Terry Holdbrooks is a Muslim, a veteran and a former guard of Guantanamo Bay detention camps. With “Traitor?” we can now add author to his bio as well.
So who is Terry Holdbrooks?
Terry ‘Mustapha Abdullah’ Holdbrooks is a former guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps and was stationed at GTMO in 2003 and 2004. It was during his time at GTMO where he saw the detainees dealing with their life and how faith helped them that Terry decided to convert to Islam.
He describes his book “Traitor?” as part expose – part personal journey about the effects of war on terror. “Traitor?” is the “story of an American soldier's journey to Islam having found it in the 'armpit of the world', Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” With “Traitor?” Terry is looking to tell the story of GTMO and how it changed the world forever.
We asked Terry about his early life at home. “I was born and still live in Phoenix, Arizona,” Terry tells us. His parents split up when he was young and he was later on raised by his hippie grandparents.
Religion, did not play a very big part in Terry’s life as a kid, “Religion was not an important part in my life as a child, my parents were not concerned at all, and my grandparents felt it was better that I find faith on my own, not have one assigned to me.”
In a way enlisting for the military was a chance to get out for Terry and see the world. He signed up and was stationed with the 253rd Military Police Company. With standard military training, and an additional ‘crash course’ comprising of just two weeks of corrections training, Holdbrooks was sent to Guantanamo Bay. It was his first assignment.
“We trained for two weeks, it was a poor training. We did not receive any intelligence regarding the individuals there, we did not train in a proper facility, we did not have the manual for GTMO, and we did not have detainees.”
A regular day at GTMO, Holdbrooks says, “Would depend on the day, and where I was working. If I was working as a sally port, it was boring. If I was working as a detainee escort I would see some torture or abuse. If I was working on a block it would be interesting and intellectual.”
He adds on and says that hunger strikes were commonplace during his time at the GTMO. Speaking of guards, he says “Every guard has seen torture and abuse in GTMO,” further adding that perhaps what sets apart some from others is their exposure. “Those who are aware of global politics, legitimate ethics and morals, human rights and decency, etc., have feelings towards it.”
When asked about the other guards and how they felt about the prisoners, Terry very eloquently said that, “Not many people in this world seem to advance past the second stage of self-awareness or self-development and as such I do not imagine many of the people I served with care about GTMO.”
GTMO, Holdbrooks says, is unlike any other prison in the world. With its population of ‘inmates’ comprising of those who have solely been signaled out on the basis of ‘suspicion’ and nothing more, “Most prisons have people in them who are guilty, and most prisons have people who have been tried and found guilty or even accused of something [but not in GTMO].”
Speaking of his own experiences, Holdbrooks admits that he tried to forget about his time spent there. “I tried to forget GTMO for years; I tried to drown it out. It is not possible,” adding that, “Shame and regret are certainly present, and probably always will be.”
When talking about his worst experiences at GTMO, Holdbrooks says that it is hard to pinpoint a single horrific moment that stands out. The existence of GTMO itself is a shame to the US. But he also says that the fact that the “detainees were able to keep strong and steadfast with regards to their faith and how calm and collected they could be in a place like GTMO” might be one of the reasons why he was brought closer to Islam.
So has faith changed him? Terry says he likes to think faith has helped him develop as better person. “I feel I am more considerate now, and more polite, more patient. It is amazing how much more fun life is when you begin to really understand that it is all very trivial.” Adding on that, “Life is simple when one follows their faith as it should be followed. Christians who follow the bible as it is are happy people, and they are good people. Hindus and Buddhists who follow as they should follow are happy people, and good people.”
Holdbrooks says it is not his mission to tell everyone he meets about Islam because that is not his goal. His goal is pure and simple, to eng GTMO, “My goal is to end GTMO, and to give it back to Cuba. We are the USA, we should be proud to be the USA, we have a legal system that no one else has, and GTMO is 100% antithetical to that system, hence, GTMO is 100% antithetical to the USA.”
Terry feels that Obama has failed to deliver on his promise to shut down GTMO. “[Obama]made a promise that he is failing to live up to, which is nothing new for politicians.”
Obama he says “has no real interest in closing GTMO” and he attributes it to the fact that it makes too much money for all those who are involved in GTMO. Terry certainly thinks if the average American knew of the cost, they would care. “If Americans knew that [billions of their tax dollars are spent on GTMO], I think they would care.”