In Cuba, Mohamedou Ould Slahi was most often cold. The interrogators would set the thermostat in his room to zero degrees, though the air conditioners would not go below a grim 49°. It was only on the walk from his cell to the interrogation room that Slahi would see the hot sun above Guantánamo Bay. During one such walk in the summer of 2003, when Slahi had been a captive of the US government for two years, a guard reassured him that he would one day make it back to his family. Slahi writes in the memoir of his captivity, “When he said that I couldn’t help breaking in ———.” The memoir, Guantánamo Diary, is scarred with redactions like this one: the government that held Slahi censored his account. The ink swallows names and descriptions, times and places, and, it seems here, Slahi’s tears. But as the government hides Slahi’s tears at a guard’s reassurance in the sunlight, its own anxiety comes into view. The U.S. does not rely just on law to build its claim to liberal empire. It leans too on the interpersonal—on affect and attitude. The U.S. will admit to having tortured Slahi—sure, it was a sign of the times—but to have made him cry? That’s classified.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi was born in Mauritania in 1970; he studied in Germany and Canada, and worked as an electrical engineer. The US government orchestrated his detention three times between 2000 and 2001. Each time, FBI agents accused him of involvement in terrorist plots; each time, they found nothing to indicate this was true and they let him go. But the next time he was detained, in November 2001, he was not let go. When Slahi went to the police station in Mauritania for questioning, the US government captured him and transported him on a CIA plane from Mauritania to a US-run proxy prison in Amman, Jordan. He was interrogated there for seven-and-a-half months. Then the US government forced Slahi to board yet another CIA plane, this one headed to the US-run Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Finally, in August 2002, Slahi was taken from Bagram to military custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He would remain under the US regime of interrogation and torture there for fourteen years. Slahi has called his confinement and abuse by the United States at secret prisons outside of its borders his “endless world tour."
Both Guantánamo Diary and the This American Life episode about Slahi record strange conversations between Slahi and his captors. The dialogue is unnerving in its chumminess, in its jocular, idiomatic intimacy. Though Slahi wrote the memoir by hand from inside his isolation cell in the summer of 2005, the US government confiscated the manuscript, holding it as classified information for seven years. In 2012, the government cleared the text of Guantánamo Diary for declassification. It was published in 2015, sewn through with redactions. Slahi was released a year later, in 2016. (Slahi released a new edition of Guantánamo Diary in 2017, filling in each redacted section from memory.) The same eerie, elliptical tone of friendliness and redactive denial is audible on This American Life, which focused on Slahi in October, 2021. In the podcast episode, called “An Invitation to Tea,” Slahi speaks with three of the people who guarded, tortured, and interrogated him at Guantánamo. The conversations were first recorded for a German documentary called “In Search of Monsters” (2021), made by John Goetz. The captors—Scott, Sydney, and “Mr. X”—talk to Slahi over video call, while Slahi is in Mauritania and they, the U.S. The captors did not come forward on their own; the calls were facilitated by the documentary producers who tracked them down and persuaded them to speak with Slahi, who had a premise for the conversations. He wanted to speak to these people in a context where they could not hurt him, where they had no power over him. And yet, below the mundane surface of their catch-ups hums a disturbing sense of power. Their interactions, as in the memoir, are flat, startling, and casual. To listen to “An Invitation to Tea” is different than to read its transcript, different too than to read the interactions Slahi documents in his memoir. To listen is to hear Mr. X’s vast and terrible silences, the fratty rumble in Scott’s words of greeting, the condescending lilt in Sydney’s perfectly imperfect intonation of “Mohamedou.” What are these strange, light manners doing amid such violence?
Politeness in Legalized Violence
The question of manners might be answered in part by the way, as Laleh Khalili writes, liberal states use law to bureaucratize violence, blunting its edges. Liberal imperial states of the twenty-first century (such as the United States and Israel) turn to detention as a tactic of warfare, its banal longevity meant to distinguish their “humane” counterinsurgencies from the bloody colonial suppressions of their French and British forebears. These states sanitize their violence through procedure, bureaucracy, and statute. Guantánamo Bay, where Slahi was held for fourteen years, was (and remains) the most clinical, highly monitored, and proceduralized of the U.S.’s counterinsurgency prisons. Rather than being lawless, or outside of the law, as is often claimed, Khalili contends that Guantánamo Bay is in fact soaked in the law, characterized by an excess of it. It is the numbness of minute proceduralism and the banality of legal code which establish the U.S.’s claim to liberal humanity amid extreme violence.
Yet it is not just legal code that does this. It is the affective posture of humaneness rather than humaneness itself which the U.S. guarantees Slahi in its laws. Interpersonal affect—diction, tone, and demeanor—collude with bureaucracy and proceduralism to void Guantánamo and its violence of political meaning. In both Guantánamo Diary and in “An Invitation to Tea,” we learn this empire is run by nice guys. For Khalili, it is the law that “conjures legitimacy out of atrocity." But procedural codes of conduct for Guantánamo personnel locate not just conduct itself but affect, too, as a site of legitimation. “Humane treatment” can be an attitude. Chummy banter and qiblas in cells do not preclude the violence of intravenous feeding during a hunger strike, of forced perpetual standing, of engineered insomnia. In a system where liability for violence is contested at the level of tone and diction in detainee-guard interactions, emotional harm is an indictment. It is only natural, then, that this empire’s censor would redact Slahi’s tears. His crying implies some impractical pain, one unmeasured in the careful metrics set out in the contortive “Torture Memos” of the Bush Administration.
In the memoir and in the podcast, not only is the past revised retroactively, but events are reconfigured and consigned to oblivion even as they unfold. Darryl Li writes that by outsourcing torture (and legal responsibility for it) to other countries—in Slahi’s case, Jordanian proxies, a US-run base in Afghanistan, and a US colonial territory in Cuba—the U.S. seals off its imperial violence in far-away places, protecting the homeland from the “headache” of liability. Meanwhile, in the United States, what Li terms “the process of national forgetting” can continue. Such oblivion occurs both in Guantánamo Diary and in “An Invitation to Tea,” but it is not realized only through the relegation of violence to distant territories. In fact, violence in these sources is close at hand. When amnesia occurs, it is not through distance from events but through a careful retelling of their nature.
Blurring themselves from his present, Slahi’s captors tamper with his memory. He was to remember them as faceless, because, in fact, they were. He writes, “All the guards were masked with Halloween-like masks, and so were the Medics." In this way, individuals become abstractions, interchangeable. Slahi recalls that his jailers “used to cover” their names and ranks “all the time." The guards are not there as themselves. They redact themselves from Slahi’s line of sight. We learn, in This American Life, that one of the men who guarded Slahi is named Scott. But Scott, as such, was never really there.
The masks people like Scott wore inside Guantánamo are remade outside of it in the form of inky, black bars. As with Slahi’s vision, the text of Guantánamo Diary is devoid of names, facial features, hair colors, ages, times, dates, places, and female pronouns. He describes Mr. X, with whom he will speak on This American Life years later, in Guantánamo Diary:
He was about ————————, about six feet tall, athletically built, and ———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————.
The jailers’ face masks and covered name tags find their formal complement in the assiduous marks of the government redactor.
And yet US empire’s oblivion is a sloppy one. In real time and retroactive redactions both, the censor’s hand trembles, their eyes dart away, and the light comes in. The jailers work hard to hide their identities from Slahi, going by perky, rattling pseudonyms (Master Yoda, Master Jedi, Mr. X), but they are clumsy, and their incompetence eclipses their shame. Slahi explains, “The worse an interrogator’s intention is, the more ———— covers his or —— identity. But those people get busted the most, and so did ——, when one of her colleagues mistakenly called ———— by her name." In an ironic turn, in the same sentence where Slahi details the ineptitude of his captors in concealing their identities, the censor is also inept, redacting only half of the female pronouns. The same sloppy amnesia here takes both of its forms in one passage, the clumsiness of the captor mimicked seamlessly in that of the censor.
In this version of empire, it is in the interpersonal where the physical violence of torture and incarceration will be healed, even as it is ongoing. Though the fact of Slahi’s interminable arbitrary confinement is unchanged, the guards’ attitude towards Slahi becomes affable, an all-American elision of violence. Niceness is equated with humaneness. As one of Slahi’s guards tells him, “‘My job is to help your rehabilitation." But the form this rehabilitation takes is not release, and it is not a material change in the conditions of Slahi’s imprisonment. The same prison which caused his need for rehabilitation will administer it through “some sessions with some psychologists,” Klonopin, and a positive attitude. Slahi writes that the guard tasked with his rehabilitation “related to [him] right”: his captors seek to compensate for his captivity by being nicer.
Slahi’s captors begin to imagine themselves as his friends—they like him, and they’re on his side. Their torture of him is thus absolved. Before the rehabilitative guard leaves Guantánamo, he gives Slahi a copy of comedian Steve Martin’s 2003 novel, The Pleasure of My Company. It is unclear whether the entire point of the book as a present is the title’s earnest or ironic reference to the circumstance of their acquaintance, or neither. The gift is inscribed with yearbook-esque notes from other guards also on their way out of the detention center. One wrote, “For the past 10 months I have done my damnedest to maintain a Detainee-Guard relationship. At times I have failed. It is almost impossible not to like a character like yourself. Keep your faith. I’m sure it will guide you in the right direction." Still in shadow, just before the lights come on and the dark fabric of his mask is revealed, the silhouette of the guard is that of a guy, one who cares about Slahi despite himself. This guard’s internal struggle is between his professional duty and his personal feelings—when he “fails,” it is because he’s just too human—and in their telling, to be human is to be humane. They can’t help but see past difference, look beyond the stereotypes they’ve learned. And it’s not just Slahi: ““I love you!’ said a ———— corpsman once to my neighbor,” Slahi writes, though once again the censor has apparently deemed the loving enlistee’s military branch too sensitive for readers.
Through colloquial diction, Slahi’s captors duck outside their roles as such. Not only does a thick edifice of legalese cast a shadow of banality over the extreme site of Guantánamo Bay, voiding it of politics and meaning, but mundane language itself serves a legalistic end. It holds an exonerative edge for Slahi’s captors. Slahi recalls what he is told by one interrogator: “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." The “gonnas” change the meaning of the threat, its tone. It becomes less menacing than it would have been were it articulated in “going to’s.” The entire memoir is riddled with “gonna’s” and “wannas”; this is the dialect of all of Slahi’s jailers, and it is thus the dialect in which Slahi learns and writes English. Bureaucracy’s clinical euphemism is echoed in its inverse, the alibi of idiom. The ironic juxtaposition of registers—the contrast between all-American casual diction and the violence it is used to express—drains the content of its horror for the captors. This subtle mismatch suggests, ever so quietly, that their abuse is not quite earnest. With the use of “gonna,” the captors build into their violence a hint that this isn’t really them, a slight plea of innocence. This muted sign is exculpatory.
The “Macabre Dance”
On This American Life, Slahi’s captors portray him as an intellectual foe of whom they are still wary, even today, an image that elides both the pain they caused him and the power imbalance between them. It is 2021, and Scott, Sydney, and Mr. X are scattered in various US towns, while Slahi is home in Mauritania. Slahi’s jailers suggest they are locked in an epic match of metaphorical chess with their former captive, who they insist is a cunning, wily mastermind. In this “game,” the captors are on equal footing with their captive—the asymmetry of power between them is erased. In fact, in their minds, Slahi has emerged victorious. Mr. X tells the podcast producers in an interview: “Oh, he won. He won the chess game. He has been masterful, first of all, for weathering that we subjected him to.” For Mr. X, it has always been a mental game, not a subjection of Slahi’s body. But for Slahi there was no winning. It was never a game of chess, but 14 years of incarceration, and even his release was so delayed it could hardly be counted as a victory. (It is true, however, that Slahi and Scott “got to know each other” playing actual chess, and that when they played, which was often, Scott would always lose. In fact, Slahi played chess with many of his guards, and once he had read some chess books, he would always win against all of them. But the guards would throw temper tantrums when they lost, so Slahi began to let them win again. This does not mean, however, that Slahi was in control of anything beyond the literal chess board.) Sydney—who interrogated Slahi in Guantánamo—continues to question him even on This American Life, mulish and zealous in her belief, years after his release, that Slahi had planned an attack while living in Canada. Slahi replies that he can now live with her conviction of his guilt, “because,” as he puts it in their conversation, “you have no power over me.” Sydney agrees, as though stating the obvious: “No, cause you won.” But what was there to win? In their own telling, the jailers have been defeated by Slahi’s ‘freedom.’ The chess analogy morphs into that of a negotiation—another way of denying the power the captors held over Slahi. In the wake of revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib and other sites, there was a scramble to make interrogations more “humane.” New scholarship penned by managerial experts reframed interrogations as negotiations. Khalili explains, “Here, humanization means transforming the relationship between the interrogator and the captive into a negotiation. Even here, the power asymmetry between the two is effaced."
Slahi’s captors remember their interrogations of him as negotiations: taut mental games. Slahi’s physical subjection forgotten, they are paranoid that he is controlling them. Sydney tells Slahi on This American Life, “You’ve always run the show, just so you’re aware.” Slahi asks what she means. Sydney explains: “You've always had your way about you, Mohamedou. And your role was always the one of recruiter, and you've done that successfully your entire life. So that's what I mean,” she says. Sydney’s words imply that while she may appear to be in charge as the interrogator, below the surface Slahi is manipulating the situation with that cunning of his—just as he masterminded all those terrorist plots. Sydney’s analysis of who really has the upper hand in the conversation has the ring to it of insights gleaned from a corporate bestseller. Mr. X, whom Slahi remembers as his most brutal torturer, explains their interrogation sessions in the third person: “[Mr. X] had to be completely in control, and that was by design, to strip control from Slahi. Slahi liked to be in control. He'd try to take control of interrogations all the time.” How could a detainee be “in control” of his torturer? Mr. X’s delusion makes sense only when we remember that for him, this was not really an interrogation but a negotiation. Mr. X sees his relationship with Slahi as a “macabre dance” of minds—for him, they are equal partners in a mental waltz, always vying, subtly, for the lead. But Slahi did not forget his body. A producer asks him: “Give me a general sense of what the dynamic between the two of you was.” Slahi replies, “There was hardly any dynamic. [Mr. X] was the boss… there was nothing. I was just an object in that relationship.”
If, in US imperial prisons, the use of managerial methods vacates violence of its political meaning, the captors’ “professional” language does the same. On their call, Sydney has picked up right where she left off in her last interrogation of Slahi. The content of her questioning is accusatory and violent. Of her own preferred fate for Slahi, she says, “Personally, death.” Yet the language she uses is eerily polite. “I respect your time one hundred percent,” she tells Slahi when he tries to end the call. “And I understand that you wanna go home and it’s been a long day. But I really think that you and I both would like to get to the end of something.” Sydney was part of a system that detained Slahi in Guantánamo Bay for fourteen years; why is she suddenly concerned about taking up a few minutes of his evening?
Conversations with Strangers
The cumulative effect of the captors’ affective turns—chummy diction, managerial prose, tolerant grammar—is to reconstruct a past in which violence is forgotten. On This American Life, the feelings of the captors can remake history. Scott is earnest when he says to Slahi at the start of their conversation, “So I feel like I never really caused you any harm, but I wanted to seek forgiveness.” In his paradoxical request for penance, we learn that for Scott, it is possible to make things true of the past simply by saying them. It is this confidence which allows Scott to tell Slahi how Scott “feels” about the harm done to Slahi’s body. By the logic that governs Guantánamo, intent to harm is the prerequisite for harm itself. Feeling mean makes you mean, and since Scott did not feel like he was harming Slahi, the physical pain he caused him “never really” happened.
Slahi’s captors veer into brash denial, removing themselves from history as though doctoring a photograph. If, until now, affect has culminated in amnesia, here we find a different method of historical revision: a simple self redaction, unambiguous elision. In the episode, a producer asks Mr. X “And so did you torture?” Mr. X replies, after a long pause, “Yeah. I mean, it's torture.” Even in this confession, he is careful not to implicate himself. To a similar end, he spends most of his conversation with Slahi consumed by the fact that Slahi suggested Mr. X was one of the people who beat Slahi during a particularly prolonged and complex torture practice. Mr. X quibbles obsessively with this specific instance. He says to Slahi, “And I was shocked and just floored that you perceived that I was one of the people that entered the room and inflicted the physical abuse upon you.” Mr. X’s syntax and tone is careful, technical, yet indignant. He goes on, challenging Slahi’s “perception.” “I’m not sure why you perceived that; it does bother me greatly that anyone, but especially you, would think that Mr. X would do that,” he says, again referring to himself in the third person as though it really were a third person, someone else. Mr. X’s denial is a variation on Scott’s. Scott didn’t feel like he hurt Slahi, and so he did not. In this case, Slahi was not hurt by Mr. X—he only perceives that he was. If Scott’s feelings can change history, Slahi’s cannot. Mr. X becomes intoxicated with this power to remake the past, and he begins to test its limits: “That’s not Mr. X, and that’s not me, in who I really am. You see. So you were right to be surprised that Mr. X would’ve done something like that, because I didn’t.” He chuckles. Just as Scott “never really” harmed Slahi, this isn’t “really” who Mr. X is. The colloquial adverb becomes an ultimate redactor.
This righteous, controlled offense of Slahi’s captors—that it really hurts that you’d think it was me who did that to you—echoes the tone of the redactions of Slahis’ memoir. Scott, Sydney, and Mr. X say they were not there, and the bureaucratic regime confirms with the assertive nonchalance of its redactions that no, they weren’t. Mr. X tells Slahi he knows what happened to him; he “acknowledges” it. The only thing Slahi got wrong was that Mr. X himself did any of it: “It sounds exactly like how you describe it, except for the fact that it was me and these other people. I never did any of that stuff.” Mr. X still has the power to dictate Slahi’s reality and here, he uses it to acquit himself. Meanwhile, Slahi tells Scott he remembers when Scott would keep him from praying and fasting. “Was that me?” Scott asks. By the end of the question, his voice has taken on a confident incredulity. He laughs. Slahi says, “Yeah, I think it was you.” “No,” Scott replies. All along, they were wearing masks and using pseudonyms. It is no wonder, then, that Scott would ask “Was that me?” when, for him, it never really was. As Slahi’s captors remove themselves from the narrative during their conversations with Slahi on This American Life, they act as their own bureaucratic redactors. Black bars begin to occlude the torturers’ faces in our minds, their presence as such now called into reasonable doubt.
So focused are the podcasts’ producers on reaching a narrative resolution for their episode that they at times forget that the main problem in Slahi and Mr. X’s relationship was not, in fact, their tense interpersonal dynamic. At the end of “An Invitation to Tea,” a producer asks Slahi if he would agree to watch a recording of his video call with Mr. X and discuss its details. Slahi says no. “It was a very bad conversation,” he replies. “You can listen to it. I’m not interested.” (In a glib production effect, the song that plays at the end of the episode is called “Bad Conversations.”) In the last sentence of the episode, one of the producers explains just why Slahi was so unwilling to rehash the call. Apparently, Slahi was satisfied with his interactions with Scott and Sydney. But, the producer postulates with finality, “With Mr. X, what he hadn't counted on was how hard it would be for him, for them, to find a new way to talk to each other.”
This American Life seems to suggest that the real issue was that Slahi and Mr. X just weren’t understanding each other. The dream of ‘dialogue’ is unrealized. Of course, it is precisely in the interpersonal where Mr. X and the other captors hoped we’d locate the problem, so they could resolve it. Sydney does just that. On their call, she jumps in to interrupt Slahi: “I never interrogated you,” she corrects him. “We always talked.” An interrogation is turned into a negotiation, and then, into “talking.” With history properly revised, we learn that in this empire, there are no interrogations, just conversations. Bad ones.
Entire sections of Guantánamo Diary are redacted. Sometimes, in these redactions, which stretch on for pages and pages, a meaningless fragment of Slahi’s words will appear suddenly in the jailhouse bars of ink, like a smirk. It is in such brazen authority over the past where the true power of Slahi’s captors is distilled. Indeed, the mission of the jailers at Guantánamo was to create a new past for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, one in which he had done very bad things, like planning large and failed attacks on people those jailers might love. The interrogators declare these hypotheses with such authority that they congeal into something like a real past. Slahi writes, of a different interrogator, “The guy made me believe I was the one behind September 11… I was like, Maybe he’s right."
Such bold control of history is unsurprising when we recall that for fourteen years of captivity, Slahi’s life was dominated by a willful, formal amnesia, each day a bureaucratic repetition of the one which had come before. “——— wanted me to repeat to him my whole story, which I’ve been repeating for the last three years over and over. I got used to interrogators asking me the same things. Before the interrogator even moved his lips I knew his questions." The process of reinventing the past is a painstaking one; each day Slahi’s interrogators must forget what they have asked him yesterday and what he has told them as an answer, which they surely did not like, and then ask him again, hoping this time, he’ll accept the new past they’ve created for him. But the Americans did not forget for real; they could always return from their self-delusion back to the truth, and at times, through the clumsiness of redaction, they do. Below the redactions are the facts, below the masks are the faces, and Mr. X knows it’s torture. In the end, then, the only person who has experienced amnesia is Slahi. An interrogator asks him, “‘What’s the name of your wife?’" Slahi writes, “I forgot the name of my wife and several members of my family as well because of the persistent state of depression I had been in now for the last nine months. Since I knew that nobody was going to buy such a thing, I went, ‘Zeinebou,’ just a name that came to my mind.”
 Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2015), 229.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 256.
 Mohamedou Ould Slahi, “My Guantánamo Diary, Uncensored” American Civil Liberties Union, October 23, 2017. https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/detention/my-guantanamo-diary-uncensored.
 Ira Glass, “An Invitation to Tea,” October 29, 2021, in This American Life, podcast, https://www.thisamericanlife.org/752/an-invitation-to-tea.
 Laleh Khalili, Time in the Shadows, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2013).
 Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 156-163.
 Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 66.
 The Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures from 2003—a human resources handbook for imperial detention—obsessively enumerates these standards. The second item under ‘U.S. Personnel Standards of Conduct’ outlines “Humane Treatment.” “Treat detainees humanely,” the manual redundantly advises. “All soldiers will carry the ‘US SOUTHCOM Human Rights Standing Orders’ card on them at all times.” They will carry that card even as they lock the doors of their captive’s isolation cell, force him to take off his uniform, use it to wipe down the floor of the cell, and then put it back on. Joint Task Force - Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), “Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures.” (2003), http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/OathBetrayed/SOP%201-238.pdf.
 Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo was a chief author of the “Torture Memos,” a series of legal policy documents that authorized U.S. practices of rendition and detention, and made torture legal. The memoranda calculated the levels of pain that the U.S. was allowed to cause in the people it captured. Through detailed measurements of pain, the memos locate the possibility of torture as such in prolonged mental harm, in the intent to harm rather than in physical actions. Attitude is the ground on which torture can become humaneness. Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 164.
 “A vestigial rump of the Cold War and the Spanish American War before it,” the U.S. took possession of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba as a naval base in 1902 under a lease written into an American-imposed constitutional amendment. The Spanish-American War allowed the U.S. to grow its imperial tentacles around the world, taking control of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines as well as Guantánamo. Meanwhile, in an echo of the Cold War, the Cuban government has officially denounced the legitimacy of the U.S. base at Guantánamo since 1959. Simon Reid-Henry, “Exceptional Sovereignty Guantanamo Bay and the Re-Colonial Present,” Antipode 39 (2007): 627–48, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2007.00544.x.
 Darryl Li, "Khaled el-Masri and Empire’s Oblivion," Middle East Report Online, December 13, 2012. https://merip.org/2012/12/khaled-el-masri-and-empires-oblivion/
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 271.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 310.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 234.
 Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 224.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 368.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 368. Of this, Foucault might have said that such “technologies of the soul” would not counteract those other technologies of the body—the torture and sun deprivation which the prison doctors tackled with a multi-vitamins prescription—for the simple reason that they were among its tools. While in Discipline and Punish, the rehabilitative efforts are directed at curing the prisoner from the bad thing they have done, here rehabilitation is to be from the harms the prison itself has caused. But other facilities are dedicated to rehabilitating people thought to be terrorists from their supposed ways. In the two decades since 2000, many facilities and programs for rehabilitating people accused of Islamic extremism have cropped up across the Middle East, including in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), 30. Ben Hubbard, “Inside Saudi Arabia’s Re-education Prison for Jihadists” New York Times, April 9, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/10/world/middleeast/inside-saudi-arabias-re-education-prison-for-jihadists.html
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 369.
 The censor here undermines their countryman’s claim to personability, reminding us that even as he professed his love, he likely had a ski mask over his head. Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 313.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 18.
 But even in their literal games of chess, the dreaded “detainee-guard relationship” persists. Slahi writes, in Guantánamo Diary, of one guard who would torture him by making him stand up for hours on end in the middle of the night (Slahi suffered from sciatica, which the guard knew). The same guard also liked playing chess with Slahi—but not in the usual way. “He had his own rules, which he always enforced, him being the Master, and me the detainee. In his chess world the king belonged to his own color, breaking the basic rule in chess that states that the king sits on the opposite color when the game begins. I knew he was wrong, but there was no correcting him, so with him I had to play his version of chess.” The threat of physical violence hovers over the very metaphor meant to erase it. Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 336.
 Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 165.
 Slahi’s perceived cunning is used as proof that he is a terrorist constantly in both the memoir and the podcast. In his memoir, Slahi recalls a line from a 2003 Guantánamo Bay interrogation: “‘You’re very smart! To me, you meet all the criteria of a top terrorist. When I check the terrorist check list, you pass with a very high score.’” Slahi’s intelligence is important to his captors. Without it, they would have imprisoned and tortured an innocent man. But with it, they have done what needed to be done to a cunning terrorist mastermind. Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 192.
 In fact, the very people who do these things to Slahi also write those kinds of books. Beyond memoirs, many operatives from the so-called War on Terror focused their post-retirement energies on a new genre: the business self-help manual. Among the most prominent of such late-life authors is Stanley McChrystal, whose how-to-succeed business handbooks, with titles like Risk, Leaders, and Team of Teams, remind us that the corporate-to-military pipeline flows both ways. Laleh Khalili, “Stupid Questions,” London Review of Books, February 24, 2022. https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v44/n04/laleh-khalili/stupid-questions.
 As Khalili writes, in the refiguring of interrogations as negotiations, the power dynamic “is positively turned on its head.” One article in the edited volume published by the National Defense Intelligence College in 2006 that set the terms of this new conceptualization of interrogations as negotiations was written by an expert on “sources of power for people in negotiations who are traditionally seen ‘not to have any power.” Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 165.
But if the remaking of interrogations as negotiations on a policy level is designed to invert the relation of power, in practice it does not empower Slahi except for in the minds of his captors.
 Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 141. As the Guantánamo Standard Operating Procedures read, “Professionalism. Maintain a fair, firm, impartial, and professional demeanor toward detainees at all times.” Joint Task Force - Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), “Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures.” (2003), http://hrlibrary.umn.edu/OathBetrayed/SOP%201-238.pdf.
 Khalili touches on a variation of this. She writes, of a government memo declaring that an interrogator did not torture if they did not have the specific intention of causing prolonged mental pain — “Thus, the condition of possibility of torture is the question of intent.” Khalili, Time in the Shadows, 164.
 This was a “mock rendition”—in which Slahi’s captors simulated the “extraordinary rendition” process of kidnapping Slahi from one detention site and forcibly bringing him to another, blindfolded. In fact, they just took him for a speedboat ride along the shores of Guantánamo Bay. This calculated simulation was part of the year-long “special interrogation plan,” personally approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and consisting of yet more extreme torture regiments designed to force Slahi to confess. As they reproduce their own exceptional practices in the technique of mock rendition, Slahi’s captors betray a startling self-reflexive impulse.
 The very mechanism designed to shield Mr. X from liability, his anonymity and thus interchangeability, has further placed him at the scene of the crime. Mr. X may in fact be fuming at the irony of Slahi’s understandable confusion having indicted him.
 The same process of erasing violence by telling Slahi to his face that he did not experience it occurs in Guantánamo Diary, too. Slahi learns that one of his interrogators is being transferred and despairs, knowing he will soon have to start the abuse from zero with the replacement. He writes of his plea to the departing interrogator, “‘You know that I suffered torture and am not ready for another round.’” The interrogator corrects him: “‘You haven’t been tortured. You must trust my government.” Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 321.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 204.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 43.
 Slahi, Guantánamo Diary, 36.