Excerpt: 'Guantanamo Diary' by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
Excerpted from the book GUANTANAMO DIARY by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Diary and annotated diary copyright © 2015 by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Introduction and notes copyright © 2015 by Larry Siems. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company.
July 2002- February 2003
The American Team Takes Over…Arrival at Bagram…Bagram to GTMO…GTMO, the New Home…
One Day in Paradise, the Next in Hell
_____________, [redacted] July __, [redacted] 2002, 10 p.m.*
The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied. I felt alone in the hearse truck. The waiting didn't last: I felt the presence of new people, a silent team. I don't remember a single word during the whole rendition to follow.
A person was undoing the chains on my wrists. He undid the first hand, and another guy grabbed that hand and bent it while a third person was putting on the new, firmer and heavier shackles. Now my hands were shackled in front of me.
Somebody started to rip my clothes with something like a scissors. I was like, What the heck is going on? I started to worry about the trip I neither wanted nor initiated. Somebody else was deciding everything for me; I had all the worries in the world but making a decision. Many thoughts went quickly through my head. The optimistic thoughts suggested, Maybe you're in the hands of Americans, but don't worry, they just want to take you home, and to make sure that everything goes in secrecy. The pessimistic ones went, You s****** up! The Americans managed to pin some s*** on you, and they're taking you to U.S. prisons for the rest of your life.
I was stripped naked. It was humiliating, but the blindfold helped me miss the nasty look of my naked body. During the whole procedure, the only prayer I could remember was the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum! and I was mumbling it all the time. Whenever I came to be in a similar situation, I would forget all my prayers except the crisis prayer, which I learned from life of our Prophet, Peace be upon him.
One of the team wrapped a diaper around my private parts. Only then was I dead sure that the plane was heading to the U.S. Now I started to convince myself that "every thing's gonna be alright." My only worry was about my family seeing me on TV in such a degrading situation. I was so skinny. I've been always, but never that skinny: my street clothes had become so loose that I looked like a small cat in a big bag.
When the U.S. team finished putting me in the clothes they tailored for me, a guy removed my blindfold for a moment. I couldn't see much because he directed the flashlight into my eyes. He was wrapped from hair to toe in a black uniform. He opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out, gesturing for me to do the same, a kind of AHH test which I took without resistance. I saw part of his very pale, blond-haired arm, which cemented my theory of being in Uncle Sam's hands.
The blindfold was pushed down. The whole time I was listening to loud plane engines; I very much believe that some planes were landing and others taking off. I felt my "special" plane approaching, or the truck approaching the plane, I don't recall anymore. But I do recall that when the escort grabbed me from the truck, there was no space between the truck and the airplane stairs. I was so exhausted, sick, and tired that I couldn't walk, which compelled the escort to pull me up the steps like a dead body.
Inside the plane it was very cold. I was laid on a sofa and the guards shackled me, mostly likely to the floor. I felt a blanket put over me; though very thin, it comforted me.
I relaxed and gave myself to my dreams. I was thinking about different members of my family I would never see again. How sad would they be! I was crying silently and without tears; for some reason, I gave all my tears at the beginning of the expedition, which was like the boundary between death and life. I wished I were better to people. I wished I were better to my family. I regretted every mistake I made in my life, toward God, toward my family, toward anybody!
I was thinking about life in an American prison. I was thinking about documentaries I had seen about their prisons, and the harshness with which they treat their prisoners. I wished I were blind or had some kind of handicap, so they would put me in isolation and give me some kind of humane treatment and protection. I was thinking, What will the first hearing with the judge be like? Do I have a chance to get due process in a country so full of hatred against Muslims? Am I really already convicted, even before I get the chance to defend myself ?
I drowned in these painful dreams in the warmth of the blanket. Every once in a while the pain of the urine urge pinched me. The diaper didn't work with me: I could not convince my brain to give the signal to my bladder. The harder I tried, the firmer my brain became. The guard beside me kept pouring water bottle caps in my mouth, which worsened my situation. There was no refusing it, either you swallow or you choke. Lying on one side was killing me beyond belief, but every attempt to change my position ended in failure, for a strong hand pushed me back to the same position.
I could tell that the plane was a big jet, which led me to believe that flight was direct to the U.S. But after about five hours, the plane started to lose altitude and smoothly hit the runway. I realized the U.S. is a little bit farther than that. Where are we? In Ramstein, Germany? Yes! Ramstein it is: in Ramstein there's a U.S. military airport for transiting planes from the middle east; we're going to stop here for fuel. But as soon as the plane landed, the guards started to change my metal chains for plastic ones that cut my ankles painfully on the short walk to a helicopter. One of the guards, while pulling me out of the plane, tapped me on the shoulder as if to say, "you're gonna be alright." As in agony as I was, that gesture gave me hope that there were still some human beings among the people who were dealing with me.
When the sun hit me, the question popped up again: Where am I? Yes, Germany it is: it was July and the sun rises early. But why Germany? I had done no crimes in Germany! What s*** did they pull on me? And yet the German legal system was by far a better choice for me; I know the procedures and speak the language. Moreover, the German system is somewhat transparent, and there are no two and three hundred years sentences. I had little to worry about: a German judge will face me and show me whatever the government has brought against me, and then I'm going to be sent to a temporary jail until my case is decided. I won't be subject to torture, and I won't have to see the evil faces of interrogators.
After about ten minutes the helicopter landed and I was taken into a truck, with a guard on either side. The chauffeur and his neighbor were talking in a language I had never heard before. I thought, What the heck are they speaking, maybe Filipino? I thought of the Philippines because I'm aware of the huge U.S. Military presence there. Oh, yes, Philippines it is: they conspired with the U.S. and pulled some s*** on me. What would the questions of their judge be? By now, though, I just wanted to arrive and take a pee, and after that they can do whatever they please. Please let me arrive! I thought; After that you may kill me!
The guards pulled me out of the truck after a five-minute drive, and it felt as if they put me in a hall. They forced me to kneel and bend my head down: I should remain in that position until they grabbed me. They yelled, "Do not move." Before worrying about anything else, I took my most remarkable urine since I was born. It was such a relief; I felt I was released and sent back home. All of a sudden my worries faded away, and I smiled inside. Nobody noticed what I did.
About a quarter of an hour later, some guards pulled me and towed me to a room where they obviously had "processed" many detainees. Once I entered the room, the guards took the gear off my head. Oh, my ears ached so badly, and so did my head; actually my whole body was conspiring against me. I could barely stand. The guards started to deprive me of my clothes, and soon I stood there as naked as my mother bore me. I stood there for the first time in front of U.S. soldiers, not on TV, this was for real. I had the most common reaction, covering my private parts with my hands. I also quietly started to recite the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum! Nobody stopped me from praying; however, one of the MPs was staring at me with his eyes full of hatred. Later on he would order me to stop looking around in the room.
A __________________________[redacted] medic gave me a quick medical check, after which I was wrapped in Afghani cloths. Yes, Afghani clothes in the Philippines! Of course I was chained, hands and feet tied to my waist. My hands, moreover, were put in mittens. Now I'm ready for action! What action? No clue! The escort team pulled me blindfolded to a neighboring interrogation room. As soon as I entered the room, several people started to shout and throw heavy things against the wall. In the melee, I could distinguish the following questions:
"Where is Mullah Omar?"
"Where is Usama Bin Laden?"
"Where is Jalaluddin Haqqani?"
A very quick analysis went through my brain: the individuals in those questions were leading a country, and now they're a bunch of fugitives! The interrogators missed a couple of things. First, they had just briefed me about the latest news: Afghanistan is taken over, but the high level people have not been captured. Second, I turned myself in about the time when the war against terrorism started, and since then I have been in a Jordanian prison, literally cut off from the rest of the world. So how am I supposed to know about the U.S. taking over Afghanistan, let alone about its leaders having fled? Not to mention where they are now.
I humbly replied, "I don't know!"
"You're a liar!" shouted one of them in broken Arabic.
"No, I'm not lying, I was captured so and so, and I only know Abu Hafs . . ." I said, in a quick summary of my whole story.**
"We should interrogate these m***********s like the Israelis do."
"What do they do?" asked another.
"They strip them naked and interrogate them!"
"Maybe we should!" suggested another. Chairs were still flying around and hitting the walls and the floor. I knew it was only a show of force, and the establishment of fear and anxiety. I went with the flow and even shook myself more than necessary. I didn't believe that Americans torture, even though I had always considered it a remote possibility.
"I am gonna interrogate you later on," said one, and the U.S. interpreter repeated the same in Arabic.
"Take him to the Hotel," suggested the interrogator. This time the interpreter didn't translate. And so was the first interrogation done.
* It becomes clear, from an unredacted date a few pages into the manuscript, that the action begins late in the evening on July 19, 2002. MOS manuscript, 10. A Council of Europe investigation has confirmed that a CIA-leased Gulfstream jet with the tail number N379P departed Amman, Jordan, at 11:15 p.m. that night for Kabul, Afghanistan. An addendum to that 2006 report listing the flight records is available at http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2006/20060614_Ejdoc162006PartII-Appendix.pdf. EDITOR'S NOTE ON THE FOOTNOTES: None of Mohamedou Ould Slahi's attorneys holding security clearances has reviewed the footnotes in this book, contributed to them in any way, or confirmed or denied my speculations contained in them. Nor has anyone else with access to the unredacted manuscript reviewed the footnotes, contributed to them in any way, or confirmed or denied my speculations contained in them.
**Abu Hafs, whose name appears here and elsewhere in the manuscript unredacted, is MOS's cousin and former brother-in-law. His full name is Mahfouz Ould al-Walid, and he is also known as Abu Hafs al-Mauritani. Abu Hafs married the sister of MOS's former wife. He was a prominent member of al-Qaeda's Shura Council, the group's main advisory body, in the 1990s and up until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. It has been widely reported that Abu Hafs opposed those attacks; the 9/11 Commission recorded that "Abu Hafs the Mauritanian reportedly even wrote Bin Ladin a message basing opposition to the attacks on the Qur'an." Abu Hafs left Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and spent the next decade under house arrest in Iran. In April 2012 he was extradited to Mauritania, where he was held briefly and then released. He is now a free man. The relevant section of the 9/11 Commission report is available at http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Ch7.pdf.
In response to 'Guantanamo Diary,' Lt Col Myles Caggins, Defense Department spokesman for detainee policy, had the following statement:
"The Special Interrogation Plan ("SIP") was designed specifically for Slahi and approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on August 13, 2003. The SIP authorized interrogation techniques that were outside of U.S. military interrogation standard operating procedures in place at that time The SIP was ended on September 8, 2003."
"Slahi's allegations of abuse, as well as other detainees allegations, have already been subject to several comprehensive investigations."
"These investigations analyzed thousands of documents, medical records, hundreds of interviews of Guantanamo personnel, and statements relevant to any allegations of abuse occurring at Guantanamo. Slahi's abuse allegations-based on the date and time references he wrote in his manuscript-appear to fall within the time period of these investigations."
"We continue to detain Mohamedou Slahi under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war. He has full access to federal court for review of his detention by United States District Court via petition for writ of habeas corpus. Slahi is eligible to appear before a Periodic Review Board to assess whether his continued detention at Guantanamo remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."