By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Narration by: Peter Ganim
It is impossible to know whether Mohamedou Ould Slahi is innocent or guilty of collaborating with Islamic terrorists from the evidence reported in his book, “Guantánamo Diary”. One may argue that Slahi is simply lying about what happened to him, and has written a book to defame America. The “Guantánamo Diary” is a bore to listen to or read. However, there is ample evidence, exclusive of the “Guantánamo Diary”, that confirms the truth of Slahi’s rendition and torture at the direction of the American government. It is worth getting past boredom because it is a story that threatens America’s way of life.
“Guantánamo Diary” is an indictment of a more virulent form of American McCarthyism. Just as Joseph McCarthy became the poster boy for ferreting communists out of government, Donald Rumsfeld became the face of terrorist’ incarceration and torture.
Rumsfeld, like McCarthy, is not alone in his quest to purify America. There are many fellow Americans equally guilty, either from apathy or tacit approval of what happened and is happening at Guantánamo Bay. Like the Milgram experiments that show most human beings are willing to administer lethal doses of electricity to others, military minders follow orders to torture suspected terrorists.
Slahi appears to be a highly intelligent Mauritanian that served in Afghanistan with the Mujahideen to expel the Russians in the late twentieth century. As historians show, America strongly supported the Mujahideen against Russia when Slahi joined the movement. Slahi is a world traveler that speaks several languages. In his “…Diary” he explains that he traveled to Canada, Germany, and throughout the Middle East. In his travels, Slahi met people who were close to Osama bin Laden and other alleged terrorist sympathizers. Slahi’s brother-in-law is reported to have been a spiritual adviser of bin Laden. Slahi is trained as a telecommunications engineer. All of these pieces of information suggest Slahi could be a terrorist sympathizer. Maybe he is, but the evidence does not justify America’s unconscionable treatment. Whatever evidence has been made available over 15 years of investigation, arrest, release, re-arrest, and torture should be judged by an American military tribunal; if not, an American court of law.
Slahi is imprisoned and tortured, at the order of Rumsfeld collaborators, based on Slahi’s association rather than participation in terrorist activity. Slahi appears to be arrested for who he associates with rather than for what he has done. It is like the world of George Orwell’s “1984” where the thought police arrest people for what they think. McCarthy and his silent partners did not imprison or torture but destroyed reputations of Americans accused of being communists. McCarthy and his associates interviewed accused communist sympathizers and demanded the naming of names of anyone they thought was a communist or had ever attended a communist party meeting. If they refused, McCarthy smeared their reputations through public hearings and phone calls to existing or potential employers.
In a similar vein, Slahi is tortured, and finally agrees to name names for people who may or may not have been terrorist sympathizers. Both Rumsfeld and McCarthy use their influence to destroy lives without trial. McCarthy, and Rumsfeld perpetuate a form of injustice that beggars the American principle of innocent until proven guilty.
Terrorism is a real threat to humanity. However, the threat is more subtle than the terrorist murders of the 2000 Millennium Attacks, the 2001 Trade Center bombings, and the ISIL’ beheadings of innocents in 2015. The loss of freedom because of fear is the real threat of terrorism. FDR gets it right during the Great Depression when he says, “The only thing to fear is fear itself”.
There is no more heart-rending experience for Americans than the Trade Center tragedy in 2001. New York’s memorial perfectly symbolizes the horrendous loss of lives in the 9/11 attack. Two thousand, six hundred, six names are etched in granite around the ribbon outline of the two Trade Center buildings. Water falls over the edge of the building outlines into the nothingness of an empty foundation. The names connote tribute while water falling into an abyss represents the void left to others by the souls that have been lost.
As horrid as deaths from terrorism are, a nation of 319 million people lives relatively free; despite one, one thousand, or one million terrorists who commit domestic and/or international massacres. If Americans wish to remain free, it is better to let one terrorist free than let an innocent, or unproven-accused, be crucified. As noted by George Orwell, lack of freedom leads to injustice and totalitarianism.
As of June 2015, Slahi remains imprisoned at Gitmo. He has finally been remanded to a district court for further fact-finding. Slahi is either guilty or innocent, but depriving him of 15 years of freedom is an Orwellian crime.