Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Guantanamo Papers


Can any rational mind doubt that our government -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al; Obama, Petraeus, Holder, et al -- has violated our own and international law, and the Geneva Conventions,  by torture, rendition, assassination and random killing of civilians?

It is unlikely that anyone will ever be charged or prosecuted for these crimes.

So let us at least, at the very least, convict the United States government in the court of world opinion of a crime against literature: the supression of Mohamedou Ould Slahi's Guantanamo memoir. It is destined -- when at last it becomes public in unredacted form -- to join Emile Zola's defense of Alfred Dreyfus as a classic for the ages.

Capt. Dreyfus, a French military officer, was jailed in the infamous Devil's Island penal colony in the late 19th Century on charges that later proved to be  egregious lies.  He was  ultimately  exonerated but the case made a lasting impact on the consciousness of the French nation.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi is his own Zola. He is in his 11th year as an uncharged, untried prisoner in the infamous prison colony on Guantanamo Bay.  He has written in his own hand a 466-page manuscript of horrors, yet somehow leavened with wit. Through his attorneys, Slate magazine obtained and is publishing excerpts from the unclassified version of his writings.

According to Slate, "The man first assigned to prosecute him, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, withdrew from the case when he discovered Slahi had been tortured. When Couch’s boss, former Guantánamo chief prosecutor Col. Morris Davis, met with the CIA, the FBI, and military intelligence in 2007 to review Slahi’s case, the agencies conceded they could not link him to any acts of terrorism."

In 2010, a U.S, District Judge granted Slahi's petition for habeas corpus and ordered his release. The government appealed.  He is still in detention while the appeal is heard.

The heinous, sadistic torture he underwent was part of a plan carefully devised at the Pentagon.  He was abused in every possible way -- physical beatings, sexual perversions, humiliation, deprivation of sleep and food -- all of which he describes in sickening detail.

Yet, recalling one beating by a masked torturer, he wrly noted that his abuser “had gloves, OJ Simpson gloves on his hands.” When, after delivering 100 pages of writing to them, his lawyers asked for more information, he sent them a letter in which he said, “You ask me to write you everything I told my interrogators. Are you out of your mind! How can I render uninterrupted interrogation that has been lasting the last 7 years? That’s like asking Charlie Sheen how many women he dated.”

I call the supression of his manuscript a literary crime because Mohamedou Ould Slahi is a gifted writer of powerful prose.

His book begins: July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”  These short, punchy sentences, in the active voice, are the work of a natural.

But the story he writes is one of crimes against humanity.  The carefully planned torture and debasement inflicted upon him was "signed off" on by a multitude of high military authorities.

Highest of all is the signature of Donald Rumsfeld.