Video: “Guantánamo Diary Revisited” – Q&A with Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Director John Goetz and Andy Worthington

5.5.22

The flier for the online screening of “Guantánamo Diary Revisited,” made available by its distributors in the US and Canada, Cinema Libre Studio, as a fundraiser for Andy Worthington’s work, followed by a Q&A with Mohamedou Ould Slahi, director John Goetz, and Andy. In the film, Goetz assists Slahi in tracking down some of those involved in his torture, the intention being to invite them to tea, and to let them know that he has forgiven everyone responsible for his torture.

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Two weeks ago, Cinema Libre Studio, in Los Angeles, generously allowed the documentary film “Guantánamo Diary Revisited“, for which they are the distributor in the US and Canada, to be shown in an online screening as a fundraiser for my ongoing work on Guantánamo (via my website here, and also via the Close Guantánamo campaign), and I’m pleased to report that it raised several hundred dollars to support my work.

Directed by the journalist John Goetz, the film follows former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi (aka Salahi), as, with the help of Goetz, he tracks down some of those responsible for his torture, meeting with a variety of responses, ranging from guilt to denial, which makes for a very powerful documentary.

The film is available on DVD, and also via a number of streaming services, and if you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll find the opportunity to do so, as it provides a unique insight into the mentality of those who were on the front line of implementing torture at Guantánamo.

Following the online screening, Cinema Libre Studio also hosted a Q&A, featuring Mohamedou, John Goetz and myself, which I’m delighted to post below, via YouTube. It’s the first video I’ve ever hosted on my YouTube channel, which contains all of my filmed appearances over the last 16 years — or, at least, those that haven’t subsequently disappeared.

To provide some background to the film, and the Q&A, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was handed over to the CIA by the authorities in his home country, Mauritania, in November 2001, and was then sent to Jordan, one of the proxy torture prisons used by the Bush administration before the CIA established its own “black sites.” He was held there for eight months, and was then held briefly in Afghanistan, before arriving at Guantánamo in August 2002, where he was imprisoned for over 14 years without charge or trial.

In the earliest years of his imprisonment, Slahi was subjected to a specific torture program approved by then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in the mistaken belief that he was involved with Al-Qaeda. When he finally broke under the torture, signed a confession and began cooperating, the authorities planned to try him by military commission, but he was never tried, as his prosecutor, Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, resigned rather than pursuing the case, appalled by the lack of evidence, and by the torture to which Mohamedou was subjected. Ironically, though, his cooperation led to him being allowed to write his story, which eventually became the best-selling book, “Guantánamo Diary,” published in 2015.

When the book was published, Slahi was still in Guantánamo, but he was finally released in October 2016, and sent back to Mauritania, where he invited Goetz to visit him, and came up with the idea of tracking down those who had tortured him in order to invite them to tea, and to let them know that he has forgiven everyone responsible.

Forgiveness — and the need for kindness — are at the heart of the philosophy that Slahi formulated after many long years in isolation in Guantánamo, even after his torture ended, when, as he told me when I met him during his recent UK speaking tour, his very existence was stripped back to its basics, and he realized that there is nothing more fundamental than kindness, and that forgiving those who have wronged you is the only way to avoid being consumed by vengeance.

It is astonishing to see Slahi seek to extend this notion of forgiveness to those responsible for his torture, although, as this notion of forgiveness is in some sense a construct, or an aspiration, willed into being as away of dealing with trauma, it is sometimes clearly an uncomfortable experience for him to engage with those who were involved in his torture — Sydney, for example, an intelligence analyst who remains convinced of his guilt, and is still consumed by it, and, in Mauritania, the government official who was responsible for handing him over to the CIA.

Another “true believer,” Richard Zuley, a former police detective in Chicago whose tenure included a period when allegations of the use of torture were rife, doesn’t even get to engage with Slahi. Irritated by what he regards as a stitch-up by Goetz, he terminates their interview instead. However, Goetz has more success with Mr. X, an interrogator whose internal conflicts constitute the film’s most powerful moments. While not convinced of Slahi’s innocence, Mr. X is haunted by his involvement in his torture, which he bitterly regrets, and it is to his credit that he agreed to be involved in the film, laying bare the damage that torture causes not just to those who are tortured, but clearly, in some cases, to those who do the torturing.

In the Q&A, John and I, along with Beth from Cinema Libre Studio, discussed the film and the situation at Guantánamo with our audience, with Mohamedou joining us 25 minutes in, and I very much hope that you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it with others if you find it useful.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to the video of a recent Q&A, featuring Mohamedou Ould Salahi, John Goetz and myself, following a screening of Goetz’s powerful documentary film, “Guantanamo Diary Revisited,” made available by its distributors in the US and Canada, Cinema Libre Studio, as a fundraiser for my work.

    In the film, Goetz assists Slahi in tracking down some of those involved in his torture, the intention being to invite them to tea, and to let them know that he has forgiven everyone responsible. I hope you have time to watch the film if you haven’t seen it (it’s available on DVD, and via various streaming services), and also that you have time to watch the Q&A.

    The film’s website is here: https://guantanamorevisitedfilm.com

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    The film doesn’t yet have a UK distributor, so if anyone knows of anyone who might be interested, please let me know!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    William Hudon wrote:

    Ahh … wonderful resource! I’m looking forward to watching the most recent Q&A. Thanks, Andy.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, William. Good to hear from you.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Lisa Duggan wrote:

    Thank you Andy!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Lisa. Good to hear from you.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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