This piece originally appeared in Critics at Large March 20 and I reproduce it on this website because I wrote extensively about Eugenia Ginzburg and the plight of inmates of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo in That Line of Darkness: The Gothic from Lenin to bin Laden (Encompass Editions, 2013).
|A Guantanamo detainee being led by a guard in March 2002. (Photo: Andres Leighton)|
“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
—Benjamin Franklin cited by Mohamedou Ould Slahi in Guantánamo Diary.
On November 20, 2001, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a 30-year-old electrical engineer and telecommunications specialist from Mauritania, received a visit at his house from two Mauritanian officers summoning him to answer questions at the country’s intelligence ministry. “Take your car,” one of the men told him, as Slahi stood in front of his house with his mother and his aunt. “We hope you can come back today.” He has not returned. After spending a week in a cell in his native country, the authorities found no evidence against him. However, at the behest of the Americans, Slahi was rendered to a black site in Jordan for six months, and then flown blindfolded, shackled and diapered to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for two weeks; from there he was transported to Guantánamo in Cuba where he remains incommunicable to this day. Three years into his detention, Slahi wrote in basic idiomatic English he obviously picked up from his guards—his fourth language and acquired in Guantanamo—a manuscript which was immediately classified. It took years of litigation and negotiation by Slahi’s pro bono lawyers to force the military to declassify a redacted version, heavily black-barred (that sometimes goes on for pages, some of it to conceal the identity of his interrogators, guards and fellow detainees).