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Guarding Gitmo: Man authors book on time guarding controversial lockup

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Terry Holdbrooks Jr. Terry Holdbrooks Jr.
PHOENIX -

He served his country in the U.S. Army as a military policeman, guarding suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay Camp Delta Detention center. But while he served at Guantanamo, Terry Holdbrooks decided to embrace the Islamic faith. Some think that makes him a traitor.

But is he?

First a warning -- Holdbrooks' description of what he saw at Guantanamo is very graphic, and may not be for every member of your family.

“Traitor that’s a good word, I like it, it’s catchy,” says Terry Holdbrooks Jr.

So Holdbrooks wrote a book titled “Traitor?”

“I think I’ve had some relatively horrific death threats sent to me the last couple weeks and I’m just glad I have a concealed weapons permit.”

Holdbrooks graduated from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale and joined the army less than a year after the 9/11 attacks. But he says 9/11 wasn't behind his decision to join the army.

“I jokingly told the recruiters when I showed up I want to kill people and get paid for it.”

His real reason for signing up: “self-improvement.”

Trained as a military policeman, Holdbrooks was sent to Guantanamo Bay where the U.S. Military keeps suspected terrorists.

He was warned not to talk to them.

“Highly discouraged, highly discouraged, we were told not to talk to the detainees we were told to not even look at them as humans. They were lower than humans they were animals.”

But he couldn't help but strike up a several conversations.

“I started asking the detainees left and right how can you believe in God, how can you think there is a God that cares about you.”

He was surprised by how strongly the detainees kept their faith.

“The unanimous answer from the detainees was this, just God testing my strength it’s just God giving me a test.”

And how were the detainees "tested?" Holdbrooks says he saw plenty of what the army called "acceptable" behavior.

“Using a detainee’s head to open a cell door is acceptable, stepping on their hand or foot and breaking bones is acceptable… rubbing menstrual blood on their face and turning the water off in their cell for three or four days, that way they can’t clean themselves and they can’t pray, that is acceptable… locking them in a room and turning the A/C down to 40 degrees, covering them with a bucket of water, tying them to the ground in a stress position and allow their muscles to go into atrophy and then when they urinate or defecate themselves, you have a guard walk in the room and emasculate them. That is acceptable.”

But Holdbrooks said he never witnessed waterboarding among the prison's general population.

“Khalid Sheik Mohammad and those guys might get waterboarded, the 612 men that were in the general population of Camp Delta, no.”

And he doesn't think everyone should be freed.

“There’s about nine guys, Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other four that are going to be going on trial this year. The mastermind of 9/11 and his cohorts, yeah they belong there.”

But he does think it’s time to release the rest.

“My country shouldn’t do that, my country wouldn’t do the things I saw in Guantanamo. I know Americans they are not like that.”

Despite the current hunger strike by Guantanamo detainees, and President Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to close Guantanamo, there's no sign the prison will shut down anytime soon.

“I voted for McCain,” says Holdbrooks.

Of the more than 700 prisoners once held there, there are still 150 detainees who remain in the general population with no charges against them.

“It’s just one hundred percent antithetical to the basis of the United States.”

Other former guards have written about the abuses at Guantanamo. But Holdbrooks says his book isn't taken as seriously as others. Why?

“The issue here is when I talk about it, I lose credibility, because I am a Muslim.”

And Holdbooks became a Muslim while on guard duty at Guantanamo, even though one detainee warned him not to.

“You are going to make yourself an enemy [the prisoner said].”

And what did his fellow guards say?

“We don’t like you, you damn Muslim Taliban, camel jockey sympathizer.”

After leaving Guantanamo, Holdbrooks was honorably discharged even though he wanted to stay..

“I was given an honorable discharge on the basis of a general personality disorder. I served my country I graduated high school early, I enjoyed the military, I advocate the military, I encourage people to go to the military. You want to call me a traitor ,okay bring it on, how am I a traitor explain it to me.”

Which brings us back to his book : “Traitor?”

“I present the facts of what I saw on Guantanamo. Read it, tell me what am I doing, how am I a traitor, how am I not what an American is supposed to be. Don’t be afraid to open up a book, books can’t hurt us.”

And Traitor? is one book he hopes will help convince the country he served to close the detention center at Guantanamo bay.

“Those who are abusing, thinking that its somehow evening the score for 9/11, nothing is going to bring those people back. We can’t bring the dead back to life. Abusing someone who had nothing to do with it isn’t going to even the score.”

Official efforts to close Guantanamo have been slowed by other countries’ unwillingness to accept detainees and by congress, which refuses to appropriate the money to close it.

To buy Traitor?: www.gtmobook.com

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