Don’t Keep Me at ‘Bay

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[The following is an excerpt from Don’t Keep Me at ‘Bay, one woman’s tale of life as an interrogator at Guantanamo Bay…]

I was typically brought in as a last resort, when a prisoner had already been interrogated with the usual methods and those methods hadn’t worked. At that point it was time to use whatever methods necessary to get information that could potentially save lives.

I would enter the prisoner’s cell in the middle of the night and shine a bright beam in their face. A guard would prop the prisoner in a chair, hands cuffed, and I would lean over him. It was important I was always taller as I’m only 5’2”.

With an inch of space between our faces, I’d say calmly, “I’m only going to say this once and I want you to tell me the truth. Understand?” I’d wait for him to nod in agreement and then I’d ask, “Am I fat?”

Most prisoners would immediately say “No,” thinking that was what I wanted to hear. And on the one hand it was, but I was after the truth.

“How could I not be fat” I’d press on, “when I ate an entire pizza and bag of chips by myself last night? You’re going to sit here and tell me that I’m not fat after that meal?” Since most of the prisoners had never seen me before they had no basis of comparison. This threw them off balance mentally.

They would then change their answer and say “I’m sorry, yes, you are fat.” At that, I’d kick my chair across the room and say, “Did you just call me fat?”

Frightened and unsure, they’d say, “Yes?” And I’d say, “Are you sure you want to do that? I don’t have a healthy self-image and I was teased a lot in seventh grade by Amanda Klein. You sure you want to call me fat?”

Then they’d scream in agony, “You are thin!”

I’d say, “Don’t patronize me. I may not be fat, but I know I’m not thin.”

Then I’d get some version of “I don’t know what you want me to tell you.”

“Just the truth,” I’d answer.

So they’d say, “You are not fat.”

I’d say, “Yes, I am.”

They’d say, “No, you’re not.”

I’d say, “I am, I’m a fat pig.”

They’d say, “You look good.”

I’d say, “I don’t like my clothes.”

They’d say, “You look great.”

To add to the aura of confusion we’d bring a super model into the cell and I’d ask, “Is she prettier than me?” Before they had time to answer we would quickly shuffle the super model out and then I’d say, “I feel ugly and fat.”

I once had a savvy prisoner. He initially answered “No” to the “Am I fat?” question and when I asked him how I couldn’t be given what I eat, he answered, “Maybe you have fast metabolism.” That was a good answer but what he didn’t know is that I don’t have fast metabolism. Very slow in fact, and an entire pizza would add an immediate five pounds to my hips and ass.

A sign that they were starting to break would be when I’d start to hear versions of, “You are not fat, you look good the way you are, everyone has a pound or two they could shed, but it’s nothing you have to worry about.” That would have a semblance of the truth but I knew they were still trying to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear.

To make sure they were truly ready to give the truth, I’d say, “Great, then I’m going to eat another whole pizza by myself tonight” and then I’d watch their eyes. The eyes told me everything. Upon hearing I’d be eating another pizza their eyes would widen in fear, afraid for my body.

“Why do you look afraid when you hear I’m going to eat another pizza?”

“I’m not afraid,” they’d say.

“You think I’m fat and you can’t believe someone as fat as I am would keep eating this much. ‘When does it stop?’ you’re thinking to yourself, am I right? ‘Why does she have to eat another pizza?’ you’re asking yourself. Does this sound familiar?”

I’d continue like this for hours, chipping away, until they’d scream, “Why?! Why do you have to eat another pizza?! It’s all carbs and cheese!”

Then I knew they were ready to start talking.

[Look for Don’t Keep me at ‘Bay this summer at book stores in your area.]

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