Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"One Day We'll All Be Terrorists" by Chris Hedges

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists
By Chris Hedges

Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at or On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.

The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.

Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.

“My brother was an activist,” Hashmi’s brother, Faisal, told me by phone from his home in Queens. “He spoke out on Muslim issues, especially those dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His arrest and torture have nothing to do with providing ponchos and socks to al-Qaida, as has been charged, but the manipulation of the law to suppress activists and scare the Muslim American community. My brother is an example. His treatment is meant to show Muslims what will happen to them if they speak about the plight of Muslims. We have lost every single motion to preserve my brother’s humanity and remove the special administrative measures. These measures are designed solely to break the psyche of prisoners and terrorize the Muslim community. These measures exemplify the malice towards Muslims at home and the malice towards the millions of Muslims who are considered as non-humans in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The extreme sensory deprivation used on Hashmi is a form of psychological torture, far more effective in breaking and disorienting detainees. It is torture as science. In Germany, the Gestapo broke bones while its successor, the communist East German Stasi, broke souls. We are like the Stasi. We have refined the art of psychological disintegration and drag bewildered suspects into secretive courts when they no longer have the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves.

“Hashmi’s right to a fair trial has been abridged,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Much of the evidence in the case has been classified under CIPA, and thus Hashmi has not been allowed to review it. The prosecution only recently turned over a significant portion of evidence to the defense. Hashmi may not communicate with the news media, either directly or through his attorneys. The conditions of his detention have impacted his mental state and ability to participate in his own defense.

“The prosecution’s case against Hashmi, an outspoken activist within the Muslim community, abridges his First Amendment rights and threatens the First Amendment rights of others,” Ratner added. “While Hashmi’s political and religious beliefs, speech and associations are constitutionally protected, the government has been given wide latitude by the court to use them as evidence of his frame of mind and, by extension, intent. The material support charges against him depend on criminalization of association. This could have a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of others, particularly in activist and Muslim communities.”

Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs and associations can now become a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious. The first of those targeted have been observant Muslims, but they will not be the last.

“Most of the evidence is classified,” Jeanne Theoharis, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who taught Hashmi, told me, “but Hashmi is not allowed to see it. He is an American citizen. But in America you can now go to trial and all the evidence collected against you cannot be reviewed. You can spend 2½ years in solitary confinement before you are convicted of anything. There has been attention paid to extraordinary rendition, Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib with this false idea that if people are tried in the United States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantánamo to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Hashmi was, like so many of those arrested during the Bush years, briefly a poster child in the “war on terror.” He was apprehended in Britain on June 6, 2006, on a U.S. warrant. His arrest was the top story on the CBS and NBC nightly news programs, which used graphics that read “Terror Trail” and “Web of Terror.” He was held for 11 months at Belmarsh Prison in London and then became the first U.S. citizen to be extradited by Britain. The year before his arrest, Hashmi, a graduate of Brooklyn College, had completed his master’s degree in international relations at London Metropolitan University. His case has no more substance than the one against the seven men arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, a case where, even though there were five convictions after two mistrials, an FBI deputy director acknowledged that the plan was more “aspirational rather than operational.” And it mirrors the older case of the Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, now under house arrest in Virginia, who has been hounded by the Justice Department although he should legally have been freed. Judge Leonie Brinkema, currently handling the Al-Arian case, in early March, questioned the U.S. attorney’s actions in Al-Arian’s plea agreement saying curtly: “I think there’s something more important here, and that’s the integrity of the Justice Department.”

The case against Hashmi revolves around the testimony of Junaid Babar, also an American citizen. Babar, in early 2004, stayed with Hashmi at his London apartment for two weeks. In his luggage, the government alleges, Babar had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks, which Babar later delivered to a member of al-Qaida in south Waziristan, Pakistan. It was alleged that Hashmi allowed Babar to use his cell phone to call conspirators in other terror plots.

“Hashmi grew up here, was well known here, was very outspoken, very charismatic and very political,” said Theoharis. “This is really a message being sent to American Muslims about the cost of being politically active. It is not about delivering alleged socks and ponchos and rain gear. Do you think al-Qaida can’t get socks and ponchos in Pakistan? The government is planning to introduce tapes of Hashmi’s political talks while he was at Brooklyn College at the trial. Why are we willing to let this happen? Is it because they are Muslims, and we think it will not affect us? People who care about First Amendment rights should be terrified. This is one of the crucial civil rights issues of our time. We ignore this at our own peril.”

Babar, who was arrested in 2004 and has pleaded guilty to five counts of material support for al-Qaida, also faces up to 70 years in prison. But he has agreed to serve as a government witness and has already testified for the government in terror trials in Britain and Canada. Babar will receive a reduced sentence for his services, and many speculate he will be set free after the Hashmi trial. Since there is very little evidence to link Hashmi to terrorist activity, the government will rely on Babar to prove intent. This intent will revolve around alleged conversations and statements Hashmi made in Babar’s presence. Hashmi, who was a member of the New York political group Al Muhajiroun as a student at Brooklyn College, has made provocative statements, including calling America “the biggest terrorist in the world,” but Al Muhajiroun is not defined by the government as a terrorist organization. Membership in the group is not illegal. And our complicity in acts of state terror is a historical fact.

There will be more Hashmis, and the Justice Department, planning for future detentions, set up in 2006 a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims. A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists, among them Daniel McGowan, who was charged with two arsons at logging operations in Oregon. His sentence was given “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.” All calls and mail—although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials—are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English. The highest-level terrorists are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colo., where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation, replicating the conditions for most of those held at Guantánamo. If detainees are transferred from Guantánamo to the prison in Thomson, Ill., they will find little change. They will endure Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Our descent is the familiar disease of decaying empires. The tyranny we impose on others we finally impose on ourselves. The influx of non-Muslim American activists into these facilities is another ominous development. It presages the continued dismantling of the rule of law, the widening of a system where prisoners are psychologically broken by sensory deprivation, extreme isolation and secretive kangaroo courts where suspects are sentenced on rumors and innuendo and denied the right to view the evidence against them. Dissent is no longer the duty of the engaged citizen but is becoming an act of terrorism.

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).

Monday, March 28, 2011

"What I've Learned from Seamus Heaney"

I'm teaching Seamus Heaney's work tonight, and I Skyped a new colleague in Belfast yesterday, who held up The Irish Times' headline on Heaney. Heaney's struggle against outright partisanship (Simic: at some point, the tribe will ask you to justify murder) led to his own kind of fierce, quiet, unwavering truth-telling.

from "What I've Learned from Seamus Heaney"

To me as a journalist it mattered that the person trying to find his own way through this minefield was a poet whose ethical position both artistically and personally was admirable and hard fought for. During the hunger strikes, like every artist – Paul Brady was one who was targeted and resisted – Heaney was targeted by Republicans to write a poem backing the hunger strikers’ cause. He describes it in Flight Path when Danny Morrison of Sinn Féin lectures him about his duty to the hunger strikers: “When, for fuck’s sake, are you going to write / Something for us?” And Heaney’s reply: “If I do write something, / Whatever it is, I’ll be writing for myself.”

It’s a lesson for any journalist, Heaney’s determination not to be used, to express the truth as he saw it for his own purposes and that of his art.

Yet, being allowed to choose his own time and place, he made his protest, sometimes in places where it would hurt him most, as in 1988 at a lunch accepting a Sunday Times literary award. It was a tense time, as he told O’Driscoll in Stepping Stones. There had been the brutal beating – seen on television – and then the killing of two British corporals who had wandered into a spooked crowd attending the funerals of those killed by the loyalist Michael Stone at Milltown cemetery. The Sunday Times more than most had been coming out with what Heaney described as “anti-Irish slabber”.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Poetry of Revolt (Egypt, 2011)

On Poetry and Protest, from "The Poetry of Revolt", exploring rhymes and chants of the Egyptian Revolution.

Anyone who has ever chanted slogans in a public demonstration has also probably asked herself at some point: why am I doing this? what does shouting accomplish? The question provokes a feeling of embarrassment, the suspicion that the gesture might be rote and thus empty and powerless. Arguably, this nervousness is a form of performance anxiety that, if taken seriously, might remind us that the ritual of singing slogans was invented precisely because it has the power to accomplish things. When philosophers speak of “doing things with words,” they also remind us that the success of the locutionary act is tied to the conditions in which it is performed. This is another way to say that any speech act is highly contingent—its success only occurs in particular circumstances, and even then, its success is never a given. Success, if it is to occur, happens only in the doing of it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trying to Praise a Mutilated World: Poems after 9/11

Adam Zagajewski's poem, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World," first appeared in The New Yorker, in the weeks following the attacks of September 11, 2001. As I'm putting together a course, "After 9/11: Literature, the Arts, and Ethics in Age of Terror," I've been thinking through the "first responders" and first responses to those mind-bending attacks. Though at the time I thought this poem was too plain, too straight to be commensurate with the radical derangement of the attacks, I now see it as the sort of poem whose quietness is itself a stay against the confusion of those days.


Try to praise the mutilated world.

Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

- Adam Zagajewski (Translated, from the Polish, by Claire Cavanagh)

Monday, March 21, 2011

How can you tell the dancer from the dance? A Beirut Flash Mob

This was sent to me by my father, who loved to point out whatever Lebanese Arab had "made good" in American culture; whether it was Kasey Kasem or Paula Abdul or Ralph Nader or Khalil Gibran, it didn't matter their stature or their gravitas. I'm sending this with a shout-out to my father, who never met a debke or hafle that he didn't like.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rally against War on the 8th Anniversary of the Iraq War

NOAC (Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition) Rally - 8th Anniv. of Iraq War
03/19/11 12:30PM - 2:30PM
NOAC Rally and March to Commemorate 8th Anniversary of Iraq War and Occupation

Saturday, March 19, 12:30PM
Market Square Park
Across from West Side Market,Cleveland

For more info see or contact:
Phone: 216-736-4716


Not one more day. Not one more death. Not one more dollar.

On March 19, 2003, the Bush administration launched a "shock and awe" bombing campaign against the nation of Iraq. The rationale for the massive aerial assault was because of iron-clad, stone-cold evidence that:

* Iraq was responsible for the 9-11 tragedies,
* Iraq possessed "Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMDs]," including chemical,
biological and nuclear,
* Iraq was preparing to imminently use their WMDs against the US,
* Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were best buddies.

All the iron-clad, stone-cold evidence turned out to be hoaxes, fictions, lies.

Thousands of deaths later...
Tens of thousands of injuries later...
Over a million Iraqi deaths later...
Hundreds of billions of dollars later...
And counting...

US troops...
US military bases and installations...
The US military intervention...
US tax dollars....


We've become conditioned to the US military presence in Iraq. We've been told the drawdown of troops means all is improving, all is moving toward democracy, all is headed as the US military envisions it should be.

It isn't. It hasn't. Despite a change in political administrations.

It's time to bring the troops and our tax dollars home NOW!. Let the Iraqi
people determine their own future. Spend tax dollars compensating the people of Iraq for the destruction caused by the war and occupation. And shift the rest of the tax dollars improving security at home in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio.

Attend the March 19 RALLY AND MARCH. Bring a sign. Bring a friend.

People on the streets demanding democracy brought down a dictator in Egypt...and continue to pressure for democratic changes elsewhere in the Middle East. People here need to be increasingly visible demanding our majority voices be heard calling for an end to the wars and occupations and to bring our tax dollars home


Monday, March 14, 2011

Michael True's Op-Ed: "Misplaced Faith in Military"

from one of my esteemed mentors, Michael True....
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Worcester Telegram and Gazette


By Michael True

Not surprising, people risking their lives for democracy (most recently in Egypt) are critical, sometimes vehemently so, of our foreign policy.

Blind faith — adhering to a proposition with no reasonable justification of its truth — is more dangerous for politicians than it is for religionists.

True believers may acknowledge their blind faith in religious dogma, while foreign policy wonks seldom acknowledge their blind faith in political dogma. Yet many legislators and administrators, as well as columnists and academics, adhere to the dogma of “military supremacy,” which dominates U.S. foreign policy.

American taxpayers, who have invested heavily in that dogma, have serious questions about whether it works.

What’s the evidence?

“The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields” since 9/ 11: “The Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate military supremacy into meaningful victory.”

That’s according to Andrew Bacevich, a retired colonel now teaching at Boston University. Mr. Bacevich speaks with some authority.

For several decades, blind faith in military supremacy has been responsible for a waste of lives and vast resources, resulting in an unprecedented, annual military budget that exceeds all other military budgets combined: $700 billion.

That’s enough money to feed, clothe, educate, and provide health care for every person in the world for several years, according to the U.N. Development Office.

How often must that comparison be acknowledged before it results in serious debate about U.S. foreign policy? How long will it take for the president and Congress to acknowledge that these wasted resources are an essential cause of our present economic recession?

So get ready for more hocus-pocus from lobbyists for sustaining this unprecedented military outlay when Congress debates the possibility of reducing it. We’ll hear variations on a Republican senator’s saying that he would never approve any reduction in military spending that might increase the vulnerability of our troops. If Congress were so concerned about the vulnerability of our troops, why does it keep sending them into wars — Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan — that ended in either defeat or stalemates?

What have any of these misadventures — and many other secret and public interventions — to do with “security”?

As the vice-chancellor of a major university in India told me, America’s security in recent decades has come to be based on alliances with some of the world’s most authoritarian rulers. It’s “security” purchased at the expense of victims of harsh dictatorships in Indonesia, Central America, and Pakistan, over the past several decades.

Not surprising, people risking their lives for democracy (most recently in Egypt) are critical, sometimes vehemently so, of our foreign policy.

For fear of being accused of “America bashing,” perhaps one must acknowledge that many people in the world admire the U.S. for its achievements in governance. Increasingly, however, young people risking their lives to resist tyrants abroad, particularly in the Middle East, view the U.S. with suspicion. Too many Americans dismiss these critics, rather than ask why our good name is tarnished among people desperate to claim their rights as citizens.

So what must be done?

Ample evidence from recent history suggests that violence is not the only route to social change. And our foreign policy of risky interventions, CIA subversion, and drone deaths of innocent citizens, has undermined rather than encouraged the building a global civic culture. Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in a recent address at West Point, said that anyone advocating U.S. interventions similar to Iraq and Afghanistan should have his head examined.

Again and again, nations have demonstrated that democratic governance must be built from within, not imposed by a dominating power from without. Change takes place when citizens demand it through a host of nonviolent methods and strategies — perhaps the only effective means of achieving it.

In recent years, ordinary people have achieved dramatic change through nonviolent means even among people under despotic governments — in the Philippines, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and Latin America. In his brilliant research and scholarship on nonviolent campaigns, Gene Sharp, documenting and evaluating these struggles, emphasizes what works and what does not work, and why, in particular contexts. A front-page story in the New York Times on Feb. 17 on professor Sharp called attention to his publications, which are available free on the Internet at

In addition to the successful nonviolent campaigns of the past 20 years, with ordinary people bringing down dictators or resisting foreign domination, there have been accomplishments within the U.S. itself, as well.

The 20-year campaign to close the School of Americas, Fort Benning, Ga., through legislative and direct action, is a model for such initiatives. Father Roy Bourgeois and SOA Watch first exposed SOA’s training of Latin American recruits in torture, then convinced their governments not to send troops — some later members of death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala — for military training at Fort Benning.

Enamored of guns at home, Americans tolerate our government’s reliance on the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction. As a foreign policy, it resembles the “corporate security” dramatized in the film, Social Network. Among people embracing a domination system, the essential ingredients of a humane culture — art, morality, social justice, family life — are minimized or irrelevant. In that film, as in our lives, top-down management, like military supremacy, functions as a religious faith.

Isn’t it obvious, in light of the consequences, that blind faith in military supremacy is misplaced? As a foreign policy, it simply doesn’t work.

“Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them,” as Professor Bacevich concludes, “but is clueless when it comes to ending them.”

Michael True is an emeritus professor at Assumption College and a resident of Worcester.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Massachusetts Review call for poems: Casualties of War

I just received word that Massachusetts Review is looking for work (all genres) dealing with the theme "Casualties of War." Guest editor will be Kevin Bowen. Send your best poems/stories/essays!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Billy Bragg's "There is Power in a Union"

I've been taken by the courage and tenacity of the workers in Wisconsin and Ohio in trying to hold the line on collective bargaining rights. Perhaps when the majority of Americans no longer live in the bubble of bourgeois aspiration, we will wake up again to the need for collective action and collective representation.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Where do I find hope?

I wrote this in 2010 for the Tidal Basin blog, thanks to Joseph Ross, and I wanted to look back at it for another piece that I'm writing, so I thought I'd repost, with all gratitude to Joe for eliciting it.

On Hope

Where do I find hope? My father is wont to quote endlessly Khalil Gibran, his family’s kinsman: “your children are not your children. They are life’s longing for itself.” In my own children, in their shining eyes and longing selves bounding into this world; in the work of poets and activists and workers who toil in darkness, in obscurity, in the pity or judgment of others; in the cycles of death and rebirth in the seasons; I see glimmers of a kind of vital perpetuity that all my apocalyptic nightmares, all of my pessimism about the human soul, all of my darkness and pain, cannot overwhelm.

I recently came across an old favorite quote of mine, a vision of George Fox, who founded the Quakers: “I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.” I am sometimes one who senses that second ocean flowing over the darker one–the one of pain, of loneliness, of lacklove–one “who against hope believed in hope,” as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans.

For me, hope is different than optimism, or a belief in progress; it is a cast of soul, against or with the throw of the dice of chance, to persist in its own making. Keats once called this world a “Vale of Soul-Making,” by which he may have meant: life is going to kick our ass, but in the process, if we work at it, our souls will be born and borne into a new reality.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

DAM's "Born Here": Palestinian Hip-Hop

Palestinian-Israelis, Israeli-Arabs, DAM, hailing from the impoverished Arab environs of Lod, are one of the most important Palestinian hip-hop groups around. It's no mistake that Palestinian youth have adopted hip-hop as a mode of artistic and political expression, given the sympathies between their own experience as an oppressed minority within Israel. Tip of the cap to Sean Thomas Dougherty, for spreading the clips to his minions.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Libyan-American poet Khaled Mattawa on the NewsHour!

from NewsHour, an interview with Libyan-American poet Khaled Mattawa...

JEFFREY BROWN: what do they say this uprising means in personal terms to them and for you?

KHALED MATTAWA: It means the world to them. I think people were kind of scared at the beginning, but things happened so fast, that if you had any iota of caution, lots of people just threw it away, because it became a decisive moment for a lot of people.

"I have to join this great cause" is what people told themselves, and in an individual fashion. And they did. They events -- from within hours, it turned from people being afraid to saying, the moment of truth has come; I have to join this effort.

So, there's great relief in Benghazi. There's great relief all over Libya. A friend told me that he took his 80-year-old father to the courthouse in Benghazi, and he saw the flag, the independence flag, flying over it, and the old man broke down in tears, thinking that he would never live to see this moment.

So, people are feeling a great relief at having this dictator out of their lives. They're worried, of course. They're worried about what he might do, what Gadhafi might do. Will he hit them with airplanes? Will he manage to bring more mercenaries to Africa to hit them? They're worried about how things will gel up as far as even the administration of their own cities.

The chaos is wonderful, in the sense of all the strictures are gone, but a kind of order needs to emerge. And the people that are being put in charge in the city right now, these committees that are running the cities, are -- are exhausted. They need to establish structure, as well as to make sure that security is maintained.

But the -- to tell you the truth, this country, Libya, is being created anew. People are having a national moment, the moment of themselves as being Libyan, neither western nor eastern. And so every event that is positive, that is strengthening them, is making them feel much more united and -- and actually feel a sense of a new life in them, a new lease on life in them as -- to them as individuals and as a nation.

Fracking, the reflection by Jacques del Conte

On February 1st, Michael Leong and I read poems for SEA at New York City's Exit Art gallery, part of an exhibit on fracking. Photographer Jacques del Conte, whose work has appeared alongside important articles on fracking, meditated on our poems alongside the photographs. See more here. Thanks to E.J. McAdams for hosting and making the magic happen!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"History of My Face" by Khaled Mattawa

"History of My Face" by Khaled Mattawa

My lips came with a caravan of slaves
That belonged to the Grand Sanussi.
In Al-Jaghbub he freed them.
They still live in the poor section of Benghazi
Near the hospital where I was born.

They never meant to settle
In Tokara those Greeks
Whose eyebrows I wear
—then they smelled the wild sage
And declared my country their birthplace.

The Knights of St. John invaded Tripoli.
The residents of the city
Sought help from Istanbul. In 1531
The Turks brought along my nose.

My hair stretches back
To a concubine of Septimus Severus.
She made his breakfast,
Bore four of his sons.

Uqba took my city
In the name of God.
We sit by his grave
And I sing to you:

Sweet lashes, arrow-sharp,
Is that my face I see
Reflected in your eyes?

Thanks to Imen Bennani for reminding me of this poem again, from Mattawa's first book, *Ismaila Eclipse*!