At home, massive incarceration of poor populations of racial minorities, inadequate attention to infrastructure needs, deteriorating education and health-care systems, and the shifting of wealth from the lower levels of society to the elite along with a failed system of governance should occupy us but don't get the attention necessary to bring about improvements.
Our moral bankruptcy, evident in both the foreign and domestic areas, is highlighted by our actions at Guantanamo Bay. One just stands in awe at the low level of our sense of justice and compassion for our fellow human-beings. One wants to deny that we, the United States of America could stoop to this level of senseless cruelty. Our government systematically denies the truth of it and makes extreme efforts to keep the truth from getting out. And, yet, here it is and the whole world is aware.
US military officials have acknowledged a ‘forced cell extraction team’ was repeatedly used to move Zuhair when he refused to walk on his own to where hunger striking detainees were fed.
A military spokesman said the feeding tubes are lubricated and prisoners are offered anaesthetic to prevent long-lasting damage.
‘We think there are adequate safeguards in place to make it as pain-free and comfortable as possible. It’s not done to inflict pain and it’s not done as punishment. It’s done to preserve life.’
Mohamedou Ould Slahi's account from the U.S. naval base in Cuba, "Guantanamo Diary" was published on Tuesday after a seven-year legal battle.
It recounts ice baths, degradation and myriad humiliations in a first-person telling of his interrogation during the American war on terrorism from a prisoner who has never been charged by the United States with a crime and was ordered released by a U.S. federal court in 2010. That order was later vacated and Slahi, 44, has continued to be held.
"It was so nasty I threw up...They stuffed the air between my clothes and me with ice cubes from my neck to my ankles...every once in a while one of the guards smashed me, most of the time in the face."
In a new book Guantánamo Diary, Slahi paints a horrifying picture of life at the hands of interrogators in the notorious U.S. military prison in Cuba. The book depicts long days in isolation, sometimes chained to the floor in agonizing positions, held in extreme temperatures, often deprived of food and sleep. On multiple occasions he describes being beaten and humiliated by his questioners. He says he was left "shaking like a Parkinson's patient" and felt one of his interrogators "was literally executing me but in a slow way."
The 44-year-old electrical engineer, originally from Mauritania, has been held in Guantánamo Bay since 2002. He was accused of being a member of al Qaeda and of recruiting three of the hijackers in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as being involved in other terror plots in Canada and the United States. He's never been charged and his lawyers say there is very little evidence against him.
Slahi admits to traveling to Afghanistan to fight in the early 1990s, when the U.S. was supporting the mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet Union. He pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in 1991 but claims he broke ties with the group shortly after.
Guantánamo Diary is the first published account from a serving detainee which is being made available to the public. Slahi hand-wrote the manuscript in his cell in 2005 and it took nearly seven years for Slahi's lawyers to get it approved for release. He describes his first few years of detention in what he calls his "endless world tour" of interrogation from Mauritania, to Jordan, to Afghanistan and finally Cuba.
In his early years at Guantánamo, Slahi was exposed to a number of special interrogation techniques that were personally signed off by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, according to reports by the Armed Services Committee and the Department of Justice. That included sensory and sleep deprivation, designed to grind him down, which wreaked havoc on his physical and mental health.
"I couldn't tell a thing about days going by or time passing; my time consisted of a crazy darkness all the time," Slahi writes. "I was starved for long periods and then given food but not given time to eat... "You have three minutes. Eat!" a guard would yell at me, and then after about half a minute he would grab the plate. "You're done!"".
"I thought they were going to execute me," Slahi writes. "Thanks to the beating I wasn't able to stand, so [redacted] and the other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way and threw me in the truck, which immediately took off. The beating party would go on for the next three or four hours."
This period culminated in him being taken on a boat ride during which he was blindfolded and he says beaten for several hours.
It was during this time that Slahi says he began to make false confessions in order to stop the torture. At one point he says to his interrogator "Just tell me the right answer. Is it good to say yes or to say no?"
The two men, who have now been relocated, are still separated. Muhammed has gone to Portugal, and Abdul Nasser to Cape Verde, approximately 3,000 miles away. Abdul Nasser can see his family only through Skype and photographs, but his hardship is still a far cry from the isolation and torture of eight years at Guantanamo. Below is an excerpt from Kebriaei’s simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming piece about the father and son:
Muhammed started smearing excrement on his cell walls. He kicked a guard, and bit another. In late 2006, his “noncompliant” behavior got him sent to the base’s newly constructed supermax prison—Camp 6—where he would later cut his wrists. In Camp 6, Muhammed was held in a windowless concrete-and-steel cell for at least twenty-two hours a day. He stayed in solitary confinement almost continuously for the next three years.
After Muhammed cut his wrists, I spoke with him on the phone. “Please do something,” he screamed. “I can’t be patient anymore.” I filed an emergency request asking for him to be moved from solitary confinement to his father’s camp. It was denied. Prison officials said that Muhammed had narcissistic traits and had cut himself to get attention. A few years earlier, an official at the State Department had called three alleged suicides at Guantánamo “a good PR move.”
One of the men I met with, Sabry Mohammed, a Yemeni who remains detained years after he was approved for release by the Obama administration, said, “We are dying a slow death here.” Yet the authorities say they will not let men die—they will force-feed them when their body weight drops dangerously low, strapping them into chairs and forcing a tube up their noses that pumps formula into their stomachs. The military reports that so far, 11 men are being “saved” this way. Yet as one of the men put it, the irony is that “the government will keep us alive by force-feeding us but they will let us die by detaining us forever.”
Well, a review board that includes military and intelligence officials has been looking at a list of 50 prisoners who were previously deemed “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution,” and finding many of them fit for release.