Guantánamo Diary, book by tortured prisoner


Mohamedou Ould SlahiBy Tom Carter:

6 February 2015

Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems; Little, Brown & Company, 2015

Guantánamo Diary, written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi and edited by Larry Siems, is a remarkable book that deserves the widest possible audience within the United States and internationally.

The recently published book, written by a current inmate of the infamous torture camp, contains a first-hand account of the author’s ghastly mistreatment at the hands of the intelligence agencies of the United States and their foreign accomplices. It is one thing to read about the sadistic methods employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies in an executive summary of a Senate report. It is another thing to endure them from the standpoint of the eyes, ears, nose, nerves, stomach, and mind of one of the victims.

But the book is much more than a terrifying exposure of the secret US torture program. The book also contains—unexpectedly—wonderful literary passages, devastating portraits of the idiotic personalities and social types Slahi encounters among his torturers, wry humor, self-critical reflections and insights, and a humane, hopeful, and sensitive touch. This is all the more remarkable when one considers that Slahi wrote it by hand in the summer of 2005—in English, his fourth language—from a Guantanamo Bay “segregation cell.”

Slahi (sometimes spelled “Salahi”) was born in Mauritania in 1970. Apparently an exceptional student, he received a scholarship to study engineering in Duisburg, Germany in 1988. In 1991, Slahi traveled from Germany to Afghanistan to join the mujahedin movement, and while in Afghanistan he allegedly swore allegiance to Al Qaeda. However, after the central government fell, he returned to Germany and (by his own account) had no further involvement with Al Qaeda. He later spent time in Montreal, Canada working as an electrical engineer.

He was subsequently detained and interrogated by the authorities of various countries—Canada, Mauritania, the United States, and Senegal—but each time he was released for lack of evidence against him. However, in November 2001, he was asked to voluntarily report to a police station in Nouakchott, Mauritania for questioning, which he did. Then he disappeared.

Slahi was the subject of a secret, illegal “extraordinary rendition” to Jordan (in violation of the Mauritanian constitution) that was organized by the US Central Intelligence Agency. With his family completely unaware of his whereabouts, he was abducted and smuggled through the CIA’s network of illegal “black site” torture facilities before arriving in the infamous Guantanamo Bay camp, where he was tortured and where he remains to this day.

In March 2010, on a petition for habeas corpus filed by Slahi’s pro bono attorneys, US federal district judge James Robertson reviewed Slahi’s file and determined that he was innocent of the government’s accusations and should be immediately released. However, the Obama administration appealed this ruling and it was vacated by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—notoriously stacked with right-wing, pro-intelligence judges.

“I have, I believe, read everything that has been made public about his case, and I do not understand why he was ever in Guantanamo in the first place,” writes the editor Larry Siems in the book’s introduction. At this point, as Slahi himself suggests, he is being detained for no reason other than the embarrassment his release would cause to the US intelligence agencies as well as to the Mauritanian and Jordanian governments that facilitated his illegal rendition.

The published book with redactions

A significant portion of Guantánamo Diary has been censored by the American authorities. To the publisher’s credit, all of the government’s black bars have been reproduced on the printed page, so the reader can get a sense of the extent of the redactions. The censorship is often clumsy and absurd, with names censored in one place appearing without censorship in other places. In one place, the name of former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918-1970) is censored. Interestingly, the words “she” and “her” are always censored when referring to a female torturer, while male torturers are referred to as “he” and “him” without censorship. In many cases, the editor’s helpful footnotes reconstruct the missing text from other publicly available sources.

In 2003 and 2004, Slahi’s US captors tortured him at Guantanamo Bay pursuant to a “special interrogation plan” personally approved by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The torture included long-term isolation, mock executions, sleep deprivation, and what the editor describes as “a litany of physical, psychological, and sexual humiliations.” Torturers threatened to hurt members of his family, kept him in a freezer and doused him with cold water, blasted his ears with rock music, sexually assaulted him, threatened to kill him, and repeatedly beat him within an inch of his life.

There is not space in this review to give a full account of Slahi’s torture—for that, one must read the book—but a few memorable passages can be highlighted.

At Guantanamo Bay, the guards apparently announce the impending interrogation of an inmate by shouting, “Reservation!” Each inmate is assigned a number, so “Reservation 760!” means that the interrogators are coming for Slahi. When Slahi hears the word “reservation,” he remembers, “My heart started to pound heavily because I always expected the worst.”

Suddenly a commando team consisting of three soldiers and a German shepherd broke into our interrogation room. Everything happened quicker than you can think about it. [Redacted] punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor.

“Motherf—er, I told you, you’re gone!” said [redacted]. His partner kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. He, too, was masked from head to toe; he punched me the whole time without saying a word, because he didn’t want to be recognized. The third man was not masked; he stayed at the door holding the dog’s collar, ready to release it on me…

“Blindfold the Motherf—er, if he tries to look –”

One of them hit me hard across the face, and quickly put the goggles on my eyes, ear muffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. I couldn’t tell who did what. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists: afterwards, I started to bleed. All I could hear was [redacted] cursing, “F-this and F-that!” I didn’t say a word. I was overwhelmingly surprised, I thought they were going to execute me.

The torture continues, taking countless forms. In one episode, the guards placed Slahi in a specially prepared freezing cold room “full of pictures showing the glories of the US: weapons arsenals, planes, and pictures of George Bush.” The guards told him that he was forbidden to pray. “For the whole night I had to listen to the US anthem. I hate anthems anyway. All I can remember was the beginning, ‘Oh say can you see…’ over and over.”

Throughout the book, Slahi repeatedly asks his torturers, “Why am I here? What have I done?” They reply, “You tell me!”

In one revealing episode, upon learning that Slahi speaks German, an interrogator (context suggests German intelligence) threatens him, “Wahrheit macht frei [truth will set you free].” This is a variation on the infamous slogan erected on signs leading into the Holocaust death camps: “Arbeit macht frei [work will set you free].” In other words, the interrogator was identifying himself in no uncertain terms with the Nazis. Slahi writes, “When I heard him say that I knew the truth wouldn’t set me free, because ‘Arbeit’ didn’t set the Jews free.”

In the midst of these frightening passages—and this is one of the most incredible features of the book—Slahi manages a humane, delicate, even literary touch. Waiting for the next torture session (“waiting for torture is worse than torture”) his mind wanders over his life, the places he has lived, and the people he loves. The morning breeze from the sea displaces the sandy air over the impoverished city of Nouakchott; a muezzin sings twice in the early morning during Ramadan; a traditional Mauritanian wedding features intricate customs and intrigues; he imagines conversations with his mother over a cup of hot tea. (Slahi’s mother died on March 27, 2013, while her son was still held at Guantanamo.)

In a recurring dream, Slahi sees members of his family. He asks them, “Am I with you for real, or is it a mere dream?” His family replies, “No, you are really home!” He tells them, “Please hold me, don’t let me go back!” But he always wakes back up “to the dark bleak cell, looking around just long enough to fall asleep and experience it all again.”

Amidst descriptions of unimaginable suffering, the distinct voice of a writer emerges. Slahi describes the following scene at the conclusion of the illegal rendition flight to Amman, Jordan.

One of the guards silently helped my feet get into the truck that was parked inches away from the last step of the ladder. The guards squeezed me between them in the back seat, and took off in the truck. I felt comforted; it was warm inside the truck, and the motor was quiet. The chauffeur mistakenly turned the radio on. The female DJ voice struck me with her Sham accent and her sleepy voice. The city was awakening from a long, cold night, slowly but surely. The driver kept accelerating and hitting the brakes suddenly. What a bad driver! They must have hired him just because he was stupid. I was moving back and forth like a car crash dummy.

Guantánamo Diary can even be darkly funny in parts, such as those passages featuring Slahi’s contempt for the lazy, hopeless, American-boot-licking secret police in Mauritania and Jordan. “The funny thing about ‘Secret Police’ in Arab countries is that they are more known to the commoners than the regular police forces. I think the authorities in Arabic countries should think about new nomenclature, something like ‘The Most Obvious Police.’”

Slahi’s literary sketches of his torturers are simply devastating. “You could see that he had been doing this work for some time: there were no signs of humanity in his face,” Slahi writes of one American torturer. “He hated himself more than anybody could hate him.”

Guantánamo Diary exposes the American intelligence agencies and their foreign accomplices as sorry collections of sadists, racists, ignoramuses, and incompetents. “Of course he threatened me with all kinds of painful torture should it turn out I was lying,” Slahi says of one American interrogator. “‘You know we have some black motherf—ers who have no mercy on terrorists like you,’ he said, and as he proceeded, racial references kept flying out of his mouth. ‘I myself hate the Jews.’”

In another episode, Slahi remembers “one cowboy coming to me with an ugly frown on his face:”

“You speak English?” he asked.

“No English,” I replied.

“We don’t like you to speak English. We want you to die slowly,” he said.

“No English,” I kept replying. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that his message had arrived. “I’m an asshole,” a torturer tells Slahi. “That is the way people know me, and I have no problem with it.” Slahi reproaches another interrogator who repeatedly uses the N-word. The interrogator explains: “N—– is not black. N—– means stupid.”

These are the same charming individuals that President Obama has repeatedly hailed as “heroes” and “patriots.”

The depraved and scatological culture of the US military is on display from the moment Slahi arrives at Guantanamo. His torturers’ vocabulary consists primarily of the F-word. In scenes reminiscent of the infamous Abu Ghraib photographs, Slahi describes how female torturers molest him, sexually humiliate him and other inmates, and attempt to have sex with him. “Having sex with somebody is not considered torture,” one female guard says mockingly. (A future war crimes tribunal may disagree.)

“What many [redacted] don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex,” Slahi writes, in a heartbreakingly subtle (and heavily redacted) passage. In the book’s introduction, the editor quotes from official records indicating that at a 2005 Administrative Review Board hearing Slahi “became distraught and visibly upset” when he tried to describe his sexual abuse by female guards.

In the book’s darkest moments, Slahi struggles to retain his sanity. He frequently finds himself with confused emotions towards his captors, who spare no effort to degrade and manipulate him. Aggressively redacted passages near the end of the book appear to show Slahi connecting with several of the guards—but it is hard to tell whether these guards are sincere or whether it was all part of the “interrogation plan.” One looks forward to the day when Slahi is released and he can publish the book free from pressure and censorship.

Guantánamo Diary is also yet another confirmation of the fraud of the so-called “war on terror.” At several points in the book, Slahi writes about how his captors “offered to have me work with them.” Perhaps even Slahi does not grasp the full and sinister implications of these solicitations, which doubtless were made to other detainees as well. America’s dirty secret is that its intelligence agencies and their foreign accomplices are long-time collaborators with Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Al Qaeda, including from the 1980s in Afghanistan to the present day in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.

As Slahi himself points out, if he is guilty of the crime of supporting Al Qaeda during the Soviet War in Afghanistan, then the United States and its intelligence agencies are similarly guilty, since at the time they gave fundamentalist militias such as Slahi’s their full support. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that they were “freedom fighters.”

As far as Slahi’s political ideas can be glimpsed in Guantánamo Diary, they are not far from what one would expect from an individual who traveled to Afghanistan in 1991 to attend an Al Qaeda training camp. He describes his desire at the time to fight “communists.” In his view, the ongoing US “war on terror” is simply a pretext for a war of extermination against Muslims. (Given his treatment at the hands of the United States, it is hard to blame him for believing the latter.)

Slahi’s religious sentiments are a strong presence in the book, and one does not doubt that they are sincerely felt. In times of crisis, Slahi clings to his pocket Koran and prays. “During the whole procedure, the only prayer I could remember was the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum!” The guards mock him for praying: “Oh, ALLAH help me… Oh, Allah have mercy on me,” they say, mimicking his prayers. “There is no Allah. He let you down!”

Above all, Slahi’s humane sentiments—in spite of everything—are what endear him to the reader. “Human beings naturally hate to torture other human beings, and Americans are no different,” Slahi reflects. He concludes his book with a powerful address to the American people. “What do the American people think? I am eager to know. I would like to believe the majority of Americans want to see Justice done, and they are not interested in financing the detention of innocent people.”

Indeed, Slahi’s book is further evidence of grave violations of American and international law for which nobody yet has been held accountable. Guantánamo Diary deserves to feature as a prominent exhibit in future war crimes prosecutions of all the individuals with whom Slahi comes into contact in the course of the book, together with all the senior officials in the Bush and Obama administrations who presided over Slahi’s rendition and continue to block his release from Guantanamo Bay.

In an encouraging sign, the book has already risen to number fourteen on the New York Times bestseller list. There are reasons why the American political establishment has fought so hard for so long to suppress Guantánamo Diary, and these are the same reasons why the book needs to be read.

The author also recommends:

The death of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif
[3 December 2012]

FBI files indict Bush, Cheney and Co. as war criminals
[23 May 2008]

Guantánamo torturer led brutal Chicago regime of shackling and confession: here.

Margaret Thatcher’s cover-up of Establishment child porn case


A section of the previously secret file on Sir Peter Hayman

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Thatcher stopped officials publicly naming Sir Peter Hayman as suspected paedophile

Tuesday 03 February 2015

MP Geoffrey Dickens accused Sir Peter of being a paedophile in Parliament

Kashmira Gander

Margaret Thatcher told officials not to publicly name a senior diplomat connected to a paedophile scandal despite being fully briefed on allegations made against him, a newly revealed secret file has shown.

The file was prepared for the late Conservative Prime Minister in the early Eighties, and details allegations of “unnatural“ sexual activity by Sir Peter Hayman in 1966, when he returned from West Berlin to the Foreign Office. It also notified Mrs Thatcher that the senior diplomat had been subject to a police investigation, after a parcel containing “obscene materials” was found on a London bus in 1978.

Pornographic materials and personal diaries were also found at his London flat, but Sir Peter was not prosecuted following an investigation into his activities.

The diplomat, who died in 1992, was accused of being a paedophile by MP Geoffrey Dickens under the cloak of parliamentary privilege in 1983, before the file was prepared for the then Prime Minister.

Compiled between October 1980 and March 1981, the 37-page file is now available for public view, and features Mrs Thatcher’s handwritten annotations and notes.

Sir Peter Hayman was investigated over his connections to the Paedophile Information Exchange (Getty Images)

Sky News reported that the filed existed last month, prompting the Cabinet Office to announce on Friday it would be released to the National Archives.

The revelations come as Home Secretary Theresa May announced she would be launching an inquiry into historical child abuse, during which Sir Peter’s activities will be investigated.

Confirming the decision to release it, a Cabinet Office spokesman said last week: “This file was originally kept closed as it contained information from the security services and advice from the law officers. We have reviewed that decision and have now released the file into the National Archives.”

Child abuse porn discovered in Vatican


This 8 May 2014 video from the USA is called As UN Torture Committee Probes Vatican, Sex-Abuse Survivors Urge Church to End Decades-Long Cover-up.

From daily The Guardian in Britain, by Rosie Scammell in Rome:

Images of child abuse found in Vatican City

Holy See’s prosecutor general says two cases involving indecent material came to light last year, along with other crimes

Sunday 1 February 2015 20.26 GMT

Two cases of child pornography possession were uncovered within the walls of the Vatican last year, along with numerous other crimes in the city state, the Holy See’s prosecutor general has announced.

Following worldwide allegations of sex abuse by priests, Gian Piero Milano, the Holy See’s Promoter of Justice, said the Vatican was now taking action against paedophilia in the heart of the Catholic church.

Unveiling the Vatican’s justice report, Milano stopped short of naming those accused of possessing child pornography. Holy See spokesman Federico Lombardi however identified Josef Wesolowski, a disgraced former ambassador, as one of the people facing charges.

Wesolowski was stripped of his diplomatic immunity last year following accusations that he abused young boys during his time as envoy to the Dominican Republic. The Polish former archbishop is currently awaiting trial at the Vatican, in what will be the first sex abuse trial ever held at the Holy See.

Beyond the child pornography cases, Vatican authorities are battling an array of crimes including drug trafficking and money laundering. Three drug deliveries addressed to the Vatican were intercepted last year, including a packet containing cocaine-filled condoms. The drugs were discovered at Germany’s Leipzig airport and handed to the Vatican in the hope of ensnaring the buyer, but no one came forward to claim the package.

Despite the array of criminal activity, only six people ended up in the Vatican’s prison last year. They include Marcello di Finizio, an Italian protester who climbed atop St Peter’s Basilica, and Iana Azhdanova, a Femen activist who bared her breasts and grabbed a baby Jesus statue from the Vatican’s nativity scene.

Protest against Establishment child abuse in Britain


This video from London, England is called CSA Inquiry Time 4 Justice & Action Meeting, The White Flowers Campaign, Westminster 14-01-15.

By Luke James in Britain:

Abuse survivors smash wall of official silence

Thursday 15th January 2015

Brave campaigners speak out demanding Establishment paedophiles face justice

CHILD abuse survivors descended on Parliament yesterday to smash the “wall of silence” over decades of abuse in Britain.

Brave victims laid wreaths of white flowers at Old Palace Yard as they spoke out about sex attacks and assaults.

And families losing faith in the government’s response called for its inquiry to be given real powers to bring secret VIP paedophiles to justice.

Social worker and whistleblower Dr Liz Davies was clear that “we’re looking at an Establishment cover-up going right back to the ’40s.”

She said: “Children who’ve been assaulted, sexually harmed, murdered, all in the context of major paedophile networks that got right to the top of this society.

“That is why we want justice and healing for survivors, as well as to protect children now.”

White flowers were laid among photos, cards and tributes to children who were abused and murdered.

A message strapped to another bunch of flowers read: “For the victims of the Westminster paedophile ring.”

Former Lib Dem MP for Rochdale Cyril Smith, who died in 2010, is so far the most high-profile political figure to be named as a paedophile.

But one Sunday newspaper this week claimed that a top Tory MP murdered a 15-year-old girl at a party put on by a Westminster paedophile gang.

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk, who penned a book which helped expose Smith, said it was time for prosecutions.

Mr Danczuk said: “Let’s work together to make sure we get a successful inquiry — but also that we get prosecutions for those who’ve raped and abused children.”

The government’s child abuse inquiry has struggled to gain the confidence of victims after two mooted chairs were axed because of their close Establishment links.

This week its leaderless panel is launching its latest wave of evidence-gathering meetings with survivors.

Some came forward to tell their heartbreaking personal testimonies in public at yesterday’s vigil. …

The White Flowers campaign is calling for the inquiry to have a “truly independent” chair and have a special police team to investigate evidence raised.

A former adviser to David Cameron and one of the original investors on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den has been arrested on suspicion of raping a 13-year-old girl. Doug Richard, 56, accompanied the Prime Minister on an official overseas trip to 2011 and has also advised the Chancellor, George Osborne: here.

Call for inquiry into links between senior civil servant Sir Peter Hayman and paedophile network in the 1980’s: here.

Can the child sex abuse inquiry be taken seriously with yet another true Establishment figure at the helm, asks STEVEN WALKER. The new head of the Historic Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry, Justice Lowell Goddard, is yet another Establishment figure — this time from New Zealand: here.

Women-abusing police spy should not be lecturer, British students say


This video from Britain says about itself:

The police who stole dead children’s identities

16 July 2013

Britain’s top police officer apologises for the “shock and offence” caused, after a report says undercover police stole the identities of at least 42 dead children as they attempted to infilitrate extremist groups.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

University under pressure to sack controversial former undercover spy Bob Lambert

Campaigners want a university to sack former undercover spy Bob Lambert but their demand is so far being resisted

A university has been coming under pressure to sack one of its lecturers who has become known as one of the most controversial undercover officers deployed by the police.

Campaigners have been seeking to persuade London Metropolitan University to remove Bob Lambert from his academic post.

So far the university has backed Lambert, saying they have “absolute faith in him as a lecturer” and is a “valued member” of staff”.

Lambert has been at the centre of many of the revelations about the police’s use of undercover officers.

To recap, he went undercover in the 1980s to infiltrate animal rights and environmental campaigners for four years.

He fathered a child with an activist, known as Jacqui, before abandoning them. The Metropolitan Police has paid more than £400,000 to Jacqui who has been profoundly traumatised after discovering by chance that the father of her son was an undercover police officer.

Lambert also deceived another woman into having a long-term relationship with him, as part of an elaborate attempt to lend “credibility” to his alter ego.

He also stole the identity of a dead boy to shore up his fake identity, [has been] been accused of setting fire to Debenhams, appeared in court using his alter ego rather than his real name, and co-wrote the leaflet at the heart of the notorious McLibel trial. In the 1990s, he was promoted to run the operations of the Special Demonstration Squad and was a key figure in the secret operation to spy on the family of Stephen Lawrence.

Since he left Special Branch in 2007, he has taught at three universities.

But the question now is whether a man like Lambert with his undercover past should be employed teaching students?

The campaigners say no. Alex Neve, from the Islington Against Spies campaign group (see here), has said :”We’re saying he’s not a suitable person to be working here, supervising students, some of whom may be vulnerable, when he’s shown evidence of having a very dubious attitude towards women and consent in the past. Can he be trusted not to abuse the power that he’s abused in the past? I don’t think he can.”

Reports of a demonstration can be found here in the Islington Gazette, the Islington Tribune and Islington Now, and a public meeting organised by the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance and the university’s UNISON Branch here and here.

Observer columnist Nick Cohen argues in this article that Lambert is “uniquely unqualified” to hold his academic post, adding that the security establishment has not disowned him.

According to this biography, Lambert is a senior lecturer at the university’s John Grieve Policing Centre, teaching students about terrorism, counter-terrorism, far right political violence and anti-Muslim hate crimes.

He retains his academic post at St Andrews University where he has been a lecturer in terrorism studies. There have been protests there too (see here and here).

However there is a mystery – as yet, not fully explained – about the third academic post he held. In 2008, Lambert started work at Exeter University researching Islamophobia and counter-terrorism. He became the co-director of the university’s European Muslim Research Centre, embarking on a decade-long programme of research.

Exeter University has confirmed that Lambert resigned from the university in October 2011 – the same month his undercover past was exposed.

We asked Exeter University why he resigned but, after some delay, they refused to explain.

Some might wonder why Lambert departed from one university, but manages to keep his jobs at two other universities.