the past three years, he has been a "cultural adviser," which means he deals with prisoners as well as Guantánamo's commanders. He says the detainees want to know the crimes they're charged with. Are they defendants or war criminals? "You know, it's not important to the detainees whether this place stays open or not," he says. "They're not saying, 'I'm innocent' or 'I'm guilty.' They're saying, 'Define me. Define me. What are they going to do — keep me in jail another 10 years? Another five years? Go on, go on,'" he says, his voice rising, "'go on and do something!'"

Toward the end of the day, Village Voice Media visits Camp 5, where Omar Khadr was moved in 2006. Dusty treadmills and half-inflated soccer balls litter the rec yard.

Noticing a reporter, a dark-skinned man rushes to his cell window. He frantically swings a white bath towel. Though a guard in a polo shirt instructs photographers to ignore the man, they walk close enough to see he has pushed two snapshots against the glass. In the first photo, four children surround a man and woman. In another, a couple hugs and looks at the camera.

The inmate bears no resemblance to the man in the photos. He appears desperate or insane — with a wild beard and a shock of black hair. He gazes out with a crazed stare, and the message is obvious: Look at these pictures. This is my family. Tell them I'm alive.

The pantomime continues for five minutes, and when the reporters turn to leave, he waves his towel once more, looks them directly in the eye, and gives a thumbs-up.


Last June, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered the release of 71/2 hours of previously classified video documenting Omar Khadr's interrogations at Guantánamo in 2003. They are blurry and of poor quality; at times, it is difficult to make out any of the prisoners' features. At one point, becoming agitated with his interrogator, Khadr lifts his shirt to show the wounds U.S. troops inflicted during the firefight.

Sobs and the quaking of pale, bony shoulders bear witness to his agony. "I can't move my arms," he says, choking. "I requested medical attention a long time ago, and they didn't do anything about it."

"They look like they're healing well to me," his interrogator is heard saying.

Khadr covers his eyes with his hands and weeps.

No one can say with certainty how the years have affected him, but it is fair to wonder if isolation and torture have made him even more radical.

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3 comments
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Marnie Tunay
Marnie Tunay

I am surprised to hear you say that Dennis Edney is prepared to have Omar Khadr move in with him. My understanding from speaking with him in late October was that he had considered that option and decided it was not a workable one. It doesn't matter in any case, because Omar Khadr is never coming back to Canada:http://fakirsca.blogspot.com/2...Marnie TunayFakirs Canadahttp://fakirscanada.googlepage...

Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer
Concerned Citizen and Taxpayer

It's interesting that this Guantanamo issue was missing from the New Times stands at Litchfield Park Library, and stands around Dysart and Litchfield Road, Sun City and at the Downtown Courthouse. This important issue is a must have. We believe that with the thousands of people coming in for the Anti-Arpaio march the stands were stripped. Not much different between Arpaio's jail and the the state prisons here and Guantanamo, with a culture steeped in what the world has seen in Abu Ghraib -- AZ Corrections officials set up / and ran Abu Ghraib during the abuse years. The Iraqis want nothing to do with the U.S. prisons - and taxpayers have wasted billions in these fiascos, of which Guantanamo is a part of. This has moved from Iraq and Guantanamo to Arizona and are racheting up for the next "war" against humanity on our soil. People wake up -- this is NOT the America we have known. Stop the madness and hatred and abuse of power.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

See, I don't get this:They say this kid is guilty because 'he's the only one who could have thrown the grenade'...How do they know this? They say the fighting went on for an hour, but since the kid ws the only one alive, he's the "only" one who could have thrown a grenade an hour ago? SO he held the Special Forces guys off for an hour single-handedly?Secondly, why is it a crime to fight back in a wartime situation? So the guys weren't part of an organized military, neither were the French resistance fighters in WWII, did we bring them up on charges?Third, if these guys ARE criminals, why no actual charges? This game of semantics is ridiculous- 'He's-not-a-POW,-but he's-not-a-civilian-so-we-can-keep-him-forever-if-we-want'. We would expect anyone to do better with our captives, ciivilian or military, and we can't use the 'But they are meaner to our guys' excuse, we have always stirven to be above that, or we would have stuck our Vietnam prisoners in holes for months at a time, with watery rice for their only meals, torturing them on a daily basis.

It's about time the country grew up. I, for one, am glad that the new Administration is moving in this direction.

 
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