Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Poetry as a national security risk

Yes, you read that correctly...

It really says something about the quality of our detainees in Guantanamo, that they have written poems in Arabic on fragments of styrofoam cups.

But, apparently, too much poetry has been written at Guantanamo-- compromising our national security-- and much of it has been censored or destroyed. However, a collection of the remnants of these cup poems is to be published by the University of Iowa...

An excerpt from Leonard Doyle's piece in Common Dreams, originally published in The Independent/UK, and which also includes several of the poems:

The words of the celebrated Pakistani poet were scratched on the sides of a Styrofoam cup with a pebble. Then, under the eyes of Guantanamo Bay’s prison guards, they were secretly passed from cell to cell. When the guards discovered what was going on, they smashed the containers and threw them away, fearing that it was a way of passing coded messages.


There are other tragic tales behind the verses. The “cup poems” of Guantanamo speak of the strange absence of flowers in spring, the bangles worn by young women and handcuffs on the militants.

Fragments survived in the memory of the poet Shaikh Abdurraheem Muslim Dost after his eventual release, but thousands of lines of poetry he wrote in prison have disappeared.

Dost, a respected religious scholar, poet, and journalist - and author of nearly 20 books - until his arrest in 2001, spent nearly three years in Guantanamo with his brother. Sent home two years ago, the brothers were picked up by Pakistani intelligence and they too disappeared. Nothing has been heard of them since.

Perhaps the real security issue is the safety of those who have been or are currently in Guantanamo.

* * *

William Carlos Williams wrote... words that are apropos of almost any moment in these times:

“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably
every day
for lack of what is found there.”

A h/t to Dave Pollard at How to Save the World, for his post with the link to this story...


PhD9 said...

“poetry … presents a special risk, and DoD [Department of Defence] standards are not to approve the release of any poetry in its original form or language”. The fear, officers say, is that allegorical imagery in poetry may be used to convey coded messages to militants outside.

Why am I suddenly reminded of Ann Alhouse's concern over Padilla being able to blink out messages?

Oh, I remember! Because it was ABSURD!

Jeff W said...

Gee, I dunno. After reading this

If someone likes what they see, their pupil size increases and so does their blink rate. If you want to up the odds in your favour, try increasing the blink rate of the person you're talking to, by blinking more yourself. If the person likes you, they'll unconsciously try to match your blink rate to keep in sync with you, which in turn, makes you both feel more attracted to each other!

maybe Ann was on to something. Or maybe she was concerned about an eyelash flutter. Nah, absurd about sums it up!

certifiedprepwn3d said...

Then there's Plato - poetry is dangerous. That is why it is important not to educate anyone.

Harsh, but it has been a doozy couple of weeks.

Karen M said...

Thanks, guys!

If there weren't already so many other abuses, maybe... maybe... I could see their point. After all, metaphor is pretty powerful stuff, but when the conditions are so bad, including the "enhanced interrogation techniques," that prisoners engage in fasts, and attempt to commit suicide, I have to think that Poetry is the least of their (the enforcers') problems.

This is the kind of story that will eventually become a play, possibly be banned, and then be considered a classic.

Anonymous said...

A fine, fine post, Karen. Thank you.

Karen M said...

Thanks, Dick. I'm glad you liked it. [You must have clicked on the links.]