In this Dec. 4, 2006 file photo reviewed by a U.S. Dept of Defense official, a detainee shields his face as he peers out through the so-called "bean hole" which is used to pass food and other items into detainee cells, at Camp Delta detention center, Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Llinsley)
Last week, as the news came of a widespread hunger strike among Guantanamo Bay prisoners and President Obama once again mentioned closing the detention camp, Slate magazine published three excerpts of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner's memoir.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi began writing the memoir in 2005 and it reached 466 pages by the time he finished it the following year. The United States government kept the memoir classified for years but has since declassified the document though with redacted sections. It's a fascinating document that details the questioning and torture Slahi faced and in light of the recent hunger strike and Obama's promise once again to close the camp, it's a vital reading to understand the perspective of those who have been held for over 10 years while not facing trial and, in some cases - including Slahi's, ordered released by a U.S. judge only to have the government refuse the order.
It's a remarkable series providing, for the first time, insight into the mind of a man accused of plotting terrorist attacks and held prisoner years without a trial and no idea when he might be freed or tried, a rare glimpse of what it's like to be in that unenviable position. As Larry Siems points out in his introduction on Slate:
And yet Slahi's writing is much more than a litany of abuses. It is driven by something much deeper: not just the desire to "be fair," as he puts it, but to understand his guards, his interrogators, and his fellow detainees as protagonists in their own right, and to show that even the most dehumanizing situations are composed of individual, and at times harrowingly intimate, human exchanges. The result is an account that is both damning and redeeming.