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NatSec Lit

[ by Charles Cameron — books, Gitmo and Snowden — signing off with a great clip from Three Days of the Condor exhibiting the benefits of reading ]

I’m not entirely sure that Fifty Shades of Grey qualifies as Literature, but I think it can squeeze by as Lit — just as I’m not sure the topic of this post has much to do with National Security, but NatSec seems to fit.


Seriously, though — Carole Rosenberg at the Miami Herald is the go to person for all news Gitmo, and her recent piece, Congressman: ‘Fifty Shades’ popularity shows Guantánamo prisoners are ‘phonies’, is well worth your attention. I’ve selected the choicest cuts for your reading pleasure — and will also recommend John Schwartz‘ NYT piece, Russia for Beginners: A Literary Course for Edward Snowden, further down. Together, they make a feast.

And hang in there — there’s a clip from Condor at the very end…

From Gitmo, then:

A member of Congress said Tuesday he disclosed the popularity of the erotic sometimes sadomasochistic series Fifty Shades of Grey among Guantánamo’s most prized prisoners not to titillate but to set straight for their global followers that they were not devout holy warriors passing their Ramadan reading the Quran.

“It demystifies them. It exposes them for who they actually are,” said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., in a telephone interview that sought to set straight that the captives in the secretive Camp 7 complex are “not exactly holy warriors. Just the opposite. These people are phonies.” [ … ]

What made the disclosure so odd is that, during media visits to the trailers that house the prison camp’s collection of about 18,000 books, many of them religious, the Defense Department contractor in charge, Milton, says he systematically forbids the circulation of books and videos that are either lascivious or exceptionally violent..

The Herald contacted Moran on vacation after a prison camps spokeswoman, Army Capt. Andi Hahn, checked with the Army officer in charge of the detention center library and replied that the Fifty Shades of Grey series is a “prohibited” book. [ … ]

Moran said he has long favored exposing the Pentagon prisoners to great works of Western literature, and had asked the same questions in the less secretive prisons containing the 150 or so other prisoners, 84 of them approved for release or transfer in 2010. In those prison, the troops responded more generically that detainees who broke the rules get to keep just two library books in their cells while cooperative, communal captives get to borrow eight at a time.  [ … ]

In February, military spokesman said they were forbidden to elaborate on war court testimony that showed Camp 7’s troops seized as banned a previously approved book by ex-FBI Agent Ali Soufan called Black Banners. [ … ]

Another attorney, Carlos Warner, said while his Camp 7 client, Muhammed Rahim, was interested in American popular culture he couldn’t imagine him reading the Fifty Shades of Grey series sometimes referred to as “mommy porn.”

In March, Warner said, he handed Rahim the bestseller fantasy novel American Gods, about a freed prisoner, now being serialized for HBO — and was fully engaged in it.

Because of his enthusiasm, Warner got a card for Rahim from the book’s author, Neil Gaiman. “I hope you enjoy American Gods. It was written before Guantánamo and all this current madness,” the British novelist wrote Rahim in June at Warner’s behest. The lawyer said he plans to show it to Rahim at their next meeting.

American Gods is not an approved book at the detention center library, the prison spokeswoman, Hahn, said in response to a question Tuesday.


Meanwhile, regarding Edward Snowden

Edward J. Snowden has the time, and now he has the classics. [ … ]

His Russian lawyer earlier this week left him a shopping bag with books by Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Nikolai Karamzin to help him learn about Russian reality.

According to news accounts, the lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, gave his client Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” the tale of law, order and redemption, telling him, “You should know who Raskolnikov was.” He added that the Chekhov was “for dessert,” and also provided him with the writings of Karamzin, a historian, for background on the nation’s development.

One has to ask: Is Dostoevsky really the best choice? Raskolnikov could hardly be expected to cheer up Mr. Snowden. Sonia, the girl whose love saves Raskolnikov’s soul, may remind him of Lindsay Mills, the pole-dancing, exhibitionist girlfriend he left behind. [ … ]

Are there better Russian books to help Mr. Snowden get to know the Russian soul? One could do worse than to read Gogol, whose absurdist short story “The Nose” could help Mr. Snowden understand that living in Russia might not make any more sense than living in the United States. And Tolstoy – well, no matter how much time Mr. Snowden has, he may not have enough time for Tolstoy. [ … ]

Why should Mr. Snowden confine himself to the literature of Russia? After all, Edward Everett Hale wrote a book that must absolutely resonate with Mr. Snowden and his plight: “The Man Without a Country,” whose main figure is tried for treason and cries out before the judge, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” Walter Kirn’s “Up in the Air” would continue the travel theme. John le Carré’s George Smiley offers glimpses into Russian life that ring with gloomy authenticity.

The French, who gave us the word ennui and sharpened the concept of existentialism, produced the works that may most help Mr. Snowden adjust to his new life, especially those of Jean-Paul Sartre. What masterpiece better describes his situation than “No Exit”?


Reading. It helps:

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