Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"The Waste Land: Poems from Guantánamo"

Jill at Never In Our Names has written an extraordinary piece, reviewing an upcoming book from University of Iowa Press, Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, to be published this fall.
Just as the heart beats in the darkness of the body,
so I, despite this cage, continue to beat with life.
Those who have no courage or honor consider themselves free,
but they are slaves.
I am flying on the wings of thought, and so,
even in this cage, I know a greater freedom.

Written - well, actually scratched into a styrofoam cup using his fingernails, by Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost. Mr. Dost is an Afghani national who was released from Guantánamo in April 2006, after three years of illegal imprisonment.

According to Jill (who also posted a diary on this at Daily Kos), the poems were collected by Northern Illinois University law professor, Marc Falkoff. He is currently representing 17 of the Guantánamo detainees. Cageprisoners has an interview with Professor Falkoff, who previously had served as Habeas Corpus Special Master in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, that is worth reading.

In her sensitively written diary, Jill emphasizes the psychic importance writing poetry had for a number of the detainees:

"Poetry was our support and psychological uplift," said his brother and fellow Guantanamo inmate, Badruzamman Badr, in an interview at the family home in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, where they have lived as expatriates since 1975. "Many people have lost their minds there. I know 40 or 50 prisoners who are mad. But we took refuge in our minds."

Please go read Jill's diary, and dwell for a moment on the awful suffering these individuals have endured at the hands of our government. It does not matter in the end if these individuals are innocent or guilty of any crimes -- and many have been found totally innocent and released after years in prison, subjected to extremely cruel abuse, isolation, and torture -- because no individual must suffer the terror and inhumanity of torture. This Englightenment principle was written into our Constitution, which has been shredded by this and previous administrations.

A last selection:

From The Wasteland: The Death Poem by Jumah al-Dossari

Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden, before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden, before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors of peace."

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