Saturday, 27 October 2012

Preface, power, war and torture

Empires and Bodies

On the wrong side of the tracks, there lies a derelict tenement surrounded by a mish-mash of shacks, therein slaves serve scavenger kings who supplicate the building in return for a greater share of its trash.

Thus has it ever been.

The monolith itself of consists of petty palaces, discordiently oscillating, each racked by certainty, vying for supremacy over the meth lab which lies at the epicentre - the twisted lllogic of the structure demands perpetual war and the sacrifice of minions in hordes.

The meth lab continually burns like a immortal pheonix forever reborn - a beacon that illuminates fantastic truth.

Relax, this isn't a conspiracy theory.

In A Tradition of Torture Chomsky considers the position of the U.S., somehow claiming to exceptional, and he writes, 'Among empires exceptionalism is probably close to universal. France was hailing its "civilising mission" while the French Minister of War called for “exterminating the indigenous population” of Algeria.‘

Side effects are more difficult to measure — including the extent to which strikes breed more enemies of the United States — but could be more consequential if the campaign continues for 10 more years.

“We are looking at something that is potentially indefinite,” Pillar said. “We have to pay particular attention, maybe more than we collectively have so far, to the longer-term pros and cons to the methods we use.”

Obama administration officials at times have sought to trigger debate over how long the nation might employ the kill lists. But officials said the discussions became dead ends.

Source: Washington Post - Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists.

It's my assumption that empires, with borders or not, need each other to shore up their internal power structures and to make (personality) profit from the supply of war and other materials. That is what the prose-poem above above aims at expressing. The ideal U.S. kill list is the mirror image of the ideal al-Qaeda database, and beyond, and the ideal al-Qaeda kill might be found in Time, wikipedia, Who's Who and beyond.

The ideal kill should be “target rich” which to my mind strongly implies a perverse symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and al-Qaeda, much as happened less explicitly with the Soviet Union. There the war was cold, ideological and fought out technologically, with brinkmanship and in proxy wars.

In A Tradition of Torture, Chomsky writes about ‘an order coming from up the chain of command to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. “Waterboarding”, among other measures of torture, finally elicited the “evidence” from a detainee that was used to help justify the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq the next year.’

Currently in the UK there is much controversy over the release of Abu Qatada into a sort of “civil half-life” which the average British subject would consider a gross invasion of their personal liberties. This will cost Britain about £100,000 a week according to estimates.

In a sense Qatada has “won”: even though this victory is at a high cost to his personal freedoms - I have heard of electronic tags referred to “the modern day ball and chain” - Qatada has succeeded in using aspects of the “liberal system”, it's essential claim that it is “exceptional”, against the very system itself.

Abu Qatada bbc profile & wikipedia profile: Abu Qatada

Discourse is determined by those with power - returning to Chomsky's point about torture at Guantanamo, the discourse around Qatada hasn't really reflected on the notion that torture may have been used as a rationale to invade Iraq and has certainly has been used by Britain's ally America and its various proxies. This is not being debated in the context of a discourse that centres on Qatada and torture in Jordan.

British politicians want Jordan to change its legal system, not for the benefit of Jordanians in general, who do not figure in the discourse, but for the benefit of Britain which has found itself wrapped up in a contradiction.

Likewise, around the discourse I have heard nothing about alleged British collusion in torture .

[Torture] made the guilty man the herald of his condemnation. he was given the task, in a sense, of proclaiming it and attesting to the truth of what he was charged with. . . M. Foucault Discipline and Punish pg. 43

Reflecting on the relation between the condemned man and the exceptional state, as was played out at Guantanamo, the condemned can be understood to be a tool of the exceptional state. The detainee tortured at Guantanmo was the herald of the crimes of an opposing “exceptional society”, Iraq, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Added 16/12/12: Recently the UK government has agreed to pay £2.2m to Sami al-Saadi, a Libyan dissident who alleges the British secret service MI6 were involved in his rendition to Gadaffi's Libya where he was imprisoned and tortured. You can read the story UK pays £2.2m to settle Libyan rendition claim

Another Libyan is making similar claims about British collusion in torture, during the Blair era when Britain was courting the oil rich Libya despite the fact that it doesn't share the values which make Britain an “exceptional state”.

This raises further questions about “duty ethics” - those with duties to the exceptional state must sometimes act in ways that contradict the ethical codes it espouses - a privilege it denies its ordinary subjects and for which they will be sanctioned if apprehended.

UK Government collusion in torture by proxy raised again 10/1/13:
Torture claim redactions 'show dangers of secret courts'

I am currently working on a sort of Sartrean model of consciousness, mixed with Foucault's analysis of power relations. Without going into too much detail right here and now, I am arguing that the exceptional state rewards human beings with property, prestige and power according to its interests, and likewise punishes them in a similar manner.

A prison is an “anti-palace”, a concrete reflection of the greater palace of the exceptional state.