Chris Blattman

The Guantanamo prison diaries

indexThe NYRB highlights an eloquent voice:

“I kept getting books in English that I enjoyed reading, most of them Western literature,” he recounts at one point, after his torture has ended.

I still remember one book called The Catcher in the Rye that made me laugh until my stomach hurt. It was such a funny book. I tried to keep my laughter as low as possible, pushing it down, but the guards felt something.

“Are you crying?” one of them asked.

“No, I’m alright,” I responded. It was my first unofficial laughter in the ocean of tears.

I found the following the most poignant, tragic, and true:

Slahi’s criticisms of the torture, pointless interrogation, and indefinite detention he has endured are often pitched as arguments that his jailors should know better—he is sometimes hard-pressed to believe that such a powerful nation as the United States can act so stupidly. His account reminds us pointedly that brutal interrogation produces false confessions and wasted effort. Also, depriving prisoners of due process, humane treatment, and fair trials only deepens their convictions—and those of their families, clans, and countrymen—that Western claims to global leadership in human rights and the rule of law are false and hypocritical. Slahi writes:

Like me, every detainee I know thought when he arrived in Cuba it would be a typical interrogation, and after interrogation he would be charged and sent to court, and the court would decide whether he is guilty or not…. It made sense to everybody: the interrogators told us this is how it would go and we said, “Let’s do it.” But it turned out either the interrogators deliberately lied…or the government lied to the interrogators.

The book is here.

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