Friday, May 1, 2009

Bad Men by Clive Stafford Smith

I actually started Bad Men by Clive Stafford Smith on our trip, but only read about 50 pages. I didn't get back to it until I finished The Lord of the Rings recently.

It was when we were having tea in one of the little shops in Haworth that I saw this book. The shop had a lot of used books for sale, and this was one of them. I picked it up and started thumbing through it while we ate, and by the time we were finished with our afternoon tea, I was hooked.

The book is written by Clive Stafford Smith, one of the lawyers defending some of the Guantánamo "detainees" (a nice word for prisoner). In the book, he talks about the horrific experiences of many of his clients. He also talks a lot about the politics behind Guantánamo, but it was the prisoners' experiences that made the biggest impression on me. Smith maintains that the majority of the prisoners who were in Guantánamo actually had nothing to do with terrorism — they were normal people who were implicated by confessions made under torture, who would then be tortured themselves until they implicated other innocent people.

Although I didn't know it until I was telling Michael about the book and he recognized the name, one of Smith's clients, Binyam Mohamed, was released from Guantánamo just before our trip to England. Apparently the torture Mohamed endured was big news while we were in Haworth, around the time that I bought the book, though I didn't know it because I was too excited about being in Brontë country to watch the news.

Interestingly, the book isn't available from Barnes & Noble. I wonder if that has anything to do with the subject matter? Eventually I'll take a picture of the cover, so that you can see it. My copy — the UK edition — shows a picture of a pocket on an orange prison jumpsuit. It says "BAD MEN" in white stenciled writing, like what you would see on a real prison jumpsuit, and looking out over the pocket are the images of Osama bin Laden, Bush, and Rumsfeld. I love the implication — that the real "bad men" here are the ones taking away people's basic human rights, regardless of which side they are on.

Too bad that cover wasn't released in the United States, too. I think it really adds to the impact of the book!

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