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First Published Book by a Guantanamo Prisoner Vividly Recounts Torture & Rendition

ACLU graphic for “Free Slahi” campaign

Mauritanian citizen Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who remains in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, has become the first prisoner to have a book written during his time in prison published.

The book called “Guantanamo Diary” is a first person stream of consciousness story of what he experienced as he was subjected to rendition, torture, interrogations and transfer and imprisonment at Guantanamo.

America’s global security state fought to suppress it. A version of the diary was finally declassified after a seven-year legal battle, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Slahi in his legal battle to be freed.

The 466-page handwritten manuscript was written in his single cell at Camp Echo in 2005. The Guardian and Canongate Books worked together to publish a declassified version. It still was censored by the United States government, and 2,500 black bars appear throughout the text accentuating the criminality described vividly by Slahi.

Born in Mauritania in 1970, Slahi attended college in Germany with a scholarship he had won. He fought in the Afghan anti-communist resistance which was supported by the US in the early 1990s. That resistance included al Qaeda.

He spent several years in Germany working as an engineer until he returned to Mauritania in 2000. One year later, he was detained by Mauritanian authorities and subject to rendition at the request of the US. He wound up in a prison in Jordan and then later he was moved again to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. He suffered torture. By August 2002, after he was threatened multiple times with indefinite detention in Cuba if he did not tell the “truth,” officers made good on their threat and sent him to Guantanamo where he suffered even worse torture.

In April 2010, a district court judge ordered Slahi to be released from US custody. President Barack Obama’s administration appealed the court decision.

The diary is both gut-wrenching and witty. It is distressing yet rather audacious at times. It represents both an act of courage as well as a confession of the kind of fear the US government successfully instilled as they broke him.

Initially, he was not going to let himself break. He was not going to falsely confess to something even if he knew it meant more torture. Yet, the US managed to torture him into falsely confessing to a plot to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. It did not matter if it was true or not. He did not care if it was false as long as the military officers that had been torturing him were pleased to hear he was involved in a terrorism plot.

Here is an example of Slahi’s charm, which appears in the part of his diary about his time at Bagram:

…For [the] next nights in the isolation, I got a funny guard, who was trying to convert me to Christianity. I enjoyed the conversations, though my English was very basic. My dialogue partner was young, religious and energetic. He liked Bush (the true religious leader, according to him), he hated Bill Clinton (“the infidel”), he loved [the] Dollar and hated the Euro. He had his copy of [the] Bible on hand all the time and whenever the opportunity [arose] he read me stories, most of which [were] from the Old Testament. I would not have been able to understand them hadn’t I read the Bible in Arabic several times…

Slahi adds that he did not “try to argue” because he was “happy to have somebody to talk to.” Although, the “hot-tempered soldier’s knowledge about his religion was very shallow. Nonetheless, I enjoyed him being my guard. He gave me more time in the bathroom, and he even looked away when I used the bathroom.”

This section of the diary also features a terrible scene involving an interrogator, who threatened him with rape by US prison guards.

“After a couple of days, [REDACTED] pulled me to interrogate me. [REDACTED] acted as an interpreter. “Tell [me] about your story?” asked [REDACTED].”

Slahi did but they were “very boring details, none of which seemed to interest or impress [REDACTED].”

He grew tired and started to yawn. I knew exactly what he wanted to hear, but I couldn’t help him. He interrupted me, “My country values highly the truth. Now I’m gonna ask you some questions and if you answer truthfully you’re gonna be released and sent safely to your family, but if you fail you’re gonna be imprisoned indefinitely to destroy your life. A small note in my agenda is enough.”

“What terrorist organizations are you part of?” the interrogator asked.

“None,” Slahi replied.

“You’re not a man and you don’t deserve respect. Kneel and cross your hands and put them behind your neck,” the interrogator bellowed.

…I obeyed the rules and he put a bag over my head. My back was hurting so bad lately and that position was so painful that way. [REDACTED] worked on my sciatic problem. [REDACTED] brought two projector and adjusted them on my face, even though I couldn’t see, but the heat overwhelmed me and started to sweat. “You’re gonna be sent to a US facility, where you’ll spend the rest of your life. You’ll never see your family again. Your family will be fucked by another man. In American jails, terrorists like you get raped by multiple men at the same time. The guards in my country do their job very well but raping you is inevitable. However, if you tell me the truth, you’re gonna be released immediately.”

“I was old enough to know that he was a rotten liar, and a man with no honor,” Slahi explains. “But he was in charge so I had to listen to his bullshit again and again. I just wished that the agencies start to hire smart people. Did he really think that anybody would believe his nonsense?”

Slahi suggest he would have respected the man more if he had said, “Look, if you don’t tell me what I want to hear I’m gonna torture you.”

“Of course, I will be truthful!” Slahi responded.

“What terrorist organizations are you a part of?”

“None,” I replied.

The bag went back over Slahi’s head. A “long discourse of humiliation, cursing, lies and threats” began.

Slahi writes, “I don’t really remember everything nor am I ready to sift in my memory for such bullshit. Meanwhile, I was so tired and hurt and tired to sit but he forced me back. Of pain, I cried. Yes, a man in my age cried silently. I just couldn’t bear the agony. After a couple of hours, [he] sent me back to my cell and promised me more torture.”

“‘This was only the start,’ as he put it.”

Slahi says of the slogan, “Truth sets you free.”

…[REDACTED] asked me where I learned to speak German and said that he was going to interrogate me later. [REDACTION], “Wahrheit macht frei – Truth sets you free.” When I heard him saying that I knew the truth will not set me free because “Arbeit” didn’t set the Jews free. Hitler’s propaganda machinery used to lure the Jewish detainees with the slogan, “Arbeit macht frei – Work sets you free,” but work set nobody free.”

***

Seeing as it is critically important to call attention to as much of Slahi’s “Guantanamo Diary” as possible, I will be posting excerpts from it here throughout the week. The next excerpts will cover his time at Guantanamo.

The full declassified and handwritten manuscript can be found here.

CommunityFDL Main BlogThe Dissenter

First Published Book by a Guantanamo Prisoner Vividly Recounts Torture & Rendition

ACLU graphic for “Free Slahi” campaign

Mauritanian citizen Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who remains in indefinite detention at Guantanamo Bay, has become the first prisoner to have a book written during his time in prison published.

The book called “Guantanamo Diary” is a first person stream of consciousness story of what he experienced as he was subjected to rendition, torture, interrogations and transfer and imprisonment at Guantanamo.

America’s global security state fought to suppress it. A version of the diary was finally declassified after a seven-year legal battle, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Slahi in his legal battle to be freed.

The 466-page handwritten manuscript was written in his single cell at Camp Echo in 2005. The Guardian and Canongate Books worked together to publish a declassified version. It still was censored by the United States government, and 2,500 black bars appear throughout the text accentuating the criminality described vividly by Slahi.

Born in Mauritania in 1970, Slahi attended college in Germany with a scholarship he had won. He fought in the Afghan anti-communist resistance which was supported by the US in the early 1990s. That resistance included al Qaeda.

He spent several years in Germany working as an engineer until he returned to Mauritania in 2000. One year later, he was detained by Mauritanian authorities and subject to rendition at the request of the US. He wound up in a prison in Jordan and then later he was moved again to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. He suffered torture. By August 2002, after he was threatened multiple times with indefinite detention in Cuba if he did not tell the “truth,” officers made good on their threat and sent him to Guantanamo where he suffered even worse torture.

In April 2010, a district court judge ordered Slahi to be released from US custody. President Barack Obama’s administration appealed the court decision.

The diary is both gut-wrenching and witty. It is distressing yet rather audacious at times. It represents both an act of courage as well as a confession of the kind of fear the US government successfully instilled as they broke him.

Initially, he was not going to let himself break. He was not going to falsely confess to something even if he knew it meant more torture. Yet, the US managed to torture him into falsely confessing to a plot to blow up the CN Tower in Toronto. It did not matter if it was true or not. He did not care if it was false as long as the military officers that had been torturing him were pleased to hear he was involved in a terrorism plot.

Here is an example of Slahi’s charm, which appears in the part of his diary about his time at Bagram:

…For [the] next nights in the isolation, I got a funny guard, who was trying to convert me to Christianity. I enjoyed the conversations, though my English was very basic. My dialogue partner was young, religious and energetic. He liked Bush (the true religious leader, according to him), he hated Bill Clinton (“the infidel”), he loved [the] Dollar and hated the Euro. He had his copy of [the] Bible on hand all the time and whenever the opportunity [arose] he read me stories, most of which [were] from the Old Testament. I would not have been able to understand them hadn’t I read the Bible in Arabic several times…

Slahi adds that he did not “try to argue” because he was “happy to have somebody to talk to.” Although, the “hot-tempered soldier’s knowledge about his religion was very shallow. Nonetheless, I enjoyed him being my guard. He gave me more time in the bathroom, and he even looked away when I used the bathroom.”

This section of the diary also features a terrible scene involving an interrogator, who threatened him with rape by US prison guards.

“After a couple of days, [REDACTED] pulled me to interrogate me. [REDACTED] acted as an interpreter. “Tell [me] about your story?” asked [REDACTED].”

Slahi did but they were “very boring details, none of which seemed to interest or impress [REDACTED].”

He grew tired and started to yawn. I knew exactly what he wanted to hear, but I couldn’t help him. He interrupted me, “My country values highly the truth. Now I’m gonna ask you some questions and if you answer truthfully you’re gonna be released and sent safely to your family, but if you fail you’re gonna be imprisoned indefinitely to destroy your life. A small note in my agenda is enough.”

“What terrorist organizations are you part of?” the interrogator asked.

“None,” Slahi replied.

“You’re not a man and you don’t deserve respect. Kneel and cross your hands and put them behind your neck,” the interrogator bellowed.

…I obeyed the rules and he put a bag over my head. My back was hurting so bad lately and that position was so painful that way. [REDACTED] worked on my sciatic problem. [REDACTED] brought two projector and adjusted them on my face, even though I couldn’t see, but the heat overwhelmed me and started to sweat. “You’re gonna be sent to a US facility, where you’ll spend the rest of your life. You’ll never see your family again. You’re family will be fucked by another man. In American jails, terrorists like you get raped by multiple men at the same time. The guards in my country do their job very well but raping you is inevitable. However, if you tell me the truth, you’re gonna be released immediately.”

“I was old enough to know that he was a rotten liar, and a man with no honor,” Slahi explains. “But he was in charge so I had to listen to his bullshit again and again. I just wished that the agencies start to hire smart people. Did he really think that anybody would believe his nonsense?”

Slahi suggest he would have respected the man more if he had said, “Look, if you don’t tell me what I want to hear I’m gonna torture you.”

“Of course, I will be truthful!” Slahi responded.

“What terrorist organizations are you a part of?”

“None,” I replied.

The bag went back over Slahi’s head. A “long discourse of humiliation, cursing, lies and threats” began.

Slahi writes, “I don’t really remember everything nor am I ready to sift in my memory for such bullshit. Meanwhile, I was so tired and hurt and tired to sit but he forced me back. Of pain, I cried. Yes, a man in my age cried silently. I just couldn’t bear the agony. After a couple of hours, [he] sent me back to my cell and promised me more torture.”

“‘This was only the start,’ as he put it.”

Slahi says of the slogan, “Truth sets you free.”

…[REDACTED] asked me where I learned to speak German and said that he was going to interrogate me later. [REDACTION], “Wahrheit macht frei – Truth sets you free.” When I heard him saying that I knew the truth will not set me free because “Arbeit” didn’t set the Jews free. Hitler’s propaganda machinery used to lure the Jewish detainees with the slogan, “Arbeit macht frei – Work sets you free,” but work set nobody free.”

***

Seeing as it is critically important to call attention to as much of Slahi’s “Guantanamo Diary” as possible, I will be posting excerpts from it here throughout the week. The next excerpts will cover his time at Guantanamo.

The full declassified and handwritten manuscript can be found here.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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