Last night National Geographic broadcasted the new documentary Explorer: Inside Guantanamo. I got a chance to interview the director Bonni Cohen, who spent three weeks inside the camp filming. In part one of the interview yesterday, she shared her thoughts on whether the detainees will make it to US soil, the professional nature of the camp, and how Guantanamo is different than a typical prison. Bellow, see what she had to say about former detainees, the misconceptions about the military prison, and whether the treatment of enemy combatants will make US soldiers less safe in the future.
What did you learn interviewing former detainees? I don't think we've done ourselves any good locking these guys up and subsequently letting them go for reasons they don't understand only to go back to their lives, and not necessarily return to the battle, still some of them have — having really intense feelings toward the United States for how they were treated.
Could not applying the Geneva Convention at Guantanamo make US soldiers less safe? Yes, I think so. . . Somebody in the film does say, "Well if I ever find myself taken captive, I would expect to be treated firm, fairly, and impartially." And I think that the soldiers at Guantanamo feel that that's how these guys at Guantanamo are being treated. I can confirm that that's what we witnessed as well. There were definitely two Guantanamos. That of the early years of the war, and the one that we witnessed.
What do you make of the accusations of torture expressed in the film?
To read her answer, and to see a clip of from last night's show,
What do you make of the accusations of torture expressed in the film? The military acts on what they are told to do. So it's really the leadership. No individual soldier.
Are there misconceptions about Guantanamo? The biggest mistake the Pentagon made was not letting people in sooner. Because secrecy and mystery breeds doubt. I think all anybody sees in their head when they think of Gitmo are those early images of the guys in the orange jumpsuits with the goggles and the ear muffs on, in the outdoor cages and they assume that's still the case. We went down there without an idea of what we would find there and we found this very professionally run prison. And instead of prison guards we have our own US military down there all these young people doing this really grueling work. But we certainly didn't find the conditions of the old Gitmo.
What are your hopes for Obama? I'm hoping he finds a way to fix this legal limbo these guys find themselves in.