Guantanamo: My Journey

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Guantanamo: My Journey
Author David Hicks
Country Australia
Language English
Publisher Random House
Publication date
16 October 2010
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 456 (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 978-1-86471-158-5

Guantanamo: My Journey is the autobiography of David Hicks, an Australian who was held in the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention camp for years before eventually pleading guilty to the charge of "material support to terrorism" in a military commission trial. The first 174 pages of the book details his early life, and subsequent standard military training in Kosovo, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book heavily details Hicks' time spent in Guantanamo Bay prison, where he spent 5 and a half years following his capture in 2001. The book is the first published account by Hicks of his time spent at Guantanamo Bay and the events leading up to his arrest. In August 2011 assets from the book were frozen as the Commonwealth DPP attempted to pursue Hicks through the courts to stop him profiting from the autobiography.[1]

Synopsis[edit]

The book details Hicks' life to 2010, providing not only vivid details of his imprisonment in Cuba, but provides details for all of Hicks' life. The first half of the book catalogues the events leading up to his arrest in 2001, starting with his early childhood. The second half of the book accounts for Hicks' time in captivity, his trial, and return to Australia.

Praise for the book[edit]

Noam Chomsky has praised Hicks' book as "very much worth reading".[2]

Jason Leopold, lead investigative reporter of Truthout, who landed the first interview with Hicks, described how moved he was by Hicks' book and the torture he endured.[3] The interview was subsequently re-published in The Public Record[4] Other journalists have noted the detailed descriptions of Hicks' torture;

Hicks details guards who punished him for simply studying his legal options. He often asked for medical care to help stress fractures. Little help was given. ‘‘You’re not meant to be healthy or comfortable,’’ he was told. Faeces flooded the cage where Hicks lived and slept, ignored by the American officials. Dirty and unwashed clothes were common. Deafening loud music was pumped into cells to disorientate prisoners. Hicks writes of having to urinate on himself while being shackled during countless hours of interrogation. Detainees on hunger strikes were regularly force-fed.[5]

A review published by a division of Australia's Socialist Alliance stated that the book was an honest account, and expressed outrage at his treatment in the hands of the US military.

Any one of our sons, nephews or cousins could have got caught up in this horror story. The brutality of the US army and its violence against supposed enemies is unbelievable. Hicks’ accounts are supported by the words of top US army officials as well as by the US political machine, in particular George W. Bush.[6]

Criticism[edit]

Upon release, the book was criticised by a few journalists for allegedly failing to express the 'full story,' particularly the details surrounding his training in Afghanistan.[7] Journalist and author Sally Neighbour called the book "deceptive and disappointing". "The problem with Hicks's book is that out of the 456 pages he spends less than one page talking about his training with Al Qaeda. He disguised this as being his first opportunity to speak which of course it's not. He's had many opportunities; dozens or perhaps hundreds of interview requests. I don't think that David Hicks wanted to be questioned. He wanted to put forward his version of events without being questioned. Therefore as a result we have this very self-serving and one-sided and not entirely honest account," she criticised.[8] It is unclear what is meant by "training with Al Qaeda", since Hicks denies even hearing the word "Al Qaeda" before he arrived at Guantanamo.[9][10] However, journalist Mark Davis suggested that the book was more due to Hicks' experiences in prison, rather than that of deception. "He doesn't need to be interrogated. If journalists have facts, put them up. He doesn't need to be interrogated," Davis stipulated. "The guy is traumatised. He's also not highly educated. And he's certainly not articulate. He doesn't want to be made mince meat of for the pleasure of a viewing audience. He did five years in virtual solitary confinement. The fact that he's able to string words together at all is a testimony to him."[8]

In response to the criticism, Hicks finally spoke in December 2010 about the book, two months after its release

I have been accused of cowardice, fear and of having something to hide, but the straightforward answer to these unreasonable accusations is that after spending six years in isolation with little human contact, contact that was often hostile and abnormal, the most comfortable way for me to communicate is by writing. I cannot control interfering emotions. Lights, cameras and being the focus of an interview is reminiscent of a Guantanamo interrogation. This is why I chose to write a book.[7]

In response to claims that he omitted details surrounding his training in Afghanistan, Hicks explained

The truth is, I included detailed descriptions in earlier drafts but ended up editing it out. I couldn't imagine the public wanting to wade through pages of anecdotes such as how I learnt to smear mud on my face and camouflage a uniform, or basic map-reading and using compasses. I didn't think the audience wanted to be bored with detail about building strength, stamina and endurance day after day by marching further and further with increasing weight in a backpack. These were situations very far removed from acts of terrorism such as bomb-making, hijacking or targeting civilians.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dale, Amy (3 August 2011). "Assets frozen to prevent David Hicks profiting from book". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Jeremy Scahill & Noam Chomsky on Secret U.S. Dirty Wars From Yemen to Pakistan to Laos - Transcript [1]
  3. ^ Leopold, Jason (16 February 2011). "EXCLUSIVE: My Tortured Journey With Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks". Truthout. Truthout. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Leopold, Jason (17 February 2011). "Ex-Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks Speaks To Jason Leopold About His Brutal Torture". The Public Record. The Public Record. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Loewenstein, Antony (20 December 2010). "David Hicks shows us what we became after 9/11". Blog originally published in The Sun-Herald. Antony Loewenstein. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Wynter, Coral (25 February 2011). "David Hicks' Guantanamo nightmare". Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Socialist Alliance. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c Duff, Eamon (12 December 2010). "At last, Hicks answers the tough questions". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Santow, Somin (19 October 2010). "Hicks's book 'deceptive, disappointing'". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  9. ^ Hicks, David (2010). GUANTANAMO: my journey. North Sydney, Australia: William Heinemann. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-86471-158-5. 
  10. ^ Hicks, David (2010). GUANTANAMO: my journey. North Sydney, Australia: William Heinemann. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-86471-158-5.