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The three most popular books in Guantanamo Bay


Guantanamo Bay books

The ever inspiring Marbury points out that there are now 13,500 books in the library at Guantanamo Bay, serving the remaining 229 prisoners.


And when the London based, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat sent a reporter out there recently, he asked the Librarian, in what must have been a fairly surreal encounter, which books were requested most frequently.

So we now know the most popular read material among the Guantanamo prisoners. The three most requested book, followed up by a string of Muslim religious volumes, are apparently…

  1. The Harry Potter novels
  2. Cervantes’ Don Quixote
  3. Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father

It makes sense to read up on the guy who holds the keys to your prison – especially if he has any sort of connection to the Muslim world.

Harry Potter is so pervasive that it somehow doesn’t surprise that is has penetrated even this darkest corner of the world. But Don Quixote?

Do they know that Miguel Cervantes fought at the second Battle of Lepanto in 1571 in which the Holy League defeated the Ottoman empire at sea, and that later on his ship was captured by the Algerians and he spent 5 years imprisoned and enslaved in Algiers before being ransomed– thus reversing an element in their own biographies?

Intriguingly, there’s a tiny insight into how these reading choices affect the world view of the prisoners in this piece for In These Times, written by the lawyer H Candace Gorman back in 2007.

In it, he describes meeting a potential client, a 36-year-old Algerian prisoner, for the first time…

… I kept our conversation light. We spent a long time discussing the Harry Potter books, his favorite books at the Guantánamo library.

Ali sees parallels between George W. Bush and J.K. Rowling’s arch-villain, Voldemort. Guantánamo is the real-world equivalent of Azkaban, the cheerless prison guarded by the soulless “tormentors.”

It seems almost natural that fact and fantasy collide in Guantánamo, the prison camp dreamed up by the Bush administration lawyers.

Checks and balances, constitutional protections and longstanding legal traditions all dissolve before their fanciful “unitary executive theory.”

Wow… Who would have thought.

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