Friday, April 29, 2011

A Bird Among the Fish: al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan, diplomat kidnapped by "Christian" Pirates ( See a Book Review)

Joannes Leo Africanus,

(c. 1494 – c. 1554?) (or al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi, Arabic:حسن ابن محمد الوزان الفاسي) was a Moorish diplomat and author who is best known for his book Descrittione dell’Africa (Description of Africa) describing the geography of North Africa.

It has been suggested that William Shakespeare may have been inspired by Leo Africanus' book to create the character of Othello. See bio note in the Wikipedia entry: 7. ^ Verde, Tom (2008), "A man of two worlds", Saudi Aramco World (January/February 2008): 2–9, here = Retrieved from ""

The following review is about the kidnapped diplomat's life and contributions to history. At the same time, this sophisticated student addresses the fairly new approach of micro-history and the author who has become a celebrity for her use of the same.

A Bird Among the Fish

Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds
By Natalie Zemon Davis
Hill and Wang
448 Pages
By Alexander Bevilacqua
Microhistory is written in the subjunctive mode, Natalie Zemon Davis warns her readers at the beginning of Trickster Travels . Even as the emerita Princeton professor has in her eighth decade embarked in an entirely new direction, away from her beloved sixteenth-century France and across the Mediterranean towards the Arab world of that same century—with a significant stop in Rome along the way—her approach remains unchanged. Throughout her latest book, this supreme practitioner of microhistory, a school of historical writing that emerged in the late 1970s, traces the life of a single Muslim diplomat, a man whose unique fate it was to be kidnapped by Christian pirates and presented to the pope. Yet, as readers of Davis 's The Return of Martin Guerre or Women on the Margins well know, sustained focus on a single, distant figure is a challenge, as historical records are scanty for many aspects of such a protagonist's life. Hence the frequent recourse to "may have," "could have," and "as it were."

Its focus on individuals should not lead anyone to confuse microhistory with biography, that least sophisticated of historical genres, whose psychologizing speculations affirm a vision of subjectivity that little matches most twentieth-century understandings of historical agency. Microhistory, as its very name suggests, is not the story of great men, but of minute, forgotten worlds, which are to be painstakingly rediscovered and re-imagined. Microhistory lives in the interstices of the past. Yet its central premise, as Davis notes in the introduction to Trickster Travels , is that "an extreme case can often reveal patterns available for more everyday experience." Unlike biography, then, microhistory does not seek to affirm personality, but rather uses the individual as a means to enter a sensibility, a mentality, a historical moment. This paradoxical focus on the particular to enlighten the universal is dictated in great part by archival necessities: only lives deemed extraordinary in their day left a trace.

In the case of Al-Hasan al-Wazzan, the likeable protagonist of Trickster Travels , it is his writings in Italian, and in particular his La Descrittione dell'Africa (The Description of Africa), which gave rise to his posthumous fame. His opus described for a Western audience the African continent and Arab and Islamic civilization, about which very little was known in Renaissance Europe. The text had quite a publication history, serving as a source on Africa until well into the nineteenth century. Yet as Davis notes, even twentieth-century scholarship on al-Wazzan always broke his work into pieces, appropriating its parts to support diverse arguments. Davis aims to bring the book back together and look at it as a whole, integrating it into its unique context of production. Indeed, Trickster Travels is remarkable for the ease with which it integrates a myriad of details into the main narrative. We follow al-Wazzan from his birth in Granada just before the 1492 reconquista to his life in Fez under the Wattasid dynasty. He traveled all over the Islamic world from Timbuktu to Istanbul , giving Davis ample chance to discuss the politics and cultural diversity of these regions. Al-Wazzan was cultivated without being an exponent of the high culture: though he was a faqih (expert in law) and could quote much classical verse by heart, his calling was to be a diplomat and a man of action rather than a scholar. In Italy , however, his status as expert would be viewed quite differently.

In the summer of 1518, al-Wazzan was captured by pirates on his return to Fez from a diplomatic mission in Cairo . Soon he found himself in Castel Sant'Angelo, the Roman landmark now remembered most often as Tosca's final launching point in the last act of Puccini's opera. A prisoner of the pope, and likely the only Muslim in Rome , al-Wazzan was not mistreated, but given a series of texts in Arabic to read, rather speedily learning some Italian and some Latin. Rome , which with fifty thousand inhabitants was half the size of his adoptive home Fez , may have well seemed provincial and backward to al-Wazzan: wolves still prowled at night all the way up to the Vatican walls. Yet on January 6, 1520, the Feast of the Epiphany, he was baptized by Leo X (the famous Medici pope who that same year would order Martin Luther to recant, excommunicating the German monk the following January). From then on, al-Wazzan would be Giovanni Leone Africano, or, in his own later Arabic version of the name, which Davis prefers, Yuhanna al-Asad (John the Lion). Not only was Yuhanna al-Asad baptized, he stayed in the city until the sack of Rome in 1527, much longer after he could probably have escaped. While the data indicating that he may have set up a family in Rome are uncertain, the rest of Davis 's book seeks to solve the puzzle posed by Yuhanna al-Asad's Roman years. In the process, she uncovers the startlingly original and unique attempt at cultural mediation and hybridity that the diplomat from Fez came to develop.

Using La Descrittione dell'Africa as a starting point, Davis shows that Yuhanna al-Asad wrote neither as a Muslim scholar, nor as an obedient Christian subject. On the one hand, he was silent about the chains of transmission of his knowledge, ignoring the traditional means of establishing authority that Arab writers had developed over centuries. Rather, he developed a different, more modest authorial persona, that of el Compositore , the compiler, and referred to himself only in the third person, a practice which had not been the standard convention in Arabic works for several hundred years.

Yet as Yuhanna al-Asad gained distance from his Muslim past in this way, he also sought distance from his Christian identity, rarely condemning Islamic practices outright and remaining notably silent on the circumstances of his capture, which would presumably have forced him to take sides. For Davis , Yuhanna al-Asad was able to creatively combine the cultures he had experienced, ultimately placing himself somewhere in the middle—he was a man with "a double vision, sustaining two cultural worlds." To balance them he developed a story about a bird that could swim, and who migrated between the air and the sea in order to avoid paying taxes in either domain. Having told this story of ruse and deceit, Yuhanna al-Asad promised that while he would be truthful, he would also do as the bird (" io faro como uno ucello "), telling his story from different cultural points of view, choosing whichever was more convenient to the narrative at hand.

The greatest challenge to Davis 's work comes in balancing her optimistic vision of her trickster's capacity to travel between cultural positions with the realities of dominance and violence that Yuhanna al-Asad experienced. He was, after all, kidnapped and then converted while in a prison, and despite the possibility of developing a hybrid culture, was indeed faced with a dilemmatic choice: the Christian and Muslim faiths were after all mutually exclusive. Perhaps in her search for a harmonious compromise, for the bird capable of living among the fish, Davis downplays the challenges which Yuhanna al-Asad had to overcome. Yet finding such compromises is Davis 's particular talent: she aims to reveal how individuals developed creative strategies of survival, exploiting their subaltern status, and this bent has in the past colored her interpretation of, for example, Bertrande de Rols, the abandoned wife in The Return of Martin Guerre. The other shortcomings of Trickster Travels are minor—subjunctive speculation has clear limits, and Davis 's attempt to imagine Yuhanna al-Asad's sexual practices reaches a little too far: "onanism was a lonely consolation for a man who presented himself as gregarious." There are domains that even the best-pondered microhistory cannot enter.

Both the emphasis on the constructive aspect of Yuhanna al-Asad's life and the occasional shortcomings indicate that microhistory, perhaps more than other genres, is dependent on the historian's capacities and is, in final analysis, a demonstration as much of the author's lucidity as of the subject's inherent interest. It is admirable and stimulating that Davis has sought out new territory, while still pursuing her usual goal of revealing the ways in which even oppressed individuals can craft creative accommodations and inventive modes of living. When Davis succeeds she does so with grace and insight, and her topic sustains and rewards the extensive readings and interpretations to which she subjects it. The recovery of past cultural mediation between two societies with little comprehension of each other cannot but interest those of us concerned about mutual understanding in a diverse world.

Alexander Bevilacqua studies French history, both micro and macro.

© 2008 The Harvard Book Review, a student-run organization at Harvard College.
The Harvard name and/or VERITAS shield are trademarks of the President and Fellows of Harvard College and are used by permission of Harvard University.


My daughter, a linguist already, introduced me to Historian-Professor Natalie Zemon Davis. What a rich resource.

Read more about Joannes Leo Africanus, (c. 1494 – c. 1554?) (or al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi, Arabic:حسن ابن محمد الوزان الفاسي) for 28 April, 2011, in my blogsite No More Crusades dot blogspot dot com

Find the above review posted in Harvard Archives for Harvard Book Review.

Find a short write-up on Natalie Davis here

UPDATED RIGHTS News Digest for 29 April thru 3 May 2011

Ambassador from China the right Chair for UN Committee on Torture? here

"You don't get this kind of happening from a fake event...Oh, the administration is debating about showing pics of his OBM's body." The comment is from friend who sends me items from Talking Points Memo (TPM) Find this one and more striking photos at that site...GO here or directly for the WH slide show here That said, there are still a lot of folk asking questions about DNA/protocal for dropping body in sea...There are a few questions asked & perhaps answered by David Swanson on 3 May - end of this post...

I've deliberately UPDATED and posted the Rights news of 30 April thru 3 May above earlier items here in order to leave the article above intact and because these items below - although a LONG list - strike me as mostly "all of a piece".

Starting with today's rush of quickly-written items, I read quite a few quickly as well given limited time - many different points and included plenty of alleged "facts". These don't necessarly speak for my own conclusions (of which I have few).

Yet here's one from David Swanson (writer of "War is a Lie" and a vital peace/justice activist). His for today speaks well to my own values...I found that the US Veterans for Peace had also approved this one above all at the time I looked. Some aspects of this article are reassuring even - that a whole plane-load of folk (upon which David Swanson sat) in a US plane would ALL REFUSE to follow the airline staff's inhuman cue to cheer.

Killing Resolves Nothing
By David Swanson or GO here and many other places:

The beginning: Our killing of Saddam Hussein has been followed by years of war and hundreds of thousands of pointless deaths. Our attempts to kill Muammar Gadaffi have killed his children and grandchildren and will end no war if they eventually succeed. Our attempts to kill Osama bin Laden, including wars justified by that mission, have involved nearly a decade of senseless slaughter in Afghanistan and the rest of the ongoing global "generational" war that is consuming our nation...continue to read at the URL above.

Common Dreams (Thoughtful item) here

A few other items for deeper than usual reviewing - related to OBL event:

Roland Garret is a painter who's written a book on the same as well as plenty of articles (to make the world a better place for his daughter. He lives what he preaches.) READ here (editorial)

Aljazeera Live Blog here

Interesting Aljazeera opinion "here

US- Pakistan (at least the scenarios this journalist paints for Lebanon's "Daily Star" does get at US arrogance a little) while I'm not entirely clear on his conclusion here

? here

Full Text of Pres. Obama's message here

NYTimes Opinion here

And of course for interesting blogs and some reports which may be similar to US news and sometimes not - Pakistan's

Several of these items with their startling assertions may need more than a little more research? Image of dead OBL: here

But I've decided to discount some assertions (OBL dead a long time ago)until I'm sure otherwise after these comments by a fellow peace/justice activist I really respect who introduced me to a great and constantly updating site with lawyer-like analysis:

***Connie, The readers of Talking Points Memo have been wondering and supposing what the wingers would come up with about this event. I suppose OBL dying previously is just one of the many avenues that wingers and the few nutty lefties there are have generated so far. Just hang on to your hat cause you will see and hear some really strange tales about this happening in the next few days. How long did it take the nuts to get around obamas birth certificate?

Here are Josh's comments on TPM today

We'll have more reporting on this shortly. And we're hearing more details as I write in the White House press conference with Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan. But we're already getting some clear indications about a big question the US government needs to answer.

It's always been a big question just which parts of the Pakistani state apparatus -- the military, the civil government, the intelligence services -- are genuine partners in the fight against al Qaeda and which are playing a double game. The Pakistani intelligence service is notoriously shot through with sympathizers with the Taliban and even al Qaeda.

Osama's safe house was just outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and only a very short distance from the main military academy. So what decision does the US government make about whether elements in the Pakistani government and at what levels may have known bin Laden's whereabouts and been complicit in keeping them secret. And just as important, what does it say publicly about what it thinks. Announcing your suspicions on such a critical matter is almost as important as having them.
So far, as far as I know, the administration, even in background briefings, has not suggested any complicity by the Pakistani state apparatus. But a very different message is coming from members of Congress, including ones close to the White House like Sen. Levin (D), and people who only recently left the administration like James Jones. Levin didn't make a direct accusation but wasn't very ambiguous. And Jones said he assumed Pakistani complicity given the details of where he was found and other circumstances of the assault.

Senators say what they want to say. And Jones made clear that he's not going on any recent intelligence. But I don't think someone like Levin would get dramatically out in front of the briefings he was getting from the country's top intelligence officials and diplomats. And it's what you would expect that the White House would let legislators talk more freely while they remain more circumspect.
But watch this closely. Because at the point where the US government suggests serious suspicions, if it happens, that the Pakistani state at the highest levels was helping shelter bin Laden, I'm not sure there's much coming back from that.
Andy Worthington wrote "The Guantanamo Files" and his analysis/talks/interviews are on the cutting edge of what's been happening with US prisoners in the "war on terror". Read his article "How to Read Wikileaks Guantanamo Files" here Here's an excerpt excerpt "...lies...were grafted onto the prisoners’ files after their arrival at Guantánamo. This is because, contrary to the impression gven in the files, no significant screening process took place before the prisoners’ transfer. As a senior interrogator who worked in Afghanistan explained in a book that he wrote about his experiences,every prisoner who ended up in US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, even though the majority were not even seized by US forces, but were seized by their Afghan and Pakistani allies at a time when substantial bounty payments for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects” were widespread. (End Worthington's excerpt)

From No Gitmos dot org

05/02 / Morris Davis / Spiegel (Germany) / 'The Government's Narrative Was a Lie'
05/02 / John Goetz, Mathieu von Rohr, Marcel Rosenbach and Britta Sandberg / Spiegel (Germany) / A Casual Relationship with the Truth at Guantanamo
05/02 / Kevin Johnson / USA Today / Bills would transfer oversight of terror cases
05/02 / Benjamin Wittes / Lawfare / Will Bin Laden’s Death Reignite the Interrogation Debate?
05/02 / Chris Elliott / Guardian (U.K.) / Open door: the Guantánamo files
05/02 / Angela Davis / Voice of Russia / 80% of Guantanamo detainees got there for no reason
05/01 / Jeff Kaye / Firedoglake / Important Files Missing in WikiLeaks Guantanamo Release
05/01 / Nancy Goldstein / GritTV / Losing Sleep Over Bradley Manning
05/01 / Carol Rosenberg / Miami Herald / For first time, all 172 detainees come into view
05/01 / Andy Worthington / How to Read WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files
05/01 / Editorial / New York Times / From Secrecy to Absurdity
05/01 / Carol Rosenberg / McClatchy Newspapers / For first time, Guantanamo's detainees come into view
04/30 / Editorial / MetroWest Daily (Massachusetts) / It's time to close Gitmo
04/30 / Andy Worthington / Andy Worthington Tells the Truth About WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files in an Interview with Alexa O’Brien
04/29 / CBS News / Former Prosecutor: U.S. Will Have To Apologize For Guantanamo
04/29 / Shannon Doyne and Holly Epstein Ojalvo / The Learning Network / New York Times / Nine Years, 779 People: Guantánamo Bay and the Implications of the Files
04/29 / Jason Leopold / TruthOut / Guantanamo Detainees Stage Hunger Strike to Protest Confinement Conditions
04/29 / McClatchy Newspapers / Who's Still Being Held at Guantanamo (Interactive)
04/29 / Stephen Glain / US News & World Report / Wikileaks Guantanamo Files Show the Great Cost of the U.S. Empire
04/29 / Matthew W. Daloisio / Washington Post / Letter: Guantanamo and the politics of fear
04/29 / Editorial / Philadelphia Daily News / Guantanamo: The stain on Obama's presidency
04/29 / Jeffrey Kaye / The Public Record / Ex-Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks Fights Back Against US Government’s Lies
04/29 / Marcel Rosenbach / Spiegel (Germany) / Slahi's Guantanamo File Full of Dubious Information
04/28 / Uri Friedman / Atlantic Online / The Worst Guantanamo Detention Story We've Heard So Far
04/28 / The Nation / Audio: Andy Worthington on the Guantánamo Files
04/28 / Michael K. Busch / Firedoglake / The Gitmo Files: Naqib Ullah
04/28 / Conor Friedersdorf / Atlantic Online / Tarring Guantanamo Defense Lawyers as Traitors
04/28 / Joseph Margulies / NPR / New Republic: What We See In The Gitmo Papers
From No More Gitmos - find all these listed and more news/actions with an easy CLICK here cut/paste for your contacts:

Since lots of folk are asking such questions, The intro which speculates & asks protocal questions along with listerner...Guest is David Swanson here

UPDATE: Mobilization and More on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

The following was just sent from the Peace Thru Justice leadership:

After consultation with a couple of close confidants, we have decided to cancel the mobilization for our sister this coming Saturday, May 7. (Please share this information as far and wide as possible.)

In the wake of: (a) the bin Laden related hysteria which now grips the collective mind of America at present; (b) the counterproductive knee jerk reaction of some of our leaders and organizations; (c) the uncertainties of a strong, confident followup response from the rank and file of our community (given the present climate); (d) and concern about how Aafia's image might be negatively manipulated toward a political and/or exploitative end, we've decided that this is the best decision to make at this time. (Surely ALLAH knows best.)

If Aafia Siddiqui is not able to enjoy the full human rights to which she is entitled, even as a prisoner, and have contact with the outside world (especially her family) by the end of this month, we will be back at FMC Carswell (in far greater numbers) sometime in June, insha'Allah.

NEXT, be sure to see the article by Andrew Purcell on April 27, 2011
(which refers to the confusion once again being recycled in high profile media as if new and true):

The Boys from Bagram and the Guys in Guantanamo
By Andy Purcell

The boys from Bagram called the guys in Guantanamo and asked for a favor.

Could you work the name Aafia Siddiqui into your interrogations. We can't break her and if we don't get something on her, the legal, diplomatic, and public relations complications will be severe.

The guys in Guantanamo told the boys from Bagram not to worry, with our enhanced interrogation techniques, we can prove anything here.

And this is how Aafia Siddiqui wound up featured in the most recent Wikileaks disclosures. The same old stories we have been reading about for almost a decade, told through the smoke of a Cuban cigar. While witnesses have identified her as Prisoner 650 in Bagram, nameless scriveners of silence etched a different story for public consumption.

Before you inhale that Cuban cigar smoke, here is a part of the story that hasn't made the headlines:

"U.S. military intelligence assessing the threat of nearly 800 men held at Guan­tanamo in many cases used information from a small group of captives whose accounts now appear to be questionable."

SEE's "Eight gave evidence against 255 others" CLICK HERE

End of Andy Purcell's article

There is a brief video with journalist, writer Victoria Brittain which may help to answer some of the questions arising with folk new to this case and/or confused by the usual media superficiality HERE Victoria Brittain is a former associate foreign editor of the Guardian, and a Patron of Cageprisoners. Her books include "Hidden Lives, Hidden Deaths" and "The Death of Dignity". She has spent much of her working life in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Victoria Brittain wrote an earlier (February 2011) article on the Dr. Aafia Siddiqui case (introduced by Andy Worthington) here and she co-authored Moazzam Begg's first-person book "The Accused" - reviewed by Jane Mayer here

Also, MOBILIZATION for May 7th - CANCELLED until further notice -
Organized by the PEACE THRU JUSTICE FOUNDATION - and read of other recent events/articles/news CLICK for Free Aafia here and for Justice for Aafia CLICK here

I am working on a post which goes into more detail on this case as it stands now in light of new developments (release of old and new analyses (some of which - and some which are NOT coming into better focus. The not in a nutshell refers to the information which is RECYCLED FICTION through and through.

Plz come back in a few days and/or look early the coming at nomorecrusades blog here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


The West and Human Rights: Exposing the Motes from our Own Eyes ( NO More Gitmos & Andy Worthington )

Doctors Accused of Complicity at Gitmo: here

UPDATED by Andy Worthington here

Just In April 27th:
Opinion What the Guantanamo leaks won't reveal - Crucial documents on the controversial prison were not released by WikiLeaks, as they are classified 'Top Secret'. GO here


Gitmo Docs Neglected & Concealed Medical Evidence of Torture, Study Finds ABC News - Find this article here

For more updated news on the GITMO DOCS apparent complicity with torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners (or denial - "I was only following orders" - GO to No More Gitmos dot org news here and look around that site to see how your town might get involved in preventing complicity so wide-spread across the USA.

Go to Bill of Rights Defence Committee for a video on Obama and 10 questions concerning warrantless wiretapping and more on GITMO abuses such as 4/25, Jeffrey Kaye, TruthOut, Guantanamo Detainee Files Hint at Psychological Research and 4/25, Ewen MacAskill, Guardian (UK), Guantánamo files: US agencies fought internal war over handling of detainees by CLICKING here

See the following from Andy Worthington ( who wrote the classic book on GITMO - "The Guantanamo Files" ) by CLICKING here where you can here audios, read nearly DAILY reports, read and add COMMENTS, see how to order Worthington's books and contribute to some of the most foundational updates, writing and media presentations available to all concerned about human rights.)

Andy Worthington Discusses the Significance of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files on Democracy Now! On Monday afternoon, after almost no sleep, because of the rush release on Sunday night of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo files, and after a busy morning of feedback and planning, a trip to central London for an interview on the BBC World Service’s Newshour, a quick cup of coffee and a muffin in the blazing sunlight just off the Strand, and a cycle ride to Albert Embankment, diagonally opposite the Houses of Parliament, I fulfilled the first of my early morning promises (after a call received at 7.30 am London time), talking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, in a studio in a building overooking the Thames, about the significance of the WikiLeaks documents.

The broadcast is below, and I’ll refrain from discussing it in detail here, not just because I covered some of the themes I wrote about in my introductory article, but also because I want you to watch it! Amy, as ever, was rigorous and unflappable, and I was delighted to have 14 minutes to discuss the story in depth...

FIND REST of this AUDIO of INTERVIEW with Amy Goodman by CLICKING here

WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies

Well, the cat is now out of the bag, and Guantánamo will, hopefully, be closer to closure — and the lies that powerful Americans tell about it will, hopefully, be closer to silence — as a result. For the last few weeks, I’ve been working as a media partner with WikiLeaks, along with the Washington Post...

Abu Zubaydah, American torture, Guantanamo, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Mohammed El-Gharani, Mohammed al-Qahtani, WikiLeaks, Yemenis in Guantanamo 33 Comments
The Roots of Revolution in Syria: The Sad Tale of Tal Al-Mallouhi, A Girl Imprisoned for Blogging

Since protestors first braved the wrath of Syria’s security services five weeks ago, first on a “Day of Rage,” and then to demand the release of political prisoners, I have tried to keep a close eye on the Syrian people’s attempts to emulate their neighbors in Tunisia and Egypt...

Extraordinary rendition and secret prisons, Revolution in the Middle East 22 Comments -- Former Guantánamo Prisoner Khaled Ben Mustapha Interviewed by Cageprisoners

I’m delighted to cross-post below an interview with Khaled Ben Mustapha, one of seven French citizens held at Guantánamo, who was released in March 2005, and who recently spoke to Arnaud Mafille, an intern for Cageprisoners. This is a fascinating interview for a number of reasons; primarily, because of Ben Mustapha’s reflections on his time [...]

American torture, Guantanamo, Life after Guantanamo 16 Comments
More Judicial Interference on Guantánamo

Last week, in my article, How the Supreme Court Gave Up on Guantánamo, I explained how, given the option of addressing complaints made by prisoners in Guantánamo regarding the basis of their ongoing detention, the Supreme Court chose not to, leaving the final decisions regarding the prisoners not in the hands of the District Court [...]

Guantanamo, Guantanamo and US District Courts/Appeals Courts, Guantanamo and US Supreme Court, Guantanamo and habeas corpus, Uyghurs in Guantanamo, Yemenis in Guantanamo -- US Intelligence Veteran Defends Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks

The story of Pfc Bradley Manning, the young US Army intelligence analyst allegedly responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, continues to act as a magnet for supporters worldwide, who are appalled by the accounts of his solitary confinement, and the humiliation to which he has recently been subjected, which has [...]

American torture, US enemy combatants, WikiLeaks -- Syria: On Independence Day, Calls for Freedom and Protests About the Torture of Activists and Journalists

Last month, as brave human rights activists in Damascus held protests calling for the release of political prisoners, picking up on the revolutionary movements sweeping the Middle East, and challenging the iron rule of the Ba’ath party and the emergency laws that have been in place since 1963, I picked up on the story, publishing ...

Revolution in the Middle -- Voices from Bagram: Prisoners Speak in Their Detainee Review Boards (Part Two of Three)

This is the sixth article in “Bagram Week” here at Andy Worthington (although I freely acknowedge that the original seven-day schedule has slipped), with seven articles in total exploring what is happening at the main US prison in Afghanistan through reports, analyses of review boards, and the voices of the prisoners themselves, and ongoing updates [...]

Afghanistan, American torture, Bagram, Bagram Week (April 2011) 10 Comments
The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg Criticizes Obama for Failure to Close Guantánamo, or to Call for Accountability for Torture

In case readers missed it, I’m cross-posting below (wth my own links) an article about Guantánamo — and accountability for torture — written by Hendrik Hertzberg, a senior editor at the New Yorker, and a man described, on Wikipedia, as the New Yorker’s “principal political commentator,” and by Forbes, in a survey of the 25 [...]

Yesterday, it was my great pleasure to speak for over a hour with my friend, the veteran progressive radio show host Peter B. Collins, for his latest podcast, available here, which also features the journalist Robert Parry talking about Luis Posada Carriles and his article covering the jury trial and acquittal of Posada, the former head [...]

FIND ALL the above urgent and essential items here and take a look at rest of this site for amazing breadth and depth of Andy's consistent journalism, reporting and courage. (Not to mention the easy to find links to various specific detainees and issues for easier than usual research helps.)

Finally, you may want to do a search at my other site - NO More Crusades - to find other references to the same manner of Rights Abuses in the "So-called War on Terror" where the West has continually used terror to seek address or is it revenge?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter as Shock and Awe

A Zaire Christ here There are so many tens of thousands of depictions of Christ in art, literature, theology. The question I hear as if from the Man of Sorrows and immense Love to me (from a young age until now) is simply: "Who am I to you?" The dark scene shows people of various faith-traditions during the beginning of an Easter sunrise service held at Jones Beach, Long Island, New York. (April 24, 2011) photo credit, Ed Betz.

Backing up to the crucifixion - from noon to 3 p.m.— the brightest part of the day- darkness falls “over the whole land” Do solar eclipses usually last three hours? The Greek words used in the phrase “darkness fell” imply a sudden event. Even the historian Tertullian - recording secular writers - speaks of a strange period of darkness and we can only imagine how far the sun’s light was blocked.

The man who was recorded as saying that he came to bring life - even to the thief on the cross - the one who gave his beloved friend, John, to his mother and she to him, cries out: "My God, why have you forsaken me?" We cannot imagine the dark suffering of this sense of abandonment. And then he adds, " Let this cup pass from me. Yet nevertheless not my will..." The rending of the temple’s veil shocks the priests.

There is nothing "feel good" to reassure anyone. Yet the women, who cannot shake the love they received from him, go the next morning anyway, before light, to look for him at the tomb. Are they silent or reminding one another?

“In the passionate dark of dawn, on the path between death and life, within view of the watchful stars and within earshot of the beautiful, obscure anthems, a voice told of the trials and joys promised to our alley.” — Naguib Mahfouz, The Harafish

The first Easter morning is accompanied by terrific geological shaking - the epicenter is such a bloody piece of land - Golgotha.

"What if, by some miracle, this present turned out to be a dream, a hideous nightmare, and we were to awake renewed and cleansed, strong, upright and proud? Why do we never try to stand again when once we've fallen? When we lose one thing why don't we search for another? I want our lives to be holy, sublime and solemn as the vault of heaven. Let us live! The thief on the cross had hope even though he had less than an hour left to him, and the sun only rises once a day, so take hold of what's left of your life and save it." —Anton Pavlovich Chekhov.

My soul wants to fly away when your presence calls it so sweetly.
My soul wants to take flight, when you whisper, "Arise."
A fish wants to dive from dry land into the ocean, when it hears the drum beating "Return." The Sufi, shimmering with light, wants to dance like a sunbeam when darkness summons him. - from The Mathnawi, transl. by Jonathan Star

Yet what when...“I lost my way, I forgot to call on your name. The raw heart beat against the world, and the tears were for my lost victory. But you are here. You have always been here. The world is all forgetting, and the heart is a rage of directions, but your name unifies the heart, and the world is lifted into its place. Blessed is the one who waits in the traveller’s heart for his turning.” -Leonard Cohen, Poem #50, Book of Mercy

I found this image on a British poet's site here

A poignant audio (with a Cambodian Christ figure) which relays the faith of various persons who've touched and/or face death with a sense of the divine presence (Includes a Pakistani Muslim man who's brother was killed in war violence) here

And here is what I heard next this am (which gave me a renewed yearning to find the Divine in a garden along with my usual forested walks. This interview also connected me anew to some of my family Netherlands to Russian roots and the great poetry in the midst of the Armenian holocaust "transplants") here
Julian is well-known through much sharing in Christ's sufferings to offer these comforting words: "All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Unsung Poetry from Unexpected People and Places


NOTE: not all of the poets and poems mentioned below (of course) are (were) "unsung" in other places and times.

Rushing Water By Farida Samerkhanova

Louder and louder it rumbles and roars
always and always searching for more
as deeper and deeper its awesome force
sears ridges and grooves each day anew
in the once smooth surface of earth.

Banks angle and veer sideways in fear
like a lover at odds with the power of love
and into the void falls undisciplined will
granted for free by the energy, life.

Louder and louder, faster and faster,
and I, hypnotized, look deeper and deep
and see how love in the face of turmoil
sinks and joins voice with life’s turbulence.

And I search from the base of flat level ground
for the truth of the way humans behave
but joined as I am to humanity,
I tumble and stumble, fall, plummet down.

Aided I rise from despair to new heights
preserved and intact from beginning to end
for no river can drown innate energy
or cause the demise of one born to free-fall
through life’s turbulence to the safety of “more”!

photo from collection mentioned below under Publishing winners bios

Farida Samerkhanova is a prolific Canadian poet and short story writer. She graduated from Bashkir State University , Russia . English is her third language. She raises her grandson in Toronto, plays chess and writes. More than forty English language literary magazines in USA , Canada , UK and Turkey published Farida’s work.

Find others great in wordplay and content who joined Farida here for this collection:

Publishing winners bios (poets' work and some of their own favorite poets here

Nissim Ezekiel at Old Ezekiel was born in Bombay in an Indian jewish family. ... He was a distinguished scholar. He did his schooling in the missionary schools and ... He became art critic of the Times of India (1964-66) and edited Poetry India (1966-67). While he's new to me, I'm smitten by this one:

Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher By Nissim Ezekiel

To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering -
In this the poet finds his moral proved
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.

The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor.
And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
But poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.

Nissim Ezekiel (I found this delightful image at Wikipedia)

The comment underneath this poem title is on the following site. Somehow, I was imagining the poem as applied to poets and didn't consider the points related to someone seeking to "win" a woman...yet found this analysis most interesting. As with many larger classical poems, this one can certainly be seen on several levels at once. To read the comment and see more from Nissim Ezekiel GO here

By the way, there are some wonderfully evocative, challenging and surprising lines among the poets who read and talk of poetry and life on Morning Edition for the beginning of many folk's Good Friday...take a look here

What poems here or anywhere do you like?

* the image of pen above was one I found at the poetry edition of today

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

UPDATE: Looks like these folk consider OUR GOD to be the same - GO here

NOTE: Because I've been much less than pleased to see how often the magazine "Christianity Today" has ducked major issues regarding war, torture and America's accountability to the rest of the world, I was surprised to see an interview recently with a major American theologian.

Here is one interviewer's question with an answer which is among his most powerful:

Q: The American Civil War, one of the bloodiest wars ever, was one in which people actually did believe in the same God and the same Scriptures. This did not encourage peacemaking. Yet you still think it's important to affirm that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Why?

A. That's true. Some of the worst violence in the world today between estranged religious and ethnic groups happens not on the battlefields. It happens smack in the middle of living rooms and between people who share a lot, who have a lot in common. So my argument is not that having common values will prevent all violence. My argument is that having common values will make it possible to negotiate differences. In the absence of those common values, we either have to live sequestered in our own spaces (which I think is impossible in the modern world) or resort to violence in order to settle disputes."

Of course the need to also understand other issues within and among major traditions which are not addressed in this interview yet as far as this one goes, it's a huge step toward peacemaking in my opinion. To read the entire interview GO here

You may also want to read the over 165 comments already posted here ( Note that since this is clearly a conservative Christian magazine, you may be a bit shocked at some of the answers and they don't necessarily represent all of Christendom, thank God. Yet some of these responses may relieve us all that there is an attempt at dialogue. Perhaps you will comment as well? )

Here is information on Volf's new book:

One and a half billion people—the majority of the world’s population—profess Christianity or Islam. Renowned scholar Miroslav Volf’s controversial proposal is that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God—the only God. As Volf reveals, warriors in the “clash of civilizations” have used “religions”—each with its own god and worn as a badge of identity—to divide and oppose, failing to recognize the one God whom Muslims and Christians understand in partly different ways.

Writing from a Christian perspective, and in dialogue with leading Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world, Volf reveals surprising points of intersection and overlap between these two faith traditions:

• What the Qur’an denies about God as the Holy Trinity has been denied by every great teacher of the church in the past and ought to be denied by Christians today.

• A person can be both a practicing Muslim and 100 percent Christian without denying core convictions of belief and practice.

• How two faiths, worshipping the same God, can work toward the common good under a single government.

Volf explains the hidden agendas behind today’s news stories as he thoughtfully considers the words of religious leaders and parses the crucial passages from the Bible and the Qur’an that continue to ignite passion. Allah offers a constructive way forward by reversing the “our God vs. their God” premise that destroys bridges between neighbors and nations, magnifies fears, and creates strife.

Author Bio: Miroslav Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and the founding director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. “One of the most celebrated theologians of our time,” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury), Volf is a leading expert on religion and conflict. His recent books include Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities, and Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation—winner of the 2002 Grawmeyer Award in Religion.

Recent disputes like the "ground zero" mosque controversy have their roots in historical conflicts, according to Yale professor and author Volf (Exclusion and Embrace). The author, who grew up in what was then Yugoslavia, explains that Christians' ability to live in community with Muslims depends on their answer to one question: is the God of the Qur'an the same as the God of the Bible? With a conversational tone and the backing of both sacred texts, the author argues that while beliefs about God may differ, the object of worship for both religions is the same (or at least the objects are "sufficiently similar"). Such "claims are spicy," but come after careful consideration. Volf provides a thorough examination of theology to show the complexity of what seems a simple question of terminology.

Perhaps the most stirring and involved debate concerns the comparison of the Christian Trinity to Allah. On such a heated topic, readers will appreciate Volf's sense of humor and optimism. Though the text may not convince those who fear religious pluralism, his timely call for Christian love toward Muslims should at least lead to further dialogue, if not increased social cooperation. This is an important book. (Mar.) The above comments - Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information for Publisher's Weekly.

You may also want to see more articles by Theologian Miroslav Volf such as this on the abuses of so-thought officials in misled approaches" - Beliefnet News here

Also see the article called "Body Counts" here

Monday, April 18, 2011

US (Young) Veteran Paul Chappell On the Need to End War

Interview in THE SUN Magazine April 2011

The title of this interview is also: "Fighting with a Different Purpose"

Paul Chappell was born in 1980 and raised in Alabama, the son of a Korean mother and a half-white, half–African American father who’d served in Korea and Vietnam. Though Chappell had seen how his father was troubled by his war experiences, he chose to pursue a military career himself, graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2002 and serving in Iraq as an army captain in 2006 and 2007. But even as he signed up for a tour of duty, Chappell was starting to doubt that war was ever going to bring peace in the Middle East, or anywhere else.

A year later, while still an active-duty officer, he published his first book, Will War Ever End? A Soldier’s Vision of Peace for the 21st Century. “I am twenty-eight years old,” he writes, “and I have been obsessed with the problem of war for most of my life.” He went on to write The End of War: How Waging Peace Can Save Humanity, Our Planet, and Our Future. Both books are written in a direct, accessible style that avoids blaming the Left or the Right, and his arguments for peace have appealed to people of all political persuasions.

Chappell now works at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and travels the country talking about the necessity of ending war and “waging peace.” He has a website ( and is involved with the American Unity Project (, which features a free online series of documentaries about waging peace. He also trains peace activists — a pursuit he believes should be undertaken with at least as much forethought and strategy as training soldiers for war. He emphasizes that activists must learn to be persuasive, to control their emotions, and to empathize with their opponents. Finally they must take their calling seriously — as seriously as soldiers going into battle. In The End of War, Chappell quotes civil-rights activist Bernard Lafayette: “Nonviolence means fighting back, but you are fighting back with another purpose and other weapons. Number one, your fight is to win that person over.”

Chappell teaches through example. I met him at a weekly peace vigil on a downtown Santa Barbara, California, street corner, where he demonstrated how to engage even strident opponents with empathy and respect. I had lost patience with one such person after ten minutes of unproductive dialogue. Then Chappell showed up. He respectfully engaged my critic for a full forty-five minutes. Their conversation ended with the man thanking Chappell for listening to him and accepting a copy of The End of War. A few weeks later Chappell ran into the man and learned that he had read the book and had changed his mind about war as a means of ending terrorism.

Goodman: Your father was traumatized by his experiences in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Given that knowledge, why did you pursue a career in the military?

Chappell: Growing up, I was taught that you must wage war to end war. Comic books, action movies, video games, politicians — all said that if you wanted to make the world safe, you needed to use violence to defeat the bad guys. War was presented to me as the price you had to pay for peace, and I thought that peace was a goal worth fighting for.

My father didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences, but I do remember him telling me about the suffering children he saw during the Korean War. The message I got was that if soldiers had to be traumatized to save children in Korea, or to save the Jews in Europe, or to protect innocents elsewhere, that’s a sacrifice they were prepared to make. I saw soldiers as people who are willing to give their lives in order to protect others.

I think a lot of people join the military believing they’re going to make the world safer. In the abstract the idea makes sense, because if you had a murderer in your home, of course you’d want an armed police officer there to protect you. But war is a completely different matter. It creates massive casualties — mostly civilian. It wasn’t until I got to West Point that I learned war isn’t the best way to make the world safe.

Goodman: This is something they taught you at West Point?

Chappell: Yes, West Point teaches that war is so dangerous, it should be used only as a last resort. I learned that the United States needs to rely more on diplomacy; that politicians don’t understand war and are too quick to use it as a means of conflict resolution. West Point also teaches that if you want to understand war, you have to understand its limitations and unpredictability. World War i and World War ii both started out as limited conflicts and grew into global blood baths. War is like a natural disaster. You can’t control it.

Propaganda has made the word war synonymous with security, but in fact peace is synonymous with security. In the twenty-first century war actually makes us less secure. The United States has military bases in about 150 countries; we spend more on war than the rest of the world combined; we have the most powerful military in human history; and we’re some of the most terrified people on the planet. War and military occupation haven’t made us more secure. They’ve made us more hated in many parts of the world.

Goodman: Some say we’re hated because we’re free.

Chappell: If that’s the case, then how come the terrorists aren’t attacking the many other free countries around the world that don’t have soldiers deployed in the Middle East? How come they’re focusing so much on us and, to some extent, our nato allies? Look who Osama bin Laden was fighting before he fought us: the Soviets. They weren’t free. Moreover, when bin Laden was our ally, he apparently didn’t care that we were free.

Another factor to consider is that wars are now fought on cnn, Fox News, Al Jazeera, and the Internet as much as they’re fought on the battlefield. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently that the future of war is about perception, and that how we are perceived in the Middle East is vital to American security. It’s just common sense that the more we are in the news for invading Muslim countries, the less safe we are, because terrorism is not a government we can overthrow or a country we can occupy. Terrorism is an idea, a way of thinking. A terrorist can plan an attack from New York or San Francisco or Miami. Terrorism is a transnational criminal organization, and you cannot defeat it by invading a country. In fact, when you invade countries, you make the problem worse, because you kill civilians and create more resentment, more hatred, more enemies. I am increasingly of the mind that there are always preferable alternatives to war. Even if war could be justified, it’s just not effective.

Goodman: Why do politicians miss this point?

Chappell: When you have the strongest military in history, you want to use it. That’s our country’s strength, and people tend to rely on their strengths. Diplomacy puts us on more of an equal footing with other countries, and we don’t want to give up our advantage. Another reason is that there’s so much money to be made from war. In wartime the few make huge profits at the expense of the many. Major General Smedley Butler, a veteran of World War i, said, “War is a racket. It always has been. . . . It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.”

Goodman: But don’t we all benefit from our military securing the world’s resources?

Chappell: I’m not sure that the Iraq War is just about oil, but I think most people will agree that if there were not a single drop of oil in the Middle East, we would not be over there. It’s a strategic economic interest, but only a very small group of people benefit from it.

It’s not about Americans having access to oil. The primary reason we want to control the oil tap in Iraq is because we know that China, Russia, India, and other emerging industrialized nations need oil, and we want to be the ones who sell it to them. The problem is how much these wars cost. Consider what President Eisenhower said about all the other things we could invest in — schools, hospitals, highways, houses, food — if we weren’t spending so much money on the war machine, and you realize that the majority of the population is hurt by war. General Douglas MacArthur said that if humanity abolished war, the money could be used to wipe poverty from the face of the earth and produce a wave of economic prosperity around the world.

It’s not just the ones who go into battle who are harmed. We’re all hurt by mounting national debt and lack of funding for social programs and infrastructure, while most of the people who benefit from military buildups are already rich. You and I are not getting rich off the war in Iraq.

Goodman: You’ve said that the military is a “socialist” organization. How so?

Chappell: The military gives you three meals a day, pays for your healthcare and your college, and even pays for your housing. On an army field exercise, the highest-ranking soldiers eat last, and the lowest-ranking soldiers eat first. Leaders are supposed to sacrifice for their subordinates. In civilian society we’re told that the only thing that makes people work hard is the profit motive. The army’s philosophy is that you can get people to work hard based on the ideals of selflessness, sacrifice, and service. It demonstrates that people will even sacrifice their lives for the sake of others. The military also has a motto: “Never leave a fallen comrade.”

If I said to most Americans that we should have a society that gives everyone three meals a day, shelter, healthcare, and a college education, and that it should be based on selflessness, sacrifice, and service rather than greed, they’d say, “That’s socialism.” But that’s the U.S. military. A lot of conservative Republicans who think socialism is the ultimate evil admire the military.

Goodman: What do they say when you point out to them that the military is socialist?

Chappell: I don’t usually use the word socialist with them. When I try to persuade people that America should have universal healthcare, I say, “You know, in the military we have universal healthcare, and the military believes that you should never leave a fallen comrade behind. You take care of everyone.” They usually agree that this makes sense.

Goodman: When did this idea first occur to you?

Chappell: When I was at West Point. I don’t think I really knew what socialism was at that point, but I knew that West Point was different from how I’d grown up. You have a sense in America that you’re all alone. It’s survival of the fittest. But at West Point they have a saying: “Cooperate and graduate.” Your classmates will tutor you in chemistry, physics, calculus — whatever you need. If anyone fails a class because of not understanding the material, his or her fellow students are partly responsible, because they didn’t aid a classmate who needed help. Every professor has to give you his or her home phone number and allot two hours a day to additional instruction for any students who need it. So you feel as if people care about you. There’s a sense of camaraderie and solidarity. Your classmates aren’t trying to get a better grade than everyone else; they’ll actually help you excel and graduate.

I am not saying that the military is a utopia — far from it. The military as an institution has a lot of things wrong with it, but it also has some admirable characteristics.

Goodman: After you graduated from West Point, were you initially happy to be sent to Iraq? When did you really start to change your mind about the war?

Chappell: A lot of my friends at West Point were reading Noam Chomsky’s and Howard Zinn’s critiques of American foreign policy, and that’s what started to change my mind. In 2006, while I was stationed in Iraq, West Point invited Chomsky to give a lecture about whether the war in Iraq was a “just war.” I’d never believed that the war in Iraq was just. It violated international law, the United Nations Charter, and the Nuremberg Principles. It also violated the U.S. Constitution, which says that treaties are the supreme law of the land. I did see the war in Afghanistan as a necessary evil — at least, initially. As I studied Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., however, I learned that waging peace is similar to preventive medicine: a more effective healing method than the drastic step of war.

Goodman: It’s surprising to me that West Point has students critically analyze current military conflicts. How can soldiers risk their lives or kill people if they think the conflict they’re engaged in is wrong?

Chappell: Soldiers are always supposed to be thinking. That’s what West Point teaches its cadets, who are officers in training. You’re supposed to question the orders you’re given, to see whether they conform to the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war. Nevertheless it can be difficult to go against your fellow soldiers. Take the example of Hugh Thompson Jr., the U.S. helicopter pilot who tried to rescue Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai Massacre, in which hundreds of unarmed women, children, and elderly men were killed by U.S. soldiers. He told his machine-gunner to open fire on the Americans if they shot at the people he was trying to save. He was given the Soldier’s Medal and brought to West Point to lecture, as a way of saying, “Do the right thing.” But that was about thirty years after the fact. For the first twenty years or so he was an outcast. He received death threats from people in the military. So really the message was “Do the right thing, and in twenty or thirty years people might appreciate it.”

Goodman: You actually volunteered to deploy in Iraq in 2006.

Chappell: Yes, the mission I volunteered for was to install a new system called “Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar.” A mortar is a projectile bomb launched from an upright tube. The radar system would detect incoming rockets or mortars, and machine guns would shoot the explosives down in midflight. So it was a defensive role. If I did my job properly, fewer people would be killed.

The way I rationalized my choice was that Gandhi had volunteered as a medic in the Boer War and the Zulu War. He didn’t believe in violence, but if these wars were going to happen, he thought he should do what he could to minimize the loss of life. I don’t know if I made the right decision, but that was the way I thought about it at the time.

Goodman: Were you ever in a situation where you felt that your values were compromised?

Chappell: No, the biggest dangers I faced were mortar attacks, ieds [improvised explosive devices] while we were traveling from base to base, and sniper fire while we were installing the radar on the perimeter of the bases. I worked closely with a small team of soldiers, and unfortunately one of them was killed by a sniper not long after I left Iraq.

I have a good friend who changed his job in the army from being a shooter to explosive-ordnance disposal — disarming bombs, like the soldiers in the movie The Hurt Locker. He wanted a role that was more defensive; he didn’t want to kill anybody. You might ask why he didn’t leave the military if he was opposed to fighting, but in his position is he any more culpable than the rest of us who are paying taxes that support the war? Not many Americans are willing to risk going to prison to voice their opposition.

Goodman: You said you originally thought the war in Afghanistan was justified.

Chappell: At the time I thought some wars might be necessary, and I thought that the Taliban were training terrorists. I didn’t understand the nature of terrorism then as well as I do now. Terrorism is an ideology, a way of thinking. To fight it, we need to change U.S. foreign policy. Eisenhower, the first president to identify Middle Eastern unrest as a threat to the United States, said that the reason people in the Middle East hate us is that we suppress freedom there. We support dictatorships. We prevent democratic progress, which is the opposite of what we say we’re doing. We have to practice what we preach, which means we can’t talk about human rights and also support dictators.

The seed of terrorism grows in the soil of hopelessness, depression, and fear; of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Killing civilians and occupying countries only exacerbate terrorism. Even the middle-class or affluent terrorists feel oppressed and estranged from their native culture. We need to fight terrorism the way we go after the Mafia: break up their networks, attack their funding, arrest the leaders, put them on trial, and send them to prison.

Imagine if America’s reputation around the world were strictly for providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief; if, whenever there was a disaster, the Americans came, helped, and left...


Find another interesting article on Chappell, his work, thoughts, book
here and on the following blog herehtml who says: "This month's interview is with Paul K Chappell, an Iraq veteran who is now a peace activist. He gives some very thoughtful responses to many of the difficult questions that face pacifists, and also provides an interesting window into the training of officers in the army. I was surprised, for example, to discover the extent to which West Point encourages its students to face opposing viewpoints: apparently they invited Noam Chomsky to give a speech on the legality of the Iraq War, and many of Chappell's friends were already reading Chomsky, along with people like Howard Zinn, to decide what they thought of the war they would soon be joining."

The interviewer for The Sun, LESLEE GOODMAN, is a freelance writer, an artist, and a consultant to nonprofits. She divides her time between Washington State’s Methow Valley and Santa Barbara, California. as found in SUN magazine April 2011

Also by this author:
Quiet, Please
Between Two Worlds
The Decline And Fall Of The Suburban Empire
A Mindful Marriage

UPDATED: USA: Inquiry on Torture and Rights News

UPDATED on April 22, 2011

Call for North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture and many resources on extraordinary renditions and related - GO here

For updates on US DRONES now used in Libya and related items, see Body Count...


When President Obama and Eric Holder succumbed to fierce bipartisan resistance to trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other charged defendants -- for the 9/11 massacre of Americans -- in our civilian federal court system, they were defied by Michael Daly, a stubbornly independent columnist for the New York Daily News:

"The only right way" to bring them to justice, he wrote, "was with the very system they sought to destroy and so many courageous Americans have died defending. Instead, we ... lost faith in our own courts and laws" (April 5). As Amnesty International reminds us, "Real justice comes from real courts."

On the same day, a lead editorial in the newspaper that employs Michael Daly insisted: "Trying KSM in civilian courts could have been a disaster, given their strict rules of evidence." Evidence extracted by torture is indeed not accepted in our constitutional civilian courts.

Inadvertently, Michael Daly's employers sustain his insistency that this should still be America, even when trying KSM.

The president explained his turnaround by emphasizing that Congress had passed a defense appropriations bill forbidding the use of federal funds to transfer any prisoners from Guantanamo to the United States, including to a civilian court.

Obama, murmuring that this congressional action was unconstitutional, nonetheless signed the bill. That reminded me of then-Sen. Obama's solemn pledge that he would filibuster a Bush-administration measure extending and deepening government electronic surveillance of our personal communications.

Once in the White House, however, Obama, along with his attorney general, have stoutly supported that very law.

In any case, KSM and the others will now be before a judge and jury of military officers in a Guantanamo military tribunal. What I did not know until New York Post reporter Geoff Earle disclosed a rule "buried in a 2010 (Guantanamo military commission) procedural manual" that gives Obama ultimate authority over these very high-level defendants: If they're convicted, "A punishment of death may be ordered executed only by the President" (New York Post, April 6).

All too obviously, since 9/11, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have scorned the Constitution's mandatory separation of powers. But where in the Constitution of the United States did the founders make our president the chief executioner of a defendant tried in a court far from our shores and -- as Michael Daly and a good many other constitutionalists insist -- far from our laws?

After all, why did President George W. Bush choose Guantanamo for suspected terrorists ("enemy combatants," he called them) to be imprisoned and tried? Whose rule of law was he avoiding?

How far away can our rule of law be stretched? In what America is becoming, should that depend on whom you elect as president? In this battle over where KSM must be tried, present leaders of both political parties -- as did George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney -- chose Guantanamo.

Getting back to KSM's personal future, he has indicated he might -- desiring to be a martyr -- plead guilty. What then?

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as Geoff Earl reports, have an answer. They "have proposed legislation to clarify that defendants like Mohammed could still be executed if they choose to plead guilty and avoid trial."

Yet, the very day after 9/11, President Bush pledged: "We will not allow the enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms."

Or by changing our Constitution?

I expect that Osama bin Laden may be watching some of this. Although he gloried in 9/11, he has not succeeded in making us part of his caliphate. But he has, by that atrocity, led some of us to submerge our constitutional roots as Americans.

President Obama has changed the description of what George W. Bush condemned as "enemy combatants" or "unlawful enemy combatants." Under Obama, they are now "unprivileged enemy belligerents." Huh?

In view of the military commission's lower standards of admissible testimony and other proof of guilt, the Guantanamo prisoners are still not privileged to have the standard American protections of due process -- the core of our system of justice -- where not only KSM and his four colleagues are headed but who knows what other suspected terrorists will be sent to Guantanamo that Obama promised to close.

Using the Bush way of dragnetting such prisoners, in a letter written in the April 6 Wall Street Journal, Keith Allred, demanded: "There is no good reason why unlawful combatants should not be tried" by military courts.

Responding, Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute, where I am a senior fellow, asked (April 11): "Come again? I had thought the purpose of the trial was to determine whether the defendant (actually) was an unlawful combatant, but Mr. Allred seems to have presumed guilt before any defense has been presented." He is joined in this presumption of guilt by many members of Congress and commentators in all media.

Isn't that also how much of the world regards the American system of justice there? As an inmate held at Guantanamo for years finally concluded, "There's no law here." Do you doubt that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams would agree with him that our law is not there?

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

Copyright 2011, Nat Hentoff

Distributed by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.


SEE Center for Constitutional Rights here for the following:

Arguments ...Test Case of Government’s Obligation to Produce Embedded Electronic Data under Freedom of Information Act - April 20, 2011, New York – In an important test of open government, a federal court hearing is scheduled tomorrow in the Southern District of New York at which the Obama administration will seek to… Read more

CCR Responds to Supreme Court Denial of Review in Guantánamo Habeas Case

And much more (CCR is still holding war criminals to accountability)
Are US Soldiers Using Rape, Murder, And Bombing Of Children As War Strategy? By Mary Lynn Cramer. 30 March, 2011. here
I think the facts may be somewhere between this reporter's views and Democrcay Now's yet this is certainly a time when we need to be watching views from many places and carefully weighing the corroborated reports. Yet speaking of War and Rape don't they often go together everywhere and in many places. So why do we see war as the only solution decade after decade? And speaking of US rape, a nurse I know who was in Iraq not long ago says there's no doubt US military guys rape US military women frequently - even one out of every three or four women. And a recent report on US high-schoolers says one out of every five girls are raped or sexually intimidated.
This is an epidemic and we need to find solutions, preventions and appropriately teach our young.
See for March 6, 2011
Conyers calls for inquiry of treatment of Muslim Americans
By Jordy Yager - here

Saturday, April 16, 2011


“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment”



Since sometimes one definition of "bewilderment" may be ONLY confusion as in one of the first dictionary definitions, I want to add the following:

Since too often westerners (or anyone who believes they are expert or better than the other) may have experiences which lead to confusion...I am imaging Rumi trying to help us out by describing a kind of "bewilderment" which ultimately leads to more expansive understanding. Some other interpretations for this term are as follows:

General Synonyms include: bafflement, confusion, daze, discombobulation, disorientation, perplexity, surprise
Under Entry: amazement
Definition: state of surprise
Synonyms: admiration, astonishment, awe, confoundment, confusion, marvel, one for the books, perplexity, shock, something else, stopper, stunner, stupefaction, wonder, wonderment...

See the beautiful, thoughtful questions in the comments below and my lesser response as well...add your own. Thanx for coming by...

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and books that are written in a foreign tongue.

Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”



“The reality of the other person is not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather to what he does not say.”

-Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam


Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar, but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, except to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.

-Mary Oliver


What I know for sure is less and less...

The odd connection between perfection
and foolishness, like the pelican
diving for his fish.

...How...we glimpse
our holiness.

What I know is less and less.
What I want is more and more:

you against me—
your ferocious tenderness—

love like a star,
once small and far,
now huge, now near.

-Lee Robinson

* photo from Parabala

Friday, April 15, 2011

Couch-Surfing in Cairo ( An Arabic-speaking American filmaker goes abroad)

I found the following excerpts in a woman's magazine as I walked to the bank today.

The article gave me a glimpse into what amazing creativity in bridge-building can come from a person who grew up the daughter of a US Green Beret and was herself in the US military. Yet kept expanding her awareness of language and the world. A touching story. Many readers here may want to follow Jennifer MacDonald's adventures and desire to really hear (and let us listen to) how others see America. Interesting to see the progression over the years of this beautiful, capable and talented woman "who thinks the Middle East is NOT about camels and magic carpet rides."

"Misconceptions about Arabs abound, she says, particularly among Americans, who don't seek out varied media and are generally poor at geography." (blogger, Connie, adds - language too!)"Ask an American to point to Yemen on a map," MacDonald continues, "and nine out of ten can't do it."

Because she's traveled there (Yemen) and tunes into outlets like the Qatar RV network Al Jazeera, she's taken a broader view for years. "I don't see it as holy cr'p, the world is being taken over by Islamic extremists," she says, "I see it as a time of growth and change..."

...MacDonald ws co-writer and producer, with her former husband Chusy Haney-Jardine, of the movie "Anywhere, USA"...a quirky tale that, in part, addresses how Arabs were treated in America after 9/11 - released in 2008 and won jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival...

Since last January, MacDonald has been teaching Arabic to high school students around here goal is nothing short of a global teaching project- showing Americans, through a website and eventual film, that the Middle East is not quite what they thought...

See the rest of the article Found in VERVEMAG.COM at this URL here This project refers the reader to this website where readers can follow the filmaker's travels, conversations and discoveries before the film is finished - GO here

Pakistani couple who's partnership began at sea

Zaheer Kidvai from Karachi, whose married partnership began at sea in the merchant navy, and continued at home as human rights campaigners, despite the risks involved.
GO here

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pakistani cousins sing music of peace and beauty

Haniya Aslam (left) and Zeb Bangash have won critical acclaim in Pakistan and elsewhere

EXCERPT: (Zeb)rejects the perception of a Pakistan mired in backwardness and conflict. (She)says it's a misperception that many Americans hold. And she says that makes it difficult to engage with Americans.

HEAR THE MUSIC -- to hear some of this beautiful rare sound: here - evidently they will have a debut album and perhaps some videos available soon.

...We sat down with two flourishing female musicians from Lahore for their insights into making music in the time of extremism.

Singer Zeb Bangash and guitarist Haniya Aslam have chosen to write songs that are the antithesis of turmoil: Now working on their second album, the 32-year-old cousins have written a piece simply titled, "The Happy Song."

"Despite everything, there are beautiful things happening in this country," Zeb says, "there are moments of happiness, there's happiness all around, so we thought it might actually be nice to bring that together into a song."

The two women have won critical acclaim in a country where female musicians face challenges simply because they're women.

Their origins have also helped distinguish them. They are Pashtuns from the heart of the Northwest Frontier Province renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where tradition and custom have kept women largely out of the public eye. Pursuing a career in entertainment goes against the grain of the conservative Pashtu culture.

...The space for artistic expression is narrowing. Zeb says the obligation for artists like her is to keep "reclaiming" the space. Haniya says their work reflects the growing instability around them, but in an unexpected way.

"The more violence that starts taking place outside, the more sort of serene and calm our music begins to get. I think because it's a way of creating an alternate universe, right? You create work that would reflect the world that you want to be in rather than the one you are in," she says.

The two were educated in the United States — Zeb attended Mount Holyoke and Haniya went to Smith College in Massachusetts. They are of a generation of Pakistanis that is comfortable connecting with many worlds.

Haniya Aslam writes original songs and performs ones she and Zeb learned as children when musicians from across the region would gather at their grandmother's home in Peshawar. Despite the turmoil in Pakistan, Haniya is optimistic about the future, saying, "I have to be. Absolutely, I am."

Their musical roots lie in a city where cultures have collided and merged over a millennium — Peshawar, a portal to Central Asia. Zeb says the intricacy of their culture gets lost in today's projection of Pakistan as "the most dangerous place in the world."

She rejects the perception of a Pakistan mired in backwardness and conflict. Zeb says it's a misperception that many Americans hold. And she says that makes it difficult to engage with Americans.

"Because they have their own idea, and then I think what's also happening is that the religion has come under attack," Zeb says. "And that is not something that we are completely comfortable with because no matter now progressive we might be, we have roots which are Islamic and we believe in those, at least a large part of us do."

Haniya chimes in that "you don't have the good Pakistanis and the bad evil Pakistanis divided in half, and one wears black and one wears white. It's just not that simple."

Haniya says she is optimistic about what lies ahead for Pakistan. "I have to be. It's something I've worked at for about three years now," she says with a laugh. "It will absolutely get better."

They live comfortably in a leafy neighborhood of Lahore with Zeb's mother and father, a retired general. But the two musicians have gained a following with their fluid ability to incorporate traditional songs from Afghanistan and beyond with their own modern composition.

They continue to make discoveries about their own work. The hit "Paimana Bitte," or "Bring the Chalice (and Let Me Be Intoxicated)," was not the folk song they thought it was when they sang it as children in their grandmother's parlor. The daughter of the composer for the Afghan King Zahir Shah heard them perform the song and told them it was one her father had written for the Court 40 years ago.

Despite all of the turmoil in their country, Zeb and Haniya have no interest in living anywhere but Pakistan, exploring their vast musical heritage and interpreting it for a new turbulent time.
Academy has slashed the number of Grammys that will be handed out.


Rebecca wrote:
Strictly from an artistic standpoint, I found myself intensely drawn to Haniya's and Zeb's alluring and calm musical brew. The vocal and instrumental strains just draws out a strong visceral response. I find myself naturally attracted to South Asian music-the rhythms, vocal and instrumentation is just naturally beautiful and unaffected. These women are making a powerful statement about freedom of expression and the power of the feminine through their music. It serves as a voice for their Pakistani sisters.

Jean wrote:
The voice is hauntingly sweet; the music jars the ears for its unusual repetition schemes while never losing its melodic trance quality. I love World Music, and these ground-breaking women in their city at the crossroads of the world are making quality music for us all. What is the name of the first album? And when does the second one come out?

Barbara wrote:
No more war. If we're going to invest anything in the Middle East, it ought to be to foster the safety and well-being of women like these. Just ask Pete Seeger. There's power in song. Great power.

I pray for their safety. And wish them a long musical live.

James Karns wrote:
"You create work that would reflect the world that you want to be in rather than the one you are in," Wise words from two very brave women.

Concerning the line "The space for artistic expression is narrowing. Zeb says the obligation for artists like her is to keep "reclaiming" the space.": I have such deep admiration for artists in countries like this.

Here in the US, it's easy to drift into and out of the role of 'artist, either for financial or superficial or dilettantish reasons. But to maintain this role in a country where being an artist could make you a political target--or a magnet for religious extremism, either of which could lead to death--then suddenly the role of 'artist' takes on a level of nobility that is hard to approximate here in the West. I have nothing but respect for these women. I'm sure they would say, "we're just doing what we feel we must," which would only make me respect them more.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I honestly am a bit worried to make such long posts from time to time. And here I'm adding more inches but a MUST from the Comments:

“God thinks within geniuses, dreams within poets, and sleeps within the rest of us”

I read this beautiful line and loved it instantly than felt dejected that I was neither a genius nor a poet so like ordinary people God just sleeps within me, but then that dejection was for just a while as the sleeping God within me knocked within seconds to tell me that when God sleep within us He also dreams within us and our visions are what God envisions.

(See comments below the post)


Yesterday after a rough and windy storm, I swept the hundreds of large and tiny twigs on our long home & medical office parking lot yesterday, I meditated for the entire time of about one hour and a half.

My 'given' mantra was "inside-indivisible-infinite" - which may have come out of a long series of days when the nuggest of essential truth within various beloved poets (including poetic friends) fit together like puzzle pieces and I felt a deep peace beyond all understanding. No space for writing my own piece or poem on this yet. However, I wanted to post this beginning here for resonant souls...


When you do things for your soul, you feel a river moving in you...You personify God's message. You reflect the King's face.

Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You here

God thinks within geniuses, dreams within poets, and sleeps within the rest of us (Peter Antenberg)


Galileo made the famous statement: "Mathematics is the language with which God created the universe."

The notion that all … fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion.
(David Bohm 1980)

Reality cannot be found except in One single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another.
(Leibniz 1670)

"Yes talking by wireless over long distances is indeed mighty. It is an enlargement of the soul of man. But man has always talked by wireless - a different wireless which transferred all the real messages from one part of the Earth to another. And the subconsciousness of man always acted according to these messages. A world-deed that happended in India became known to the soul of the Egyptians. And what the soul knows is often unknown to the man who has a soul. We are infinitely more than we think...Your thoughts and my words are waves from a sealed memory that keeps records of your yesterdays. And of the ancient days when the earth knew not us nor herself"

We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.
(Albert Einstein)

I hear and behold God in every object … Why should I wish to see God better than this day? I see something of God each hour of the twenty four, and each moment then, In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass. I find letters from God dropped in the street - and every one is signed by God's name, And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come forever and ever.
(Walt Whitman 1860)

For in him we live, and move, and have our being

Can there be a nearer God than this? He is as near to His creatures as the ear to the mouth...Do not say "This is a stone and not God." God forbid! Rather, all existence is God, and the stone is a thing pervaded by divinity.
(Judaism, Talmud, Kabbalah)

"Individual" which means the Undividable, Not separate.
So individual means not separate. Taken literally there would be only one individual - thus - Oneness.

In the realization of unity - which those often aware of the Holy Spirit experience -lies the exquisite consciousness of another than themselves--ie--“I have often said God is creating this entire world full and entire in this present now... There where time never penetrates, where no image shines in, in the innermost and highest aspect of the soul God creates the entire cosmos.” (Meister Eckhart)

In "Mahomet" Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe wrote the famous song of praise "Mahomets Gesang". The meaning of the prophet is put into the metaphor of the stream, starting from the smallest beginning and growing to be an immense spiritual power, expanding, unfolding, and gloriously ending in the ocean, the symbol for divinity. He especially describes the religious genius in carrying the other people with him like the stream does with small brooks and rivers.


If through infinity the same thing flows, eternally repeating, if an arch, though manifold, can mightily hold itself together, If all things pour out lust for life, the smallest and the biggest stars, Yet all this striving, all this struggle Is eternal peace in God the Lord

The existence of all created things is His existence.
Thou dost not see, in this world or the next, anything beside God
(Islam: Ibn Al Arab-Sufii)

Thanx for tuning in - perhaps if you add your own comments - eventually we together can write a poem about this topic for our everlasting present?

My ending paraphrase of several poet-seers: We must ride the river and plow the earth of ourselves as part of the indivisible and as One with the All in All...

This post is dedicated to THREE SOUL-MATES whom I think will know who they are.


Hail the force sublime
uniting we who live in signs.
The clock's steps only mime
the ticking of a truer time.

Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well."

He hath abolished the old drought
And rivers run where all was dry,
The field is sopp'd with merciful dew
He hath put a new song in my mouth...

Thy sport is with storm
To wrestle; and thy piety to stand
Musing on things create
And the Creator's hand.
(by poet-minister Gerard Manley Hopkins)