Last night, I attended a (virtual) press-screening of @TheMauritanian, a film adaptation of Mohamedou Ould Salahi's 2015 memoir "Guantánamo Diary," the true story of Salahi's 14 years of Gitmo detention and torture.

It was a harrowing and moving experience. It wasn't just the big names (Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch): Tahar Rahim's performance as Salahi was stunning, especially combined with the direction and camerawork that brought the abuse and torture of Gitmo to vivid life.

Salahi was kidnapped from Mauritania at the order of Donald Rumsfeld, who was acting on coerced testimony that falsely identified him as the recruiter behind the 9/11 attacks. He was then repeatedly brutalized, sexually assaulted, tortured and nearly murdered by Gitmo guards.

Eventually, after the guards threatened to have his elderly mother brought to Gitmo for sexual torture by other prisoners, Salahi signed false confessions in which he admitted to all the crimes he'd been accused of.

Salahi's case was taken up by @NancyHollander_ (played by Foster), a NM civil rights litigator at a white-shoe firm whose security clearance and outrage at the Bush administration's suspension of habeas corpus made her the right person to do the pro-bono work.

Hollander's opposite number was Lt Col V Stuart Couch (played by Cumberbatch), a Marine Corps lawyer and ex-airman who had been close friends with one of the 9/11 pilots and who approached the case as an opportunity to get justice and vengeance for his friend.

The movie brilliantly plays out both Hollander and Couch's discovery of the brutal conditions at Gitmo, culminating in Couch's refusal to try the case on the grounds that Salahi's torture meant that his confession could not be trusted.

The interplay of brutality and bureaucracy are at the core of the film, a banality of evil tale that contrasts the US establishment's stated commitment to law and order with the lawless, ruthless, incoherent violence of Gitmo and the rendition program.

This film's release comes at an important moment. First, because the Trump years were an opportunity for GW Bush to rehabilitate his image. Today, we're asked to cast GWB as a "normal" politician from the right - to forget his torture and murder program.

To forget the forever war he lied the world into, which still rages today, fought by the grown children of the soldiers he sent into battle 20 years ago, 18 years after he strapped on a codpiece and posed with a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner.

GWB may be Ellen's cuddly pal, Michelle Obama's buddy with a cough drop, he may be a retired amateur portraitist, but he's also one of history's great monsters, a president who did worse things to the world than Trump ever did.

Not, of course, because Trump was a better man than GW - but because Trump was so chaotic and mercurial that none of the swamp creatures he surrounded himself with (and then purged) were able to execute on their plans the way Rumsfeld and Cheney did.

But this is also a timely movie for another reason: Hollander used Salahi's moving testimony of the torture he faced to secure his release in 2010. But he was held for another SIX years.

Because Obama's DoJ appealed the release.

Salahi was held for eight years because of GWB's monstrous decisions. He was held for six more because of Obama's monstrousness - a six years detention without charge or conviction that deprived Salahi of the chance to see his mother before she died.

The Mauritanian is a reminder of the great stain on America's soul that Gitmo and the War on Terror represents, and it's a reminder that the centrist wing of the Democrats - who confirmed Bush's chief torturer Gina Haspel to run the CIA - are all-in on the Bush Program.

We're told that Biden learned from Obama's drones, austerity, surveillance, war on whistleblowers, billions for Wall Street and abandonment of Main Street, that this time, the Democrats will use their power to make things better at home and abroad.

America still runs the offshore torture camp at Gitmo, and onshore torture sites in the form of mass incarceration, the charnel houses of the pandemic. Making America great - or merely good - demands a reckoning with the nation's sins.

It demands we judge our leaders on their policies - not their portraiture or rhetoric. Trump's open racism and disdain for democracy deserve our condemnation, but so must his predecessors' willingness to shovel Black and brown bodies into war and torture's meat grinders.

ETA - If you'd like an unrolled version of this thread to read or share, here's a link to it on, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:…

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