Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s “Guantanamo Diary” has been, as the censors say, heavily redacted. But that euphemism doesn’t do justice to the violence inflicted on this text. Nearly every page of this moving and tragic account of the still-imprisoned author’s capture, interrogation and torture by the United States government is defaced by black bars. The names of Slahi’s guards, interrogators, family members and fellow detainees are regularly erased, as are dates, locations and nearly all female pronouns; the government seems particularly interested in hiding the fact that women officers participated in his interrogation and torture.
These redactions usually only cover a word or two, but on a few occasions stretch on for pages. In one maddening instance, Slahi describes sharing poems with one of his female interrogators (a lone “her” slipped past the censor’s attention). He writes that he finds the interrogator’s “surrealistic” poems difficult to understand, and then shares one of his own. But the poem is gone, entirely blacked out, with only the author’s attribution “by Slahi, GTMO” hanging on at the end like a useless appendage. It truly boggles the mind: What could be so dangerous about a poem?
“Guantanamo Diary,” edited from Slahi’s handwritten manuscript with an introduction by Larry Siems, describes the dark underbelly of America’s ongoing war on terror: illegal arrests and renditions, black sites and secret prisons, and daily life as a detainee at Guantanamo Bay.