7 April 2021

Mauritanian

"Somebody has to pay".

That line is from "The Mauritanian" which I watched last night - courtesy of Amazon Prime.

The film tells the true story of  Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a bright young man from Mauritania who was effectively kidnapped from that country under the instructions of agencies of the U.S. government following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. It had been decided that Mohamedou Ould Slahi would be one of the somebodies who would have to "pay" though in the fourteen years he was incarcerated no evidence was ever presented to support the core accusation.

He spent most of his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay. The film raises questions about why this American penal colony was ever sited on the south coast of Cuba. Why wasn't it  set up somewhere in America itself? Perhaps the answer is simply - out of sight, out of mind. The American military could get away with some terrible stuff down there.

When Mohamedou Ould Slahi was a very young man he played with fire, associating himself with Islamic fighters and even undertaking secret training in Afghanistan.  The suspicions that surrounded him were perhaps understandable but as I say, no evidence was ever brought against him.

He was treated shabbily, cruelly and left to rot in dire conditions. He was subject to torture that included beatings, water boarding, sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation and threats that included having his mother transported to Guantanamo to be raped by other prisoners. All in the name of America - the greatest democracy on the planet.

Thankfully, his case was taken up by a dogged and determined lawyer from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was Nancy Hollander - played brilliantly in the film by Jodie Foster. She stuck with Mohamedou until his release was finally achieved - seven years after a court had found him not guilty of involvement in 9/11.

After his release in October 2016,  Mohamedou published an account of his experience called "Guantanamo Diary" and it was upon this that the Amazon film was based. "The Mauritanian" fails to mention that Mohamedou wrote four other books while inside Guantanamo but even to this day those books have not been  passed on to him. They remain the property of the U.S. government.

It was a gripping and important film. I hope that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have watched it with their heads hanging down in shame. After 9/11 there was huge pressure to bring all those involved to justice but it shouldn't have been mere somebodies like Mohamedou Ould Slahi who were rounded up. Suspicion is all very well and good but in democracies there must also be evidence and of course there should be no torture to produce hollow "confessions".

31 comments:

  1. It has been a while since the world has seen the US as the greatest democracy on earth. Until this country can see that all races are human beings and deserving of the same respect and dignity that we expect ourselves to be treated with, we are well and truly...um...fudged.

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    1. Fudged? Oh...I see what you really meant.

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    2. In keeping with the previous post.

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  2. I have just watched the trailer YP. Makes you wonder how many other innocent people have been incarcerated there? Wish we had Amazon Prime. 😀

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    1. We get Prime for free now thanks to our daughter signing us in to her account.

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  3. I know that such things go on in many countries around the world. Always have done and probably always will. I am too squeamish to watch films about it or even read too much detail about it. It is not that I don't care, it just makes me feel physically sick to think about it. Yes, I am weak.

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    1. My wife has a similar attitude to such things JayCee.

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  4. Disgraceful! Guantanamo should have been closed long ago. And, if not long ago, then surely it is time now. It is time for the 60 or so prisoners left there to be processed and either found guilty and imprisoned or found not guilty of any wrongdoing and transported to another country or given a ticket home. There are a lot of things in this country that are shoved into a corner and not spoken of.....this might be the worst! No, now that I think about it, probably not. James Baldwin said, "People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned."

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    1. It was so disappointing that President Obama didn't or couldn't pull the plug on Guantanamo Bay. He could have got Mohamedou Ould Slahi out of there when an American court found him "not guilty". Instead he was incarcerated for a further seven years.

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  5. I shall have to watch - in truth, it's not a subject on which I'm well read or informed - like most of us I expect, but that's not good.

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    1. Yes. Certainly worth watching. Perhaps it is our duty to do so.

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  6. We don't know the half of Guantanamo. It just seems to go on and on.

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    1. Many horrible secrets will never be revealed.

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  7. It was a very bad time in American history. He was one of a number who were seemingly not guilty. The laws of a country are for all people and it is wrong to excise a few people from the already generally adequate laws that protect human rights.

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    1. It is so easy for democracy to put on the costume of a tyrant.

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  8. Same as JayCee, I shy away from watching films or reading books about this and similar topics. The Kite Runner was bad enough for me - a terrible, and yet beautiful, book.
    As for Guantanamo, this is my big disappointment with Barack Obama, whom I otherwise hold in high esteem. I am currently reading his latest book and wonder whether he will mention the subject.

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    1. Perhaps internal forces thwarted him. It will indeed be interesting to see if he mentions regrets about Guantanamo.

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    2. As if on cue, right on the first page I was reading last night (the start of chapter 11), he mentions Guantanamo.

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  9. Not a film I would willingly watch, though my sympathy is with anyone innocent incarcerated there.
    It does raise the question as to America's claims to democracy, despite the fact that past history has shown it to be anything but. Any country with a penal colony such as Guantanamo Bay has little respect for the freedom of the individual.

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    1. The torture of suspects is almost as bad as the original crime so who are the baddies and who are the goodies?

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    2. Surely the goodies are those who are innocent, yet punished for a crime they didn't commit?

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  10. I've seen that film headlined on Mr B's Amazon Prime account. I'm not one to watch gratuitous violence but stories like this need to be told - human inhumanity to others. Only by shedding light in dark corners can we hope to flush out the bad and shameful things that lurk there.

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    1. "Only by shedding light in dark corners can we hope to flush out the bad and shameful things that lurk there." I agree with this 100% and it's the reason why people really should not turn away. It is almost a responsibility to be a witness.

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  11. This country has done and continues to do unspeakable things. And yet- until they come out into the light, there will be no end to them. I hang my head in shame.

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    1. When Mohamedou Ould Slahi first reached Guantanamo Bay he was pleased because he would now be under the rule of American justice. Firm but fair. That naivete was soon dispelled.

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  12. I've heard about this movie but haven't seen it yet. Guantanamo and the massive miscarriages of justice that occurred (and still occur) there are a national disgrace. Many Americans were horrified to discover that people could be held indefinitely, with no charges and no trial. It still boggles my mind and it was the moment when I truly began to feel like I didn't know my own country anymore.

    I think the captives were kept at Guantanamo because the Bush administration feared if they were brought into the United States, they'd be subject to legal protections that wouldn't allow their indefinite captivity. There was also a concern they could win release through trial and remain in the United States. I still don't understand why Obama wasn't able to close Guantanamo, except that it's been difficult to relocate the captives to countries that will give them a home. I hope Biden does so successfully. It remains the single biggest stain on America.

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    1. Do you have access to Amazon Prime? I would be very interested to read your take on "The Mauritanian" Steve.

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  13. There is a young man who lives in Edmonton who was also held at Guantanamo Bay and it took his lawyer to get him released as well. He was a child combatant.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Khadr

    I don't know how the men held at Guantanamo Bay can ever forgive or forget what happened to them. I know I wouldn't be able to. It's sickening that the Mohamedou Ould Slahi was detained without charges for fourteen years and was kidnapped to begin with. How is that acceptable? How is that allowed? How is that legal? I'm getting angry just writing this.

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    1. The likelihood is that Guantanamo Bay and what has gone on there will only strengthen the resolve of Islamic fundamentalists.

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  14. I'm new to your blog and was reading through some of your posts when this caught my eye. As an American who loves history, I thought I would add that Guantanomo Bay was never created as a penal colony as you suggested above. It actually came about through the spoils of the Spanish-American war and spent much of the last 100 years as an ordinary naval base. Only after 9/11 did it house any prisoners and for reasons Steve mentioned above. I think it also allowed parts of our government to interrogate prisoners outside of Geneva conventions which is another reasons it was off shore.

    President Obama did take actions and tried to close down Guantanamo. He issued an Executive Order soon after taking office ordering it to be closed "as soon as practical". There was a review done by a newly created review board and several detainees were moved to American soil and charges brought against them. I don't think any of these have actually gone to trial yet and I don't know the reasons for that. Others were listed as unable to release or charge and yet others were going to be transferred to other facilities in other countries. Obama went on to issue another Executive Order reversing Bush's order and essentially stating that interrogations had to follow the Army manual (of Geneva conventions) for all enemy combatants regardless of whose soil they were upon.

    The problem has been Congress. They have passed several National Defense Authorization bills that limit funds if any president tries to move more detainees to America or foreign soils and also limits funds if Guantanamo is shut down. There are also provisions that allow the U.S. government to hassle lawyers for Guantanamo detainees if there is "reasonable suspicion" that they may be hampering the operations of the facility.

    I think it is a national disgrace and one that has been under the radar for too long. I hope perhaps our Currant Occupant will be successful where the last three have failed.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response Ed. Guantanamo Bay may not have started out as a penal colony but in effect that is what it became in the early years of this tortured century. It is an indelible stain upon America.

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