ACLU and PEN American Center: "Dirty Wars" Readings
On April 26, 2007, PEN American Center and the ACLU co-sponsored "Dirty Wars," an evening of readings at Joe's Pub during the PEN World Voices Festival. The readings highlighted the U.S. government's unlawful use of torture and cruelty, secret and arbitrary detention, and extraordinary rendition in its counterterrorism efforts.
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Acclaimed writers and actors read selections ranging from accounts of torture during the South African apartheid regime to current descriptions of prolonged detention written by detainees inside Guantánamo. Several writers read from their own firsthand experiences and observations of torture and detention.
The readers included Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, activist and writer Breyten Breytenbach, National Book Award finalist Francine Prose, writer and director Alex Gibney, writer and critic Dorothea Dieckmann and writer Antoine Audouard.
Other readings featured the unfinished final column of assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the Department of Defense's Interrogation Log and several emails sent by FBI employees reporting their observations of the prison conditions at Guantánamo Bay.
For more information on torture, arbitrary detention and extraordinary rendition, go to www.aclu.org/torture.
For more information on PEN American Center's World Voices festival, go to
> "An Evening Without:" A Night of Readings to End Ideological Exclusion
> Military Commissions Act: The Fight to Restore Our Constitutional Rights
> FINDHABEAS.COM: Help Us Find Habeas Corpus
> Seeking Truth and Accountability for Government-Sponsored Torture
> ACLU: Keep America Safe and Free
|Actors Daoud Heidami (left) and Daniel Oreskes and author Mark Danner reenacted the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) of one of Guantánamo's "high-value" detainees, Mustafa Ait Idr. CSRT hearings determine whether the military can continue to indefinitely hold a detainee as an "enemy combatant;" the burden lies with each prisoner to prove he or she is not. MP3 | Podcast|
|Mark Danner, author of Truth and Torture, read from government documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act. Danner illuminated the chasm between the bureaucrats thousands of miles from Abu Ghraib prison recommending cruel interrogation techniques, and the prison guards and personnel who sometimes ignorantly, but often brutally, carried out government policy. MP3 | Podcast|
|South African author Breyten Breytenbach read his "Letter to a Butcher from Abroad." Breytenbach was incarcerated for opposing apartheid. Written in the 1960's, the piece depicts the tireless efforts of prisoners to find dignity. MP3 | Podcast|
|Filmmaker Alex Gibney recited selections from the interrogation log of Mohammad al-Qahtani, detainee 016, thought to be the 20th hijacker from the 9/11 attacks. Donald Rumsfeld approved new interrogation methods specifically for al-Qahtani's 60-day interrogation. Gibney's readings shed light on the perspective of the guards and personnel who witnessed and carried out the atrocities described. MP3 | Podcast|
|Nobel laureate and author Nadine Gordimer elaborated on the implications of "dirty wars" abroad, in a reading from Scatter the Ashes and Go by South African poet Mongane Wally Serote. MP3 | Podcast|
|Actor Gloria Reuben read ACLU client Khaled El-Masri's op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, "I am not a State Secret." The CIA abducted El-Masri, beat him, drugged him and transported him to a secret prison in Afghanistan. Several months after government officials learned of his innocence, he was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania. In the op-ed, El-Masri discusses his harrowing experience, and how rather than apologize for his treatment, the CIA insists the entire affair is a "state secret." And so far, the courts have agreed. MP3 | Podcast|
|Francine Prose, President of PEN American Center, read from emails released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, containing correspondence from FBI agents visiting the prison at Guántanamo Bay. The writers switch with disturbing ease between accounts of sailing trips and seaside bonfires and reports of detainee interview rooms where prisoners lie chained hand and foot in the fetal position. MP3 | Podcast|