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Wednesday, 13 February 2008 00:00

Recommended diversions

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Poems from Guantanamo

They’re supposed to be the worst of the worst from al-Qaeda and the Taliban, evildoers locked up for plotting unspeakable crimes of terror under the twisted doctrines of Islamo-fascism.

But based on the Pentagon’s own admission, only 8 percent of the detainees held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are accused of being al-Qaeda operatives and less than half have been accused of committing any hostile acts against the United States. Since 2002, Gitmo (Guantanamo’s cuddlier name) has imprisoned nearly 800 suspected terrorists, but most of them don’t know what crimes they’ve been charged with and few get legal representation to prove their innocence. As politicians and legal experts argue over the use of torture and whether a country that prides itself in democratic principles can continue to lock up people indefinitely, suspending even basic rights under the Geneva Conventions, once silent voices are now being heard through a thin volume of poems written by Guantanamo detainees. Each line of these poems had to be studied and approved by Pentagon linguists to keep any secret messages from getting out to the public, so the translations may not have their ideal subtlety, but what we find in these pages is a hope that the human spirit cannot be defeated. Marc Falkoff, an attorney working for 17 of the Guantanamo prisoners, collected their poems. Some were scribbled on Styrofoam cups, inscribed with pebbles or traced out with dabs of toothpaste. Abdullah Thani Faris Al Anazi, a double amputee who once worked as a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan and is now a Guantanamo detainee, writes to his father, “sending out messages / To the homes where my family dwells, / Where lavender cotton sprouts / For grazing herds that leave well fed.” Let us hope these poems find a way to warm even the coldest hearts that would convict a man based on fear rather than fact.

No Country For Old Men

A man hunting in the Texas desert finds the remains of a Mexican mafia massacre and a briefcase full of millions. What else to do but take the money and run, but the ensuing chase turns hunter into the hunted as a beleaguered sheriff (played by Tommy Lee Jones) follows a bloody trail of dead bodies through small towns and cheap motels. Javier Bardem (who looks like Brad Garrett with a bad haircut) plays a menacing bounty hunter who stalks the missing money and anyone who gets in the way. Brought to you by the Coen Brothers, the crafty creators of such unforgettable films as “Raising Arizona,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “Fargo,” and “O Brother Where Art Thou,” this latest thriller, which recently won two Golden Globes and eight Oscar nominations, offers a clever tale of doomed men caught in a tragedy they cannot escape.

— By Michael Beadle

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