One controversy surrounding the ongoing war on terror is the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Used to house suspected terrorists, or “enemy combatants”, individuals held there are subjected to routine and ongoing interrogations. Obama himself promised to close the prison, but to this day it still remains open. What goes on there is a closely guarded secret – operating outside of the Geneva Convention, which is one the main criticisms of the prison. One story that has emerged is that of Mohamed Ould Slahi a prisoner that has been held there for many years. Guantanamo Diary chronicles his experiences there, and also of his arrests and ongoing interrogation. He began writing the diary 3 years into his stay, and although a federal judge ordered his release, he remains in U.S. custody in Cuba.
The diary was written by Slahi, and what he describes and details are not only the conditions under which he lives in Guantanamo, but the way in which he was captured and detained. He was suspected to have been a part of the Millenium plot, which before reading the book, I knew nothing about. Larry Siems edited the book, and he also worked to get the book published to get Slahi’s story out there. The book was also edited twice, and censored by, the military. The details are shoking – and I had a vague of what went on there, and a somewhat strong opinion against the prison and the housing of “terrorists” there. Waterboarding is just the tip of the iceberg. Here he talks about the ongoing interrogations:
“Weeks went by, months went by, and the interrogators’ thirst for information didn’t seem close to being satisfied. The more information a detainee provided, the more interrogators complicated the case and asked for more questions. All detainees had, at some point, one thing in common: they were tired of uninterrupted interrogation.”
I know there are real terrorists there, there are bad guys there. But, many have been there for years, like Slahi himself, having never actually been charged with anything. He was originally detained Mauritania, and actually had once been affiliated with Al Qaeda when they were fighting against the Soviet Union with Afghanistan. Somehow his name stayed on a watch list, which is somewhat understandable. He goes through a short series of prisons in the middle east, and is briefly released to his family. He is arrested again after 9/11, and it’s then that he finally makes his way to Cuba.
Parts of this book were shocking – but it was hard to put down. I hope there can be real justice for the prisoners being housed at Guantanamo. With that said, I also read this book with the idea that Slahi himself could be guilty of something, and that in reading the diary, I was only getting one side of the story. The story is compelling, and part of a broader story that may never be told.