Saturday, March 28, 2009

Greetings, gentle readers, old and new

Through the magic of xml (which even I can manipulate with a few clicks, thanks to Blogger), I have migrated all the entries from an old blog entitled Pax et Lux. If you've followed me from there, allow me to express my sincere thanks -- not to mention my astonishment.

It will take me some time to finish all the customizations, but then settling in and turning a house into a home is best done gradually.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Walk for a New Spring

Last Saturday, March 21, monks and nuns of Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order and the New England Peace Pagoda arrived in West Chester from Leverett, MA on their way to Washington, D.C. They were greeted by members of the Chester County Peace Movement and given dinner, places to stay the night, breakfast the next morning, and a send-off by members of West Chester Friends Meeting and other volunteers working with them.

More photos
on flickr

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The only thing they didn't try was the iron maiden

Just read Mark Danner's revelations about the ICRC report on the torture of Abu Zubaydah, Khaled Shaik Mohammed, and other high-value prisoners at various CIA black sites, appearing in the op-ed in Sunday's New York Times. For the full-length story, see the New York Review of Books. Here's a sample:

Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....
I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.

I wish I could think of something original to say. I wish these revelations would inspire some new feeling, some brilliant conclusion. But I just keep repeating to myself what I've thought all along: And we're supposed to be a highly civilized country? These "techniques" were applied by experienced interrogators. What would beginners have tried? Meanwhile, instructions were emanating from the highest offices of our land to these hell-holes.

What's it like, I wonder, leaning back in your swivel chair and speaking decisively into the receiver...or bending provocatively toward the speaker phone:
"Yes, go ahead, bash his forehead against the, wait, better cover the wall with plywood first. The cement could crack his skull or something....He's still not talking? OK, time to try stuffing his ass into that little box....Oh, and KSM, did you shove him that suppository?"

Or maybe it was all handled in code. You know, to provide plausible deniability. "I told you to give him a hard time, not administer the nose wash."

Danner makes it clear that these prisoners are not nice people.
The planners and perpetrators of mass killings, they have blood on their hands. There are tough cases out there, people who hate us, and we have to treat them in kind.

No, we don't.

How can leaving someone cold and naked for a month possibly, seriously be considered an interrogation method? Shutting them up in a box? Subjecting them to waterboarding, sensory deprivation, stress positions, terrorizing them with dogs, smearing red stuff on them and making them think it's menstrual blood? This is not interrogation. It's vengeance.

OK, I don't have what it takes.

And I'm glad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Send a book to Mohammed el Gharani -- deadline: 3/20/2009!

At last! Something we can do for a Guantánamo prisoner besides sign a petition!


We would be delighted if you could send one of your favourite books to our client Mohammed el Gharani, in Guantánamo Bay.

Mohammed el Gharani was just 14 years old when he was wrongfully imprisoned in Guantánamo.

Despite being ordered to be released by a federal judge, he is still there seven years later - the youngest remaining prisoner taken as a juvenile.

Although Mohammed has spent his school years in a notoriously brutal prison, he loves books - particularly history. He recently told Reprieve attorneys that he is keen to read as much as possible to prepare for his release.

Show your support for Mohammed by sending him your favourite book. We hope that sending many books all at once will:

- support Mohammed at this very difficult time
- remind the officials at Guantánamo of his youth, his innocence and their legal obligation to release him.

How to send a book

1) Choose a book - one of your own, second-hand or new is fine (Mohammed has learned to speak and read English in Guantánamo; he also speaks Arabic)

2) Write one sentence on why you have chosen it

3) Call or email Reprieve to let us know – we will deliver it to Mohammed in Guantánamo Bay.

4) Post your book to us at:

‘A Book for Mohammed el Gharani’

ATTN: Samuel Rowley
Bingham McCutchen LLP
One Federal Street
Boston, MA 02110-1726

We need all books to arrive by Friday March 20, in time for our next Guantánamo visit.

If you can help or need further information, please email or give us a call at +44 20 7353 4640. We will be publishing a list of the books that we take over, as well as who has sent them in and the reasons the specific books have been chosen.

Many thanks, as ever, for your support.

For more info about Mohammed:

More about Reprieve:
Reprieve was founded by human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith in 1999. Reprieve has nine full-time staff working in its London office, and supports eight full-time Fellows working in the field in the Deep Southern United States. Reprieve’s work in the UK and overseas is supported by a corps of dedicated volunteers.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The snowman cometh

The sun flashed a mischievous grin this morning before giving the gray clouds the go-ahead. They lost no time piling in, thick and menacing. At the supermarket shoppers lined up at the self-checkout and at the dollar video rental dispenser. Which is worse, running of out milk or running out of entertainment?

Or maybe I've just forgotten how interminable a snow day can be cooped up with a couple of kids under age 10.

Cute snowman from