intelligence gathering. When asked about an “interrogation the Russian ex-detainee Airat Vakhitov said, “Guantánamo
scenario” called “Fear Up,” one intelligence officer offered Bay was not the first prison in my life,” but “I haven’t seen this
Dedman this example of the technique: “Disrespect for the any other place...namely, the kind of purposeful humiliation of
Qur’an.” Middle East historian Juan Cole has argued, using human dignity, mocking religious feelings and the Qur’an.”
the testimony of a former U.S. military officer, that desecra-
tion of the Qur’an was modeled on the kind of desecration ongressional hearings presented a very different picture.
of the Bible anticipated in the U.S. military’s SERE training On June 2, 2004, Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a member
program (SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Es- of the bipartisan delegation from the House Armed
cape). SERE prepares U.S. personnel to withstand torture in Services Committee, described Guantánamo as “a detention
case they are captured by an enemy. The reverse-engineering facility that took into consideration the prayer activities of
of SERE methods for use at Guantánamo was later confirmed the detainees from Afghanistan.”
in Jane Mayer’s book The Dark Side and by governmental
sources, such as retired Rear Admiral Don Guter, judge ad- Indeed, in each and every cell, there was an arrow point-
vocate general of the Navy from 2000 to 2002. This real-life ing to Mecca, to the east. There were prayer beads, there
enactment of SERE scenarios—with U.S. personnel in the were prayer caps, there was a Qur’an, and each of these
role of the torturers rather than the tortured—was a foolish detainees was treated in a very humane fashion. So I
policy with disastrous effects. would say this to my colleagues, that, indeed, if we are
Why have Americans missed these stories? Most are scat- “Gitmo-izing” the operation in Iraq, amen.
tered in legal motions, government reports, or long narratives,
and many of them come only from foreign media outlets. But Of course, official visitors saw only what they were allowed
we have also been misled. We have been told by our elected to see. From backstage, Kurnaz was furious at the elaborate
officials that religion is respected in U.S. detention facilities, mise en scène:
and this reinforces our self-image as the world’s great hope for
religious freedom. In some ways, we still are that hope, but Nothing is the way the U.S. Army says it is and as it has
Guantánamo is where hope goes to die. Even seasoned prison- been reported, filmed, and photographed by journalists.
ers found Guantánamo’s treatment of religion to be uniquely There are cages and interrogation rooms specially con-
bad. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, structed for the media.... The fake cells were their attempt
to convince people that they respected our faith.