Read the first chapter of the book, “Guantánamo Diary,” written by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. It is the first and only public account written by a still-imprisoned Guantánamo detainee. Slahi has been imprisoned since 2002. The United States has never charged him with a crime. A federal judge ordered his release in 2010, but he remains in custody.
Click here to watch our interview with Slahi’s editor, Larry Siems, his lawyer, Nancy Hollander, and retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis. Davis says he met with Slahi shortly before he resigned as the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay in 2007, and argues he is “no more a terrorist than Forrest Gump.”
Read Chapter 1 of Guantánamo Diary below.
Democracy Now! has regularly covered the stories of those imprisoned at the U.S. detention facility located in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since former President George W. Bush began the so-called war on terror. The first captives arrived at the detention camp on January 11, 2002. Browse an archive of our reports here.
Excerpted from the book “Guantánamo 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
July __, 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 screwed up! The Americans managed to pin some shit 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 shit 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 shit 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 __________________________ 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 knowAbu Hafs..” I said, in a quick summary of my whole story.
“We should interrogate these motherfuckers 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. Thistime the interpreter didn’t translate.
And so was the first interrogation done. Before the escort grabbed me, in my terrorizing fear, I tried to connect with the interpreter.
“Where did you learn such good Arabic? ” I asked.
“In the U.S.!” he replied, sounding flattered. In fact, he didn’t speak good Arabic; I just was trying to make some friends.
The escort team led me away. “You speak English,” one of them said in a thick Asian accent.
“A little bit,” I replied. He laughed, and so did his colleague. I felt like a human being leading a casual conversation. I said to myself, Look how friendly the Americans are: they’re gonna put you in a Hotel, interrogate you for a couple of days, and then fly you home safely. There’s no place for worry. The U.S. just wants to check everything, and since you’re innocent, they’re gonna find that out. For Pete’s sake, you’re on a base in Philippines; even though it’s a place at the edge of legality, it’s just temporary. The fact that one of the guards sounded Asian strengthened my wrong theory of being in the Philippines.
I soon arrived, not at a Hotel but at a wooden cell with neither a bathroom nor a sink. From the modest furniture — a weathered, thin mattress and an old blanket — you could tell there had been somebody here. I was kind of happy for having left Jordan, the place of randomness, but I was worried about the prayers I could not perform, and I wanted to know how many prayers I missed on the trip. The guard of the cell was a small, skinny white _______, a fact which gave me more comfort: for the last eight months I had been dealt with solely by big, muscular males.
I asked about the time, and ____ told me it was about eleven, if I remember correctly. I had one more question.
“What day is it?”
“I don’t know, every day here is the same,” _ –_ replied. I realized I had asked too much; _ –_ wasn’t even supposed to tell me the time, as I would learn later.
I found a Koran gently placed on some water bottles. I realized I was not alone in the jail, which was surely not a Hotel.
As it turned out, I was delivered to the wrong cell. Suddenly, I saw the weathered feet of a detainee whose face I couldn’t see because it was covered with a black bag. Black bags, I soon would learn, were put on everybody’s heads to blindfold them and make them unrecognizable, including the writer. Honestly, I didn’t want to see the face of the detainee, just in case he was in pain or suffering, because I hate to see people suffering; it drives me crazy. I’ll never forget the moans and cries of the poor detainees in Jordan when they were suffering torture. I remember putting my hands over my ears to stop myself from hearing the cries, but no matter how hard I tried, I was still able to hear the suffering. It was awful, even worse than torture.
The _______ guard at my door stopped the escort team and organized my transfer to another cell. It was the same as the one I was just in, but in the facing wall. In the room there was a half-full water bottle, the label of which was written in Russian; I wished I had learned Russian. I said to myself, a U.S. base in the Philippines, with water bottles from Russia? The U.S. doesn’t need supplies from Russia, and besides, geographically it makes no sense. Where am I? Maybe in a former Russian Republic, like Tajikstan? All I know is that I don’t know!
The cell had no facility to take care of the natural business. Washing for prayer was impossible and forbidden. There was no clue as to the Kibla, the direction of Mecca. I did what I could. My next door neighbor was mentally sick; he was shouting in a language with which I was not familiar. I later learned that he was a Taliban leader.
Later on that day, July 20, 2002, the guards pulled me for routine police work, fingerprints, height, weight, etcetera. I was offered _________ as interpreter. It was obvious that Arabic was not ____ first language. ____ taught me the rules: no speaking, no praying loudly, no washing for prayer, and a bunch of other nos in that direction. The guard asked me whether I wanted to use the bathroom. I thought he meant a place where you can shower; “Yes,” I said. The bathroom was a barrel filled with human waste. It was the most disgusting bathroom I ever saw. The guards had to watch you while you were taking care of business. I couldn’t eat the food — the food in Jordan was, by far, better than the cold MREs I got in Bagram — so I didn’t really have to use the bathroom. To pee, I would use the empty water bottles I had in my room. The hygienic situation was not exactly perfect; sometimes when the bottle got filled, I continued on the floor, making sure that it didn’t go all the way to the door.
For the next several nights in isolation, I got a funny guard who was trying to convert me to Christianity. I enjoyed the conversations, though my English was very basic. My dialogue partner was young, religious, and energetic. He liked Bush (“the true religious leader,” according to him); he hated Bill Clinton (“the Infidel”). He loved the dollar and hated the Euro. He had his copy of the bible on him all the time, and whenever the opportunity arose he read me stories, most of which were from the Old Testament. I wouldn’t have been able to understand them if I hadn’t read the bible in Arabic several times — not to mention that the versions of the stories are not that far from the ones in the Koran. I had studied the Bible in the Jordanian prison; I asked for a copy, and they offered me one. It was very helpful in understanding Western societies, even though many of them deny being influenced by religious scriptures. I didn’t try to argue with him: I was happy to have somebody to talk to. He and I were unanimous that the religious scriptures, including the Koran, must have come from the same source. As it turned out, the hot-tempered soldier’s knowledge about his religion was very shallow. Nonetheless I enjoyed him being my guard. He gave me more time on the bathroom, and he even looked away when I used the barrel.
I asked him about my situation. “You’re not a criminal, because they put the criminals in the other side,” he told me, gesturing with his hand. I thought about those “criminals” and pictured a bunch of young Muslims, and how hard their situation could be. I felt bad. As it turned out, later on I was transferred to these “criminals,” and became a “high priority criminal.” I was kind of ashamed when the same guard saw me later with the “criminals,” after he had told me that I was going to be released at most after three days. He acted normally, but he didn’t have that much freedom to talk to me about religion there because of his numerous colleagues. Other detainees told me that he was not bad toward them, either.
The second or the third night _________ pulled me out of my cell himself and led me to an interrogation, where the same ___________Arabic already had taken a seat. _________________________________________________
_________________________________. You could tell he was the right man for the job: he was the kind of man who wouldn’t mind doing the dirty work. The detainees back in Bagram used to call him ________________; he reportedly was responsible for torturing even innocent individuals the government released.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ didn’t need to shackle me because I was in shackles 24 hours a day. I slept, ate, used the bathroom while completely shackled, hand to feet. _________ opened a file in his hand ______________________________________ and started by means of the interpreter. _________ was asking me general questions about my life and my background. When he asked me, “What languages do you speak? ” he didn’t believe me; he laughed along with the interpreter, saying, “Haha, you speak German? Wait, we’re gonna check.”
Suddenly _________________________________________________ the room _______________________________________________________________________. There was no mistaking it, he was ___________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.
“Ja Wohl,” I replied. ___________ was not _____________ but his German was fairly acceptable, given that he spent ___
_ __ _ _ __ _ __ _ __ _ _ __ _ __ _ __ _ __ _ __ _ _ . He confirmed to his colleague that my German was “____ ____. Both looked at me with some respect after that, though the respect was not enough to save me from _________ wrath. _________ asked me where I learned to speak German, and said that he was going to interrogate me again later.
, “Wahrheit macht frei, the truth sets you free.” When I heard him say that, I knew the truth wouldn’t set me free, because “Arbeit” didn’t set the Jews free. Hitler’s propaganda machinery used to lure Jewish detainees with the slogan, “Arbeit macht frei,” Work sets you free. But work set nobody free.
took a note in his small notebook and left the room. ________ sent me back to my room and apologized___________________.
“I am sorry for keeping you awake for so long,” “No problem!” ___ replied.
After several days in isolation I was transferred to the general population, but I could only look at them because I was put in the narrow barbed-wire corridor between the cells. I felt like I was out of jail, though, and I cried and thanked God. After eight months of total isolation, I saw fellow detainees more or less in my situation. “Bad” detainees like me were shackled 24 hours a day and put in the corridor, where every passing guard or detainee stepped on them. The place was so narrow that the barbed wire kept pinching me for the next ten days. I saw _____________________ being force-fed; he was on a forty-five day hunger strike. The guards were yelling at him, and he was bouncing a dry piece of bread between his hands. All the detainees looked so worn out, as if they had been buried and after several days resurrected, but ___________________ was a completely different story: he was bones without meat. It reminded me of the pictures you see in documentaries about WWII prisoners.
Detainees were not allowed to talk to each other, but we enjoyed looking at each other. The punishment for talking was hanging the detainee by the hands with his feet barely touching the ground. I saw an Afghani detainee who passed out a couple of times while hanging from his hands. The medics “fixed” him and hung him back up. Other detainees were luckier: they were hung for a certain time and then released. Most of the detainees tried to talk while they were hanging, which made the guards double their punishment. There was a very old Afghani fellow who reportedly was arrested to turn over his son. The guy was mentally sick; he couldn’t stop talking because he didn’t know where he was, nor why. I don’t think he understood his environment, but the guards kept dutifully hanging him. It was so pitiful. One day one of the guards threw him on his face, and he was crying like a baby.
We were put in about six or seven big barbed-wire cells named after operations performed against the U.S: Nairobi, U.S.S. Cole, Dar-Es-Salaam, and so on. In each cell there was a detainee called English, who benevolently served as an interpreter to translate the orders to his co-detainees. Our English was a gentleman from Sudan named __________________. His English was very basic, and so he asked me secretly whether I spoke English. “No,” I replied — but as it turned out I was a Shakespeare compared to him. My brethren thought that I was denying them my services, but I just didn’t know how bad the situation was.
Now I was sitting in front of bunch of dead regular U.S. citizens. My first impression, when I saw them chewing without a break, was, What’s wrong with these guys, do they have to eat so much? Most of the guards were tall, and overweight. Some of them were friendly and some very hostile. Whenever I realized that a guard was mean I pretended that I understood no English. I remember one cowboy coming to me with an ugly frown on his face:
“You speak English? ” he asked. “No English,” I replied.
“We don’t like you to speak English. We want you to die slowly,” he said.
“No English,” I kept replying. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that his message arrived. People with hatred always have something to get off their chests, but I wasn’t ready to be that drain.
Prayer in groups wasn’t allowed. Everybody prayed on his own, and so did I. Detainees had no clues about prayer time. We would just imitate: when a detainee started to pray, we assumed it was time and followed. The Koran was available to detainees who asked for one. I don’t remember asking myself, because the handling by the guards was just disrespectful; they threw it to each other like a water bottle when they passed the holy book through. I didn’t want to be a reason for humiliating God’s word. Moreover, thank God, I know the Koran by heart. As far as I recall, one of the detainees secretly passed me a copy that nobody was using in the cell.
After a couple of days, _____________________ pulled me to interrogate me. ___________ acted as an interpreter.
“Tell me your story,” _________ asked.
“My name is, I graduated in 1988, I got a scholarship to Germany…” I replied in very boring detail, none of which seemed to interest or impress _________. He grew tired and started to yawn. I knew exactly what he wanted to hear, but I couldn’t help him.
He interrupted me. “My country highly values the truth.
Now I’m gonna ask you some questions, and if you answer truthfully, you’re gonna be released and sent safely to your family. But if you fail, you’re gonna be imprisoned indefinitely. A small note in my agenda book is enough to destroy your life. What terrorist organizations are you part of ?”
“None,” I replied.
“You’re not a man, and you don’t deserve respect. Kneel, cross your hands, and put them behind your neck.”
I obeyed the rules and he put a bag over my head. My back was hurting bad lately and that position was so painful; _________ was working on my sciatic problem. _________ brought two projectors and adjusted them on my face. I couldn’t see, but the heat overwhelmed me and I started to sweat.
“You’re gonna be sent to a U.S. facility, where you’ll spend the rest of your life,” he threatened. “You’ll never see your family again. Your family will be f **cked by another man. In American jails, terrorists like you get raped by multiple men at the same time. The guards in my country do their job very well, but being raped is inevitable. But if you tell me the truth, you’re gonna be released immediately.”
I was old enough to know that he was a rotten liar and a man with no honor, but he was in charge, so I had to listen to his bullshit again and again. I just wished that the agencies would start to hire smart people. Did he really think that anybody would believe his nonsense? Somebody would have to be stupid: was he stupid, or did he think I was stupid? I would have respected him more had he told me, “Look, if you don’t tell me what I want to hear, I’m gonna torture you.”
Anyway, I said, “Of course I will be truthful!” “What terrorist organizations are you part of ?”
“None!” I replied. He put back the bag on my head and started a long discourse of humiliation, cursing, lies, and threats. I don’t really remember it all, nor am I ready to sift in my memory for such bullshit. I was so tired and hurt, and tried to sit but he forced me back. I cried from the pain. Yes, a man my age cried silently. I just couldn’t bear the agony.
after a couple of hours sent me back to my cell, promising me more torture. “This was only the start,” as he put it. I was returned to my cell, terrorized and worn out. I prayed to Allah to save me from him. I lived the days to follow in horror: whenever _________ went past our cell I looked away, avoiding seeing him so he wouldn’t “see” me, exactly like an ostrich. _________ was checking on everybody, day and night, and giving the guards the recipe for every detainee. I saw him torturing this other detainee. I don’t want to recount what I heard about him; I just want to tell what I saw with my eyes. It was an Afghani teenager, I would say 16 or 17. _________ made him stand for about three days, sleepless. I felt so bad for him. Whenever he fell down the guards came to him, shouting “no sleep for terrorists,” and made him stand again. I remember sleeping and waking up, and he stood there like a tree.
Whenever I saw _________ around, my heart started to pound, and he was often around. One day he sent a ________________ interpreter to me to pass me a message. “_________ is gonna kick your ass.”
I didn’t respond, but inside me I said, May Allah stop you! But in fact _________ didn’t kick my rear end; instead ___________ pulled me for interrogation. He was a nice guy; maybe he felt he could relate to me because of the language. And why not? Even some of the guards used to come to me and practice their German when they learned that I spoke it.
Anyway, he recounted a long story to me. “I’m not like _________. He’s young and hot-tempered. I don’t use inhumane methods; I have my own methods. I want to tell something about American history, and the whole war against terrorism.”
was straightforward and enlightening. He started with American history and the Puritans, who punished even the innocents by drowning them, and ended with the war against terrorism. “There is no innocent detainee in this campaign: either you cooperate with us and I am going to get you the best deal, or we are going to send you to Cuba.”
“What? Cuba? ” I exclaimed. “I don’t even speak Spanish, and you guys hate Cuba.”
“Yes, but we have an American territory in Guantánamo,” he said, and told me about Teddy Roosevelt and things like that. I knew that I was going to be sent further from home, which I hated.
“Why would you send me to Cuba?”
“We have other options, like Egypt and Algeria, but we only send them the very bad people. I hate sending people over there, because they’ll experience painful torture.”
“Just send me to Egypt.”
“You sure do not want that. In Cuba they treat detainees humanely, and they have two Imams. The camp is run by the DOJ, not the military.”
“But I’ve done no crimes against your country.”
“I’m sorry if you haven’t. Just think of it as if you had cancer!”
“Am I going to be sent to court?”
“Not in the near future. Maybe in three years or so, when my people forget about September 11.” _________ went on to tell me about his private life, but I don’t want to put it down here.
I had a couple more sessions with _________ after that. He asked me some questions and tried to trick me, saying things like, “He said he knows you!” for people I had never heard of. He took my email addresses and passwords. He also asked the ___________________ who were present in Bagram to interrogate me, but they refused, saying the ________ law forbids them from interrogating aliens outside the country. He was trying the whole time to convince me to cooperate so he could save me from the trip to Cuba. To be honest, I preferred to go to Cuba than to stay in Bagram.
“Let it be,” I told him. “I don’t think I can change anything.” Somehow I liked _________. Don’t get me wrong, he was a sneaky interrogator, but at least he spoke to me according to the level of my intellect. I asked _________ to put me inside the cell with the rest of the population, and showed him the injuries I had suffered from the barbed wire. _________ approved: in Bagram, interrogators could do anything with you; they had overall control, and the MPs were at their service. Sometimes _________ gave me a drink, which I appreciated, especially with the kind of diet I received, cold MREs and dry bread in every meal. I secretly passed my meals to other detainees.
One night _________ introduced two military interrogators who asked me about the Millennium plot. They spoke broken Arabic and were very hostile to me; they didn’t allow me to sit and threatened me with all kind of things. But _________ hated them, and told me in _______, “If you want to cooperate, do so with me. These MI guys are nothing.” I felt myself under auction to whichever agency bids more!
In the population we always broke the rules and spoke to our neighbors. I had three direct neighbors. One was an Afghani teenager who was kidnapped on his way to Emirates; he used to work there, which was why he spoke Arabic with a Gulf accent. He was very funny, and he made me laugh; over the past nine months I had almost forgotten how. He was spending holidays with his family in Afghanistan and went to Iran; from there he headed to the Emirates in a boat, but the boat was hijacked by the U.S. and the passengers were arrested.
My second neighbor was twenty-year-old Mauritanian guy who was born in Nigeria and moved to Saudi Arabia. He’d never been in Mauritania, nor did he speak the Mauritanian dialect; if he didn’t introduce himself, you would say he was a Saudi.
My third neighbor was a Palestinian from Jordan named __________. He was captured and tortured by an Afghani tribal leader for about seven months. His kidnapper wanted money from __________ family or else he would turn him over to the Americans, though the latter option was the least promising because the U.S. was only paying $5,000 per head, unless it was a big head. The bandit arranged everything with_______ family regarding the ransom, but managed to flee from captivity in Kabul. He made it to Jalalabad, where he easily stuck out as an Arab mujahid and was captured and sold to the Americans. I told ____________ that I’d been in Jordan, and he seemed to be knowledgeable about their intelligence services. He knew all the interrogators who dealt with me, as ____________ himself spent 50 days in the same prison where I had been.
When we spoke, we covered our heads so guards thought we were asleep, and talked until we got tired. My neighbors told me that we were in Bagram, in Afghanistan, and I informed them that we were going to be transferred to Cuba. But they didn’t believe me.