By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — After spending almost three years in American custody, Issa Khan said that he understood why men would take up arms against U.S. forces in the region.
The Pakistani doctor said the equation was simple: If you put men in captivity and treat them badly, they will want to fight you when they're released.
U.S.-backed northern alliance soldiers arrested Khan in late November or early December 2001 in the Afghan town of Mazar-e-Sharif, where his father-in-law was the Taliban's chief judge. Khan, who's originally from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, said he'd moved there in 1998 with his wife, an Afghan, and set up a small medical practice.
Because Khan didn't sit before a military tribunal at Guantanamo, there's no public record of the charges he faced. Pakistani officials declined several interview requests to talk about Khan. The U.S. Department of Defense also refused to discuss Khan's case and those of other detainees.
When he was sent back to Pakistan in September 2004, officials there transferred him to the jail in Peshawar. While Pakistani officials were questioning him, Khan said, they told him that his wife had been killed in 2001 and that his 7-month-old son had been missing since then.
His interrogators found, however, that "no anti-state or terrorist activities could be linked to him," according to a case file obtained by a McClatchy reporter. The file, which was signed by five Pakistani intelligence officers and police officials, listed among its findings that Khan had gone to Afghanistan to live with his wife's family and "nothing else."
The Pakistani government said it would help him start a new business, maybe a fish farm, but the money never came, Khan said.
"People bring me books about Guantanamo, and ask if what they say is true," Khan said. "I tell them to get the books away from me; I don't want to think about that place."
After they arrested Khan and demanded to know where his father-in-law was hiding, Khan said, the northern alliance troops took him to a house in Mazar-e-Sharif that was being used to hold prisoners, mostly foreigners such as himself, who could be sold to U.S. forces for bounties.
During the 16 days he was at the house, Khan said, U.S. soldiers came and interrogated him.
"Their one question was, 'Where is Osama bin Laden?' " Khan said.
He continued: "If you said you are Taliban, they would ask you where Osama bin Laden was and beat you if you said you didn't know. If you said you weren't Taliban, they would say you were lying and beat you."
U.S. defense officials have denied that American troops routinely beat detainees, and have said that accounts indicating otherwise are the work of jihadi propagandists.
Khan said he was taken by helicopter to the U.S. camp at Kandahar Airfield, where the violence continued.
Guantanamo wasn't much different, Khan said, except that detainees had regained some of their weight and had enough stamina to protest and, often, fight with guards.
"We were tired of being there, so we wanted the Americans to kill us," he said. For example, when a female guard whom Khan disliked walked by, "We put soap and pee in our cups of water and threw it at her."
If other guards got within reach, he said, the detainees punched them.
During interrogations, Khan said, he was constantly asked where his father-in-law and his wife, whom he never saw again after he was arrested, were hiding in Afghanistan. When he said he didn't know, Khan said, the Americans would lean into his face and scream that he was lying.
U.S. soldiers at Guantanamo used anything they could to rattle the detainees, Khan said. They were put in cold rooms for 10 hours. They were strapped to chairs and made to listen to loud American rock music for hours on end.
When prisoners took part in protests, soldiers often held them down and shaved their heads, eyebrows and beards, sometimes leaving tufts of hair here and there just to make them look ridiculous, Khan said.
Female soldiers often were used to taunt the prisoners, he said. The women would tell the men they were menstruating and then touch them, sometimes with wet hands, an act intended to make them unclean for prayer, he said.. The women also danced in front of the men, trying to arouse them, to shame them, Khan said. Memos written by FBI agents who served at Guantanamo at the time â€“ from 2002 to 2004, a period considered by many to be the worst at Guantanamo — described similar behavior by at least one interrogator.
Khan shook his head. It isn't difficult, he said during the interview, to figure out why former detainees want to fight the Americans.