Listen to Daniel Lakemacher here:
Today marks the tenth anniversary of foreign nationals being held at Guantanamo Bay, the US military base in Cuba. Activists are gathering outside the White House in Lafayette Park at noon to mark the occasion and to bring attention to Guantanamo’s “human rights violations… including torture, detention without charge, unfair trials, Islamophobia, and impunity for crimes by US government officials,” notes Witness Against Torture, which is helping organize the action.
Daniel Lakemacher spent six months at Guantanamo as a psychiatric technician with the Navy. “I was very excited about being in the Navy initially,” he told me in a 2010 interview that aired on Pacifica Radio’s DC station, WPFW. But his time at Guantanamo caused him to become a conscientious objector. “I can easily say that Gitmo is the most hate-filled place I have ever experienced,” Lakemacher wrote at his site,WarIsImmoral.com.
Lakemacher discussed the forced feedings, Forced Cell Extractions, as well as the great extent the military goes to dehumanize the detainees at Guantanamo, which he referred to as “detention camps”:
“Before we even got down to Gitmo, Guantanamo, we went through a multi-week training in which there were staged exercises where pseudo-detainees would be trying to reach out and grab us or hurt us and harass us and everything else. So even before ever meeting the real people, we had all these interactions with these fake detainees who were preconditioning us for how to respond to them.”
Once at Guantanamo, the dehumanizing continued, Lakemacher explained:
“People down there are not referred to by name or anything other than their Internee Security Number, their ISN number… [And when military personnel] were associating too much with the individual through that number… they would refer to the person by the specific cell or cage that they were in at that time.”
Lakemacher, who threw himself into the field of social psychology upon returning from Guantanamo, noted:
“[Anytime] evil is perpetrated in a systematic fashion against people, a high level of dehumanization has to be involved. The normal state for 99 percent of the population in the world is to view other people with some level of compassion, to relate to them as fellow man and fellow woman. So there really has to be a concerted effort to get people to be willing to mistreat others, particularly those who are strangers. And an important part of that is not viewing them as human.”