On a recent trip to Cincinnati our Uber driver was an immigrant to the U.S. from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. After roughly 10 years in the U.S., he was plainly savvy about the relative value that Americans put on bureaucracy versus hands-on work. He was studying for a PhD in Academic Administration.
I asked him what he and his Mauritanian friends and family thought about Mohammed Slahi, the author of Guantanamo Diary (my review). “There is a lot of disagreement [among Mauritanians, including in Mauritania] about whether he is guilty,” said our driver. “My personal belief is that he is guilty. He was too close to everything that was going on.”
Despite believing Slahi to be guilty, the driver did not believe that he should be in Guantanamo or that the U.S. should operate the Guantanamo Bay detection camp. Our driver believed Gitmo to be a place where Muslims were tortured, Korans were desecrated, etc. on a daily basis and that, at least in the minds of most Muslims worldwide, the U.S. operation of Gitmo justified jihad against the U.S. (He was silent on the subject of whether or not he personally believed that jihad against the U.S. was required and/or justified.)
Slahi’s actual book describes primarily incompetence and wasting of taxpayer funds rather than torture. If we are going to continue to run Gitmo (Obama is closing it any day now?), I’m wondering if we should open it up to pretty much anyone who wants to visit. If in fact we are not torturing people all day every day there, why let the rumors spread that we are? If anyone can visit at more or less any time and see anything for which there is no real reason for secrecy, wouldn’t that dispell negative rumors about Gitmo?