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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside Gitmo
It's rare (at my age, anyway!) for a book to keep me up all night. But Murat Kurnaz's memoir of his five years in the Guantanamo prison camp did just that. I spent most of the night hours reading it, alternately grateful that we finally have an insider's view of Gitmo and horrified at Kurnaz's descriptions of what he and the other prisoners endured. The rest of the...
Published on April 1, 2008 by Kerry Walters

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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An unnecessary Martyr
In this rather harrowing story, Murat Kurnaz's a Turkish immigrant living with his family in Germany, recounts the events that landed him in a series of U.S. sanctioned Post-911 prisons: establishments we have since learned are to be referred to as part of U.S. "renditions:" that is prisons operating with U.S. consent but outside normal U.S. legal jurisdiction. What we...
Published on May 12, 2008 by Herbert L Calhoun


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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside Gitmo, April 1, 2008
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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It's rare (at my age, anyway!) for a book to keep me up all night. But Murat Kurnaz's memoir of his five years in the Guantanamo prison camp did just that. I spent most of the night hours reading it, alternately grateful that we finally have an insider's view of Gitmo and horrified at Kurnaz's descriptions of what he and the other prisoners endured. The rest of the night I spent pacing, too agitated by what I'd read to sleep. If even a small part of what Kurnaz says is true--and we have independent evidence that suggests his tale is accurate--the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo is indecent and, by any reasonable person's standard, illegal.

Kurnaz, a German-born (in 1982) Turk, traveled to Pakistan in late 2001 to study at a madrassa. Shortly thereafter, through a combination of false evidence, police corruption, alleged guilt by association, and bureaucratic incompetence, he was arrested and handed over to American military authorities. After a three-month imprisonment in Afghanistan, he was transferred to Gitmo, where he would stay until his exoneration and release in August 2006. (This despite the fact that the U.S. authorities quickly realized, as Kurnaz's lawyer, Baher Azmy, compellingly argues in the book's epilogue, that Kurnaz was innocent.)

Kurnaz's first three months in Gitmo were spent in Camp X-Ray, so called because the prisoners where in open air cages where everything was "completely transparent" to the scrutiny of the guards. The cages were 15 square feet (smaller than German requirements for caging animals), open to the weather as well as spiders, snakes, and scorpions. prisoners were irregularly fed, denied medical treatment, and given bad water to drink. They were also forbidden to stand, lie down during the day, or touch the sides of the cages. Breaking any rule brought swift retribution from the IRF, Immediate Reaction Force, whose members would quickly pepper-spray the offending prisoner and then beat him senseless. But spraying and beating could also come out of the blue. The point, Kurnaz quickly concluded, was to break prisoners and humiliate them--but also, at least in some cases, to provide guards an opportunity to vent (p. 147).

Transferred from open cages to cages within buildings--a new prison called Camp Delta--Kurnaz underwent regular and harsh interrogation, endured often uneatable food, participated in a couple of hunger strikes when the Koran was trampled by American guards, and suffered under a new policy of "maximum discomfort" initiated by a change of camp commanders. The new CO, General Geoffrey Miller, began Operation Sandman, intended to deprive prisoners of sleep by subjecting them to continuous cell rotations and loud heavy metal music. Rebelling against the physical abuse and the psych-ops mistreatments, Kurnaz was repeatedly thrown into solitary confinement--basically a "ship container with a door" whose temperature could be manipulated to be either frigid or suffocatingly hot (p. 161).

A particularly poignant moment in Kurnaz's imprisonment was when one of his American guards, conscience-stricken, confessed to him that the treatment of Gitmo prisoners constituted torture. On the day of his discharge from the military, the guard removed his MP armband and threw it on the ground (pp. 193-94). Other guards, indoctrinated before their tour of duty with films and lectures that described Gitmo prisoners as murderous prisoners, were brutal.

Kurnaz's story is horrifying, both because of its details and because it affirms what most of us uncomfortably have already pieced together--that prisoners are being tortured at Gitmo. How ironic that the logo over the Guantanamo gates says "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" (p. 147).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it and Weep!, December 10, 2009
By 
Barrie Murphy (Kintnersville, Pa.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo (Paperback)
I consider myself well-read but had no idea of the scale of abuse at Guantanamo until I read this excellent but harrowing account by former detainee Murat Kurnaz.
Kurnaz manages to maintain a sense of humor despite five years without a decent night's sleep, regular beatings, casual racism and indifferent interrogators. A copy should be sent to Cheney home, for he was the prime motivation behind this grotesque gulag.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American disgrace, July 31, 2008
In this book, translated from German, Murat Kurnaz, a German Turk, tells his tragic story. When only nineteen and an apprentice shipbuilder, while taking time off in Pakistan for religious study, he was hauled off a bus and imprisoned for a short time before being `sold' to the US Administration for $3,000. This was a bargain - the Americans were offering $5,000 - $25,000 to locals for anyone suspected of being Taliban or Al Qaeda. With such tempting offerings, many innocent men - usually foreigners - were gladly exchanged for the money which converted into huge amounts in the local currency.

Murat was sent first to a prison camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan and then later to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In both places he was repeatedly and relentlessly tortured. Among other things he was constantly beaten, often for no reason, he was water boarded, he was electrically shocked on the soles of his feet, he was hung from the ceiling by his arms tied behind him for hours on end, he was deprived of sleep for weeks at a time, he was forced to stand for days, he was starved, he was force fed, he was put in an air-tight metal container and subjected to extreme heat and cold and of course there were the months of solitary confinement. In Guantanamo he came across prisoners as young as 14 and a few even in their 80s and 90s.

Like all the books on Guantanamo, there is almost a shock a page. Besides the main tortures listed above, what I found almost as deplorable was how vindictive, sadistic and cruel the soldiers were to the detainees in little ways, all the time and always there were endless lies. Also appalling were Murat's descriptions of female soldiers in one of the camps, watching while naked male prisoners defecated in a communal bucket in the open pen. And in Guantanamo, scantily dressed young women rubbed themselves against him and made sexual suggestions. One wonders if their male superiors ordered them to do this or if they thought up these little torments themselves. But it should also be said that a few guards treated the detainees with basic decency.

At the end of the book we learn that the Administration knew 6 months into Murat's capture that he was innocent, but kept him on, continued the torture and even made wild accusations against him - presumably to save face. After 5 years when he was finally to be sent back to Germany, on the way out they made a last ditch effort to make him sign a statement saying he was either Taliban or Al Qaeda or he must stay in Cuba. He refused.

How do we know all this is true? Having read so many similar accounts from so many prisoners of many different nationalities and languages, from different cell blocks, who could not have collaborated, I am convinced that what is described is essentially what happened. The Epilogue, written by his American attorney, Baher Azmy, a law professor in New Jersey, is excellent.

Murat was robbed of part of his youth with no explanation or apology so it is hardly surprising he felt compelled to tell his story. He finishes with - "We have to tell the world how Abdul lost his legs and how the Moroccan captain lost his fingers. The world needs to know about the prisoners who died in Kandahar. We have to describe how the doctors came only to check whether we were dead or could stand to be tortured for a little longer."
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerfully told tale that will keep you reading to the end, April 16, 2008
I shared the experience of another reviewer of this book. I was so insensed by what I was reading, I read late into the night until I couldn't remain awake (3 a.m.) and then got up the next morning and read thoughout the morning and afternoon again to finish this story.

There are lots of reasons to read this book: To learn the truth and be enraged at the audacity of powerful people out of control. To not quite believe what you've heard and want to hear for yourself what someone experienced firsthand. To be a non-believer and to see what falsehoods are being spread against our democracy. But beware -- once you read this, you will be insensed at what is happening in our name and to our name, and the only way it will keep happening is if we simply refuse to listen when someone tells us about it.

This tale is powerfully told. It will surely keep you reading to the end, too.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Big Black Eye for America, April 27, 2008
Assuming everything Murat writes about in this book is true, and for now I'm assuming that it is because I have no reason to believe otherwise, it is the most revealing and disturbing account of how we, America, captured many of the prisoners at Guantanamo and treated them while they were under our control. As an American, and former marine, I am saddened, horrified, and ashamed that we would torture anyone. And make it a policy - then deny it!?!? It was clearly a decision and an order from our nation's leadership to manage the situation in a manner that I could only compare to the way in which Hitler ordered the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. I can't get out of my mind the terrible conditions that we forced these men to endure -- the ones who have survived. This book has ignited in me a desire to learn more about what is happening in Guantanamo and to do whatever I can to stop our government from torturing human beings.

How can we just sit back while our country's leadership illegally tortures and kills people in the name of our security?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very powerful, September 25, 2011
This review is from: Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo (Paperback)
Every American citizen should read this book. It's a first hand account of a man being tortured, imprisoned with no civil rights, no trial, no habeas corpus as a result "laws" of the Patriot Act stating the President of the United States can he himself accuse anyone of being an enemy combatant and lock them up indefinitely. Guantanamo Bay operates behind this indispicable curtain of secrecy using the justification that everything done at Guantanamo is classified in the interests of national security. You would never treat a junkyard dog how the prisoners at Guantanamo are treated. You know how we (America) get these prisoners? Pakistani and Afghani warlords (mostly drug lords) capture innocent people and hand them over to the U.S. government for $3,000 - $5,000 per inmate (a huge sum of money in the middle east). Many of the prisoners held at Guantanamo are doctors, lawyers, laborers, teachers, and ordinary people with absolutely no ties to terrorism, Al Qaeda or to the Taliban. I've read this book and many others and just about all legal scholars around the world universally say the "enemy combatant" piece of the Patriot Act is ethically and morally wrong, and is unconstitional. Knowing about the truths behind Guantanamo and how our government tirelessly tries to cover it up makes me ashamed to be an American.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening, June 16, 2011
By 
Jessica Goette (Orange County, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo (Paperback)
This book is a must read for everybody. People that say this is fiction and absolute fantasy are kidding themselves. It almost reminds me of the people that claim the Holocaust never happened, whether we like it or not, humans can be completely evil and without remorse for their evil doings. If we deny this, how will we ever own up to our failures and ensure that we do not repeat history? I am so happy this book was written, we need to all be aware of these types of things that are going on in the world. I am disgusted that the Turkish, German, and American government took so long to finally free an innocent man. The things that he had to live through are unthinkable, I do not doubt a single word of what the author writes in this book and I have a feeling there is a lot he left out and didn't care to share with the world. I take this book as absolute truth and on top of that, I have nothing but respect for the man who writes this with not even one iota of hate in his words towards the countries that left him to die in hopes of forever silencing him.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for all Americans, April 21, 2008
By 
Keri A. (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
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Night by Elie Wiesel. A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenityn. These are the books that I was reminded of as I read Murat Kurnaz's account of the time he spent in Guantanamo Bay. The chief difference, or course, is that the despicable treatment of human beings that is detailed in this book was not perpetrated by the Nazi or Communist regimes of another generation - but by our own government - the United States of America. Murat Kurnaz should be applauded for not only surviving 5 years of unimaginable treatment, but for having the courage to tell his story. I don't know who in our govenment and military is responsible for what happenned, and no doubt continues to happen at Guantanamo Bay, but I hope that they are one day brought to justice and made to answer in a court of law for the crimes that have occurred there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad, Sad, Sad, October 21, 2011
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I read this book about a poor German guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, in this case on a bus somewhere in Central Asia.

He was hauled off the bus and sent to Cuba, after first being sequestered in Afghanistan. The Cuban climate was a warm welcome in contrast to the cold of Central Asia, but he rotted in hell for five years before finally being set free.

This book is one man's testimony to the brutality of incarceration, and the lengths to which Pakistan/Afghan border tribes will go in order to find a scapegoat, if only you give them enough money. His voice is one among the thousands.

A totally depressing tale of pointless victimization. It is the story of the legacy of America's so-called "War on Terror."

Read it at the risk of getting totally depressed, but knowing later a little more of the evil that exists.

P.S. Amazon has a great service, but they weren't very good to Julian Assange or Wikileaks. I hope they realize their errant judgement.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An unnecessary Martyr, May 12, 2008
In this rather harrowing story, Murat Kurnaz's a Turkish immigrant living with his family in Germany, recounts the events that landed him in a series of U.S. sanctioned Post-911 prisons: establishments we have since learned are to be referred to as part of U.S. "renditions:" that is prisons operating with U.S. consent but outside normal U.S. legal jurisdiction. What we have since learned is that they are strung across the globe from Afghanistan to Cuba.

In graphic details, the author gives an almost blow-by-blow account of the almost uncivilized treatment he received in each prison. Although he never actually uses that term torture, the reader can draw his own conclusions about what to call it.

No matter what one calls it, if even a small part of his story is true, there is nothing revealed here that in any way could make the U.S. proud of its actions. Although in defense of those actions, it is not just a minor detail that Murat and his brother were arrested a few months after the 911 attack on America, when both were enroute to Afghanistan. And when detained they gave contradictory reasons for their travels.

According to Murat the purpose of the trip was to attend a Madrassa better to get in touch with their Muslim religions roots. However, this is not the story told by his brother, who was stopped at the German border by immigration authorities. According to his brother, they were headed to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. In fact, it is this his brother's version (told to the German authorities unbeknownst to Murat), that eventually got Murat into hot water once he arrived at the Pakistani-Afghan border. The brother's version took on added significance when it was also learned by German authorities (through subsequent interviews with his family) that both had left Germany in secrecy and without giving warning even to their families. On the surface, even Murat's telling of this story looks suspiciously like preparatory terrorists activity. It didn't help matters either that Pakistan authorities were being paid a bounty of $3,000 for turning in suspected terrorists.

If indeed the author and his brother were headed to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban, as the latter claimed, then they surely could not have been expecting any sympathy from the U.S. government. And indeed, had he been properly charged and brought before a normal U.S. bar of justice, there would be no story to tell here. I frankly would have had no sympathy for their plight either, because under this more normal set of circumstances, evidence could have been brought forth, including the testimony of his brother, and the family. And as is customary in such cases, their respective fates would have been left to the mercy of the U.S. courts, either military or civilian. Based just on the facts told here, the chances would have been about 50-50 that they could have been convicted on charges of conspiring to give support to sworn U.S. enemies.

But that is not the story told here. Instead of being given at least the minimum of due process guaranteed under the Geneva Convention, of being formally charged under U.S. law, transported and held over for trial, and then given proper legal representation, instead Murat was unconscionably held incommunicado and against every percept of American law, tortured for more than five years.

Even if no lawsuits ensue, just as was the case with Abu Ghraib, irreparable damage has been done to the U.S. international reputation. Leaving all of the torture aside, which is difficult to do given how blatant it was, the sheer insanity of our leaders to engage in such unconscionable practices even in the aftermath of 911, simply staggers the imagination. Are we a Banana Republic or what?

Three stars.
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Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo
Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo by Murat Kurnaz (Paperback - August 4, 2009)
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