Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m sorry to have to tell you, but the terrorists won. And when I say “terrorists” I mean the Saudi team led by a Saudi millionaire. Yep. This book by Mohamedou Ould Slahi confirms it. The 9/11 attacks achieved what was intended, and what was intended was clearly not just to topple the WTC towers. What was intended was to spin the United States in a cycle of stupidity, violence, ignobility, and abuse; to trap it in a mire of hate; to force it to shed its ideals of justice and due process and adopt torture, unfairness, torment, blindness, corruption, kidnapping and irrationality as the guiding principles of its quest for “peace”; to turn it into a terrorist state itself, pushing it to embrace terror as the best tool in its “war on terrorism.” The terrorist attacks on 9/11 have turned the United States into an ideological oxymoron.

And Slahi is a great narrator. He shows us in great detail, not only the ramshackle state of intelligence gathering by government agencies; the incompetence of interrogators; the sadism of low ranking guards; the amateurish, superficial, sophomoric knowledge of the Guantánamo personnel about political, cultural, historical, geographical and even militaristic issues (not to mention their ridiculous, comic-book style moral-building strategies); and the involvement and engagement of professional psychologists in the torture of detainees… but also the degradation of American women, enlisted and not, deployed as sexual bait in the interrogation room and as key players in sexual humiliation techniques.

Slahi has been imprisoned for 13 years now. In all those years, the United States has not charged him with any crime, nor has any concrete evidence been brought against him. He has endured horrific torture, and still manages to be fair, graceful, witty and humane.

(As an interesting aside, Slahi’s kafkaesque, orwellian living hell was only assuaged by the kind, humane, and friendly treatment he received for a while at the hands of an all-Puerto Rican platoon… who was quickly dismissed.)

After reading this book, and in the wake of the Ferguson, Garner, and other scandals, it becomes clear that the US finds itself in no capacity to bring freedom and democracy to the world and rescue nations from their own “evil ways”, as it is wont to believe… but is itself in dire need of rescuing.

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