Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Guantanamo Book Club

As the school year begins, with curricula and syllabi filling the fall air with Latin plurals, I’m led to think of some of the best resources on Guantánamo. Many of our offices have been appointed to represent detainees in a relatively novel type of litigation, and many of the issues in these cases parallel our representation in other habeas and direct representation. Here are my top ten on what has become a human rights disaster for this country.

1. Joseph Margulies, Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power: This is the best resource for anyone interested in the representation of Guantánamo detainees. In addition to providing the story of the litigation to date, Professor Margulies provides a wonderful history of this country’s attitude towards torture and indefinite detentions during wartime. The historical perspective is critical to understanding why the constitutional and statutory rights we are defending are essential both to our country’s heritage and the safety of our armed forces. A must read and easy reference for friends and relatives interested in why the rights of Guantánamo detainees matter.

2. The 9/11 Commission Report – Final Report of the National Commission on the Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: One of the best ever examples of writing by committee. The Commission Report provides valuable context for the post-attack human rights violations. The need to assure that constitutional rights are fully protected during a time of national crisis does not diminish the need to fully appreciate the scope of the crisis. The Commission Report does a great job of telling a frequently told story in a fresh way. It also has the advantage of being available in searchable form at this link, so litigants can easily reference people, places, and events.

3. Craig Green, Wiley Rutledge, Executive Detention, and Judicial Conscience at War: This is a fascinating pre-Hamdan law review article, available at this link. Professor Green does a great job of tying the World War II era detention cases to the present by means of the rather obscure Justice Rutledge, who sat between 1943 and 1949. One terrific insight is the relationship between Justice Rutledge’s dissent in Ahearns and discomfort with Korematsu and the authorship by his then-law clerk, now Justice, John Paul Stevens, of Rasul. And of course the most fun is seeing how, once again in Hamdan, Justice Stevens has remained true to the judicial conscience of his mentor.

4. Ahmed Rashid, The Taliban: This is a pre-9/11 history of Afghanistan and the Taliban by a Pakistani journalist. Mr. Rashid provides great insights into the Communist and warlord era Afghanistan and the Taliban’s rise to power. He also provides an interesting geopolitical context by tying 19th century imperialism to late 20th century interests in gas lines and other natural resources.

5. Kathy Gannon, I is for Infidel: Kathy Gannon is an APA reporter who, for the last couple of years before the fall of the Taliban, was one of the few Western journalists who had access to the country. She provides an important and relatively sympathetic view of the Taliban’s initial rise to power as a sensible reaction to the predations of the warlords. She debunks claims regarding Mullah Omar’s supposed long-term connection with Osama bin Laden, and expresses outrage at our quick accommodation with warlords who had brutalized their people prior to the Taliban coming to power. She also provides a useful perspective on Pakistan, from which I could not help but draw analogies to post-World War I Germany, especially in light of the next article.

6. Roland Muller, Honor And Shame In A Middle Eastern Setting: This is a sociological article, available at this link, based on the premise that a fundamental cultural gap exists for Westerners who do not appreciate the nature of honor-based societies. The article is useful on the microlevel in terms of relating to individual clients, while on a macrolevel helps to explain the seemingly self-defeating steps the West too frequently takes in this area of the world.

7. Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: This is an exhaustive account of the involvement of the CIA in Afghanistan and South Asia during the run up to 9/11. The book helps provide perspective on the long term involvement of secret United States operations and multi-national corporations in the area. The detailed account of Afghanistan’s recent history also helps to provide context for detainee cases.

8. Karen Armstrong, Understanding Islam: This is a highly-readable introduction to Islam and its history. There are more demanding sources, and of course familiarity with the Koran is likely to be useful in interacting with some detainees. But this work provides a great place to start if a running start is lacking.

9. James Yee, For God And Country: This is the story of Chaplain Yee, the Muslim chaplain for Guantánamo detainees who became himself the target of government detention and investigation. The opening chapter provides an excellent description of what it is like the first time visiting the base. The account provides a glimpse into the experience of detainees during the early years of the prison and a long, hard stare at how innocent conduct can be turned into a security nightmare.

10. Chris Mackey & Greg Miller, The Interrogators: Although centered in the interrogation centers in Kandahar and Baghram, the authors provide insight into the experiences of detainees before their arrival and the psychology of the military interrogators. The fourteen techniques approved in the traditional interrogation manual, as well as field adaptations, are described, although softened for public consumption. The overall effect of the book makes very credible the statements of detainees regarding their treatment prior to arrival in Cuba.

Well, here’s my top ten. There are many other worthy articles and books that help in trying to make sense of Guantánamo and our litigation. My next read is Enemy Combatant, by freed detainee Moazzam Begg. Feel free to post anything you think should have made the top ten list in the comments section.

Steve Sady, Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender, Portland, Oregon


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that Craig Green has completed a revised version of his article, post-Hamdan. This version will be the one to appear in print.

Thursday, August 31, 2006 1:37:00 PM  

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