Reading Report

No real reviews here, but a short list on what I’ve been reading this Summer, and how I generally feel about the books or articles.  What have you been reading?  Anything I should know about?  Let me know in the comments.

Continue reading


Sounding on the academy, February 9, 2010

also, I want one.


SOUNDING on Southeast Asia, 4 February 2010

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is about to make his first trip to ព្រះ​វិហារ (Preah Vihear) temple in the midst of the run-up to the dry-season offensive (military potential, but it’s going to be loud, at minimum), has also been preaching parables to people in his client-base.  This parable is all about a good Buddhist elder and a bad Buddhist elder, and how at some point, the good guy eventually gets tired of being good to the bad guy and the bad guy stops getting what he asks for, gets leprosy, and dies.  Just sayin’!

Meanwhile, just across the Thai border, the cold-hearted bastards at Reuters who analyze trends for investors have started warning about a possible coup.

Economic indicators in Cambodia: a brand-new, purportedly high-quality modern Rice Mill has opened in Battambang Province.  The president has a Khmer name; is the company owned by a Cambodian and do profits stay in country? Meanwhile, pawn shops are becoming legal.  That’ll help. Cause god knows, there aren’t enough opportunities to buy second-hand, stolen commodity goods in Cambodia right now.

Human Rights Watch has released a 93 page report which is very hard to read.  It details the horrendous abuse taking place in Cambodia’s Drug “Rehab” centers, largely of young children from the streets.  Beatings are not the worst of it.  HRW recommends that the centers be monitored by the UN. I think they should be destroyed and ripped down to the foundations.

Oh, and that cool image from the MMAP folks of what appears to be a burial urn?  It was.  And that’s the second one evah.  Awesomes.


Torture and the Living Dead

Omar Khadr – a Canadian citizen abducted by US forces at the age of fifteen, has now spent over a quarter of his life beyond the reach of even the most basic humanitarian organizations – at Guantanamo Bay.

A video of formerly classified interrogation tapes from Guantanamo Bay has been released. The sound is poor, but at various points Omar can be heard asking for help, and perhaps even asking to be killed. Arabic translators at CBC translate the repetitious cry toward the end as ya’ummi – “Mom!”. I’m reminded of something told to me by a relative who used to work in a nursing home: People always call for their mother just before they die.

He – along with all the other inmates there – has been reduced to what Agamben calls the state of zoe – bare life, he who has been excluded from the social life, he who can be killed as one would kill an animal. (It is unclear to me whether he also constitutes the homo sacer, precisely since he can be murdered, either officially after a show trial, or in his cell under cover of night).

In the eyes of the US government, and in their inaction, apparently in the eyes of the Canadian government as well, he is nothing more than an animal.

When will the Allied Troops of the present day invade and liberate these prisoners, who – barring anything resembling a legal process for their detention, torture, and murder (see also the rash of suicides) – must at the least be considered inmates of a concentration camp?

He complains that he can’t move his arms and hasn’t received proper medical attention.”I’m not a doctor, but I think you’re getting good medical care,” the interrogator responds. As with all the agents in the video, his face is blacked out to protect his identity.

Khadr cries, “I lost my eyes. I lost my feet. Everything!” in reference to how the firefight in Afghanistan affected his vision.

“No, you still have your eyes and your feet are still at the end of your legs, you know,” a man says.

When the agent accuses Khadr of crying to avoid interrogation, Khadr tells the agent between gasping sobs, “You don’t care about me.”

As Khadr continues crying, the agent calls for a break.

“Look, I want to take a few minutes. I want you to get yourself together. Relax a bit. Have a bite to eat and we’ll start again,” the interrogator says.

Khadr chants in haunting voice

Then Khadr begins sobbing with his head in both his hands, chanting over and over again in a haunting voice. His words are difficult to hear, and at first could be taken for “Kill me” or “Help me.”

However, Arabic speakers working at say the teenager appears to be keening “Ya ummi,” which is Arabic for “My mother.”

In the next interview excerpt, Khadr sits on a blue couch looking down as he is questioned. He mumbles short answers and declines an offer of food.

This video is difficult to watch. It’s not optional for those of us whose inability to stop our government, and who share in that responsibility.


Vann Nath interviewed for CNN

Christine Amanpour interviewed Vann Nath. The artist and survivor of S-21, Pol Pot’s prison for his own extraordinary renditions and aggressive interrogations had some quiet words on waterboarding:

Take water torture, for instance. Van Nath remembers it as if it were yesterday. I gasped as I entered a room filled with his vivid depictions.

One of his paintings shows a prisoner blindfolded and hoisted onto a makeshift scaffold by two guards. He is then lowered head first into a massive barrel of water. Another shows a prisoner with cloth over his face, writhing as an interrogator pours water over his head.

Van Nath still remembers the accompanying screams: “It sounded like when we are really in pain, choking in water,” he told me. “The sound was screaming, from the throat. I suppose they could not bear the torture.

“Whenever we heard the noises we were really shocked and scared. We thought one day they will do the same thing to us.”

As he talked and showed me around, my mind raced to the debate in the United States over this same tactic used on its prisoners nearly 40 years later. I stared blankly at another of Van Nath’s paintings. This time a prisoner is submerged in a life-size box full of water, handcuffed to the side so he cannot escape or raise his head to breathe. His interrogators, arrayed around him, are demanding information.

I asked Van Nath whether he had heard this was once used on America’s terrorist suspects. He nodded his head. “It’s not right,” he said.

But I pressed him: Is it torture? “Yes,” he said quietly, “it is severe torture. We could try it and see how we would react if we are choking under water for just two minutes. It is very serious.”

There’s a video too – click here to see it (CNN’s videos stupidly resist embedding).