Subject: ON TORTURE: FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN
AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS,
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Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Many readers have written us concerning the grim and palpable events of recent state terrorist campaigns conducted by the
We must acknowledge that such manifestations of state violence are not new, and there are many historical parallels with what we are living today. But, what is new is the technology that brings this information instantly into our home computers each day, despite the massive and expensive efforts of the mainstream media to sanitize the news before it is published and distributed for public consumption.
Below are several reflections on Torture, a topic which has attracted our attention at CEIMSA for the past several days.
The first definition of Torture in Webster s Third New International Dictionary is as follows :
[fr. LL tortura act of twisting, torture, fr. L tortus (past part. of torquère to twist, wind, torture) + -ura ure; akin to OHG drahsil turner, Gk atraktos spindle, Skt tarku]
1.(a) The infliction of intense pain (as from burning, crushing, wounding) to punish or coerce someone; torment or agony induced to penalize religious or political dissent or non-conformity, to extort a confession or a money contribution, or to give sadistic pleasure to the torturer. (According to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, no one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
(b) Anguish of body or mind: extreme agony. . . .
- - -o- - -
The interconnections between capitalism at home and imperialism
abroad (local & global connections) were made fairly clear in the
In the academy, American scholars were influenced by the Vietnam resistance, and it gave rise to new approaches for scientific research in the social sciences, including the discipline of history, where addressing the repressed subjects of the past became a high priority of interest : Labor History, Black Studies, Women s Studies, Native American Indian Studies, Gay Studies, and ethnic studies in general were among the new subjects of investigation.
The broad social movement of American intellectuals in the
The writings of Jean Baudrillard (Les Stratégies fatales, Grasset, 1983) and of Jean-François Lyotard (principally Économie libidinale, Editions de Minuit, 1974, and La condition postmoderne, Editions de Minuit, 1979), raised such issues as the ubiquity and inevitability of domination/subjugation in human relations -- chacun ayant sa victime et chacun son bourreau expressed the dominant ideology during the Reagan period of extreme individualism and contributed much support to what it claimed to describe, i.e. a species of social fragmentation that would render any discussions of strategy for human liberation mostly meaningless.
In recent years, Postmodernism has come under attack as a sham --an ideology passing as a science-- a metaphysical notion in the guise of social theory, which actually does not represent a new epistemology, which might logically supercede and, therefore, legitimately replace earlier social theories, by offering more explanatory power over important social phenomena than theories such as scientific positivism (with its quest for new facts and unresolved contradictions) and dialectical materialism (in its investigations of the inner-relationships within repressed subjects and their interrelationships with the rest of society).
Instead, Postmodernism is increasingly discredited today, as representing nothing more than another system of belief (an ideology) which follows chronologically (in no more than a serial order) after modern scientific theories, but fails to supersede them logically. The "courage" to remain occupied with surface appearances is seen for what it has perhaps always been : a cop-out, a running away from the radical commitment to seek a deep understanding of "cause and effect" in social life. What was produced in the 1970s and 80s, it has been argued, was an ideological counter-attack whose tactics --in the context of consumer-capitalist-society-in-crisis, following the military defeat of the
It is not merely metaphysical speculation to assert that in time of war, waves of authoritarianism penetrate most institutions, and that during these periods non-democratic paradigms of management rapidly replace democratic structures, at the local level. The Bourreau (the classic disciplinarian/executioner) is increasingly relied upon to maintain institutional "order", while new "chains of command" replace meaningful group discussions and debates. This command-economy style of crisis management is not very productive, but the real aim is not to promote a higher quality of productivity, but rather to maintain appearances, with the hope of retarding the inevitable decay of non-military production.
Like soldiers reproducing daily an ideology of hierarchical domination/subjugation, civilian employees, in time of war, feel compelled to conform to the will of authorities, (to desire what is desired of them) and not to speak critically in terms of their social class interests, less they provoke the wrath of some psychotic impulse on behalf of managers to punish all which they cannot control or understand. (Native American Indians were not the only incorrigibles in history, and there is no reason to think the end is in sight.)
Writing about the role of the bourreau in his book, Surveiller et Punir, Michel Foucault describes the historical evolution of this torturer-executioner, this official-man-of-punishment managing western institutions :
"La punition tendra donc à devenir la plus cachée du processus pénal. Ce qui entraîne plusieurs conséquences: elle quitte le domaine de la perception quasi quotidienne, pour entrer dans celui de la conscience abstraite ; son efficacité, on la demande à sa fatalité, non à son intensité visible : la certitude d être puni, c est cela, et non plus l abominable théâtre, qui doit détourner du crime ; la mécanique exemplaire de la punition change ses rouages. De ce fait, la justice ne prend plus en charge publiquement la part de violence qui est liée à son exercice. Qu elle tue, elle aussi, ou qu elle frappe, ce n est plus la glorification de sa force, c est un élément d elle-même qu elle est bien obligée de tolérer, mais dont il lui est difficile de faire état. Les notations de l infamie se redistribuent : dans le châtiment-spectacle, une horreur confuse jaillissait de l échafaud ; elle enveloppait à la fois le bourreau et le condamné : et si elle était toujours prête à inverser en pitié ou en gloire la honte qui était infligée au supplicié, elle retournait régulièrement en infamie la violence légale de l exécuteur. Désormais, le scandale et la lumière vont se partager autrement ; c est la condamnation elle-même qui est censée marquer le délinquant du signe négatif et univoque : publicité donc des débats, et de la sentence ; quant à la l exécution, elle est comme une honte supplémentaire que la justice a honte d imposer au condamné : elle s en tient donc à distance, tendant toujours à la confier à d autres, et sous le sceau du secret. Il est laid d être punissable, mais peu glorieux de punir. " (p. 15)
[Punishment, then, will trend to become the most hidden part of the penal process. This has several consequences: it leaves the domain or more or less everyday perception and enters that of abstract consciousness; its effectiveness is seen as resulting from its inevitability, not from its visible intensity; it is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime; the exemplary mechanics of punishment changes its mechanisms. As a result, justice not longer takes public responsibility for the violence that is bound up with its practice. If it too strikes, if it too kills, it is not as a glorification of its strength, but as an element of itself that it is obliged to tolerate, that it finds difficult to account for. The apportioning of blame is redistributed: in punishment-as-spectacle a confused horror spread from the scaffold; it enveloped both executioner and condemned; and, although it was always ready to invert the shame inflicted on the victim into pity or glory, it often turned the legal violence of the executioner into shame. Now the scandal and the light are to be distributed differently; it is the conviction itself that marks the offender with the unequivocally negative sign: the publicity has shifted to the trial, and to the sentence; the execution itself is like an additional shame that justice is ashamed to impose on the contemned man; so it keeps its distance from the act, tending always to entrust it to others, under the seal of secrecy. It is ugly to be punishable, but there is no glory in punishing. (*)]
(*) Translation by Alan Sheridan.
Thus, a contemporary look at capitalism at home and imperialism abroad reveals a related form of industrial order in the neo-colonies of the "late developing world" : the industrial violence of military conquest is also an impersonal machine-like force --the "authorities" lay waste to all obstacles (both imaginary and real) in their path, while the ends are used to justify the means, and an esprit de corps subverts social class consciousness. This rapport de force represents an attempt to destroy all possibilities of sharing power and arriving at meaningful compromise.
Thus, the internal and external effects of capitalist expansion bring the world closer together, but at a terrible cost. Confronting the hostile authoritarianism of a war-time political economy, we see ourselves in others, perhaps more than ever before. This is, of course, not new; the various forms of violence used by authoritarian modes of social organization in the service of capitalist interests have left vivid scars from centuries past, degrading cultures, and increasing miseries which will affect generations yet unborn. By learning to accommodate ourselves to political injustices, to racism and economic inequalities, we are effectively weakened and we are offered collaboration as our only hope for survival. These lesions run so deep and are so numerous. They are the ghosts we've learned to live with. They have become the very essence of our existence in this obstacle course we call late capitalist society.
Thus our ancestry of empires presses down on us with the heavy burden of our history. We find ourselves unable to respond to the forces which threaten us, forces which represent the very energies we have released into the environment.
Below, are additional reflections on Torture from a variety of sources which have been called to our attention recently.
Item A. is a report on torture, "Human dignity denied Torture and accountability in the war on terror ," from Amnesty International.
In Item B. Noam Chomsky describes the history of the imperialist strategy of U.S.-supported Israeli efforts to "dominate, humiliate, and disorient" the Palestinian population so that a national identity with distinct cultural expressions can no longer exist. (This is, of course, the technical definition of genocide -the extinction of an entire culture. This strategy of domination, if indeed it is the political model of the future, is of great concern to populations in western
In Item C. Dahr Jamail sends us a detailed description of the misery inflicted on Refugees from Fallujah, in what would appear also as "a strategy of domination."
Item D. connects readers with the "Taguba Report," an investigative report ordered by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and prepared by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, which documents the torture of prisoners by the 800th Military Police Brigade at the Abu Ghraib Prison in
And finally, in Item E., Wayne Madsen's article on torture and the technicians of torture, first published in CunterPunch (May 2004) offers readers a brief history of modern-day torture.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble3
from Amnesty International :
EXCERPT BELOW :
Human dignity denied
Torture and accountability in the war on terror
A report based on Amnesty
International s 12-point Program for the Prevention of Torture by Agents of the
Then [the guard] brought a box of food and he made me stand on it, and he started punishing me. Then a tall black soldier came and put electrical wires on my fingers and toes and on my penis, and I had a bag over my head. Then he was saying which switch is on for electricity? Iraqi detainee, Abu Ghraib prison,
The image of
The struggle against torture and ill-treatment by agents of the state requires absolute commitment and constant vigilance. It requires stringent adherence to safeguards. It demands a policy of zero tolerance. The
Part One gives an overview, describing how the US administration has fallen into an historically familiar pattern of abuse to respond to the "new paradigm" it says has been set by the atrocities of 11 September 2001. The war mentality the government has adopted has not been matched with a commitment to the laws of war, and it has discarded fundamental human rights principles along the way. While there are undoubtedly complex challenges and threats in the current situation, the simple fact is that the
Throughout history, torture has often occurred against those considered as "the other", and a second section of Part One traces the thread of dehumanization of detainees in
Part Two is entitled Agenda for Action, and begins with a reiteration of Amnesty International s call for a full commission of inquiry into all US "war on terror" detention and interrogation practices and policies. While the organization welcomes the recent official investigations that have taken place, it believes that a more comprehensive and genuinely independent inquiry is needed to ensure full accountability and non-repetition of abuse. This commission of experts must have all the necessary powers to carry out such an investigation.
The remainder of Part Two is structured around Amnesty International s 12-point Program for the Prevention of Torture by Agents of the State. The organization has been working against torture for more than three decades. In addition to its daily efforts against this most tenacious and pervasive of human rights violations, it has conducted three worldwide campaigns for the abolition of torture, launched in 1972, 1984 and 2000. The 12-Point Program that forms the basis of this report was adopted for the most recent of these campaigns and reflects Amnesty International s key findings on how best to prevent torture.
Under each of the 12 Points, Amnesty International illustrates how the
Point 1 of the 12-Point Program is "Condemn Torture". In other words, the highest authorities of every country should demonstrate their total opposition to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. They should condemn torture and ill-treatment unreservedly whenever they occur. They should make clear to all members of the police, military and other security forces that torture and ill-treatment will never be tolerated.
The report recalls the
In June 2004, in one of several statements by senior United Nations (UN) officials responding to the
There is a tendency, not least amongst the
This reticence, however, is also symptomatic of a tendency by the
Full text : http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR511452004
2004 AI Report: http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/index-eng
This message was sent using a form at http://www.amnesty.org.
Amnesty International (AI) is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights. You can make a difference. Support Amnesty International:
from Noam Chomsky :
Excerpt taken from Fateful Triangle (pp. 123-143): "The Ways of the Conqueror".
Readers are invited to visit our web site at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE and look at Atelier No.10, "Les Multinationales américaines et les Cultures indigènes", at the following address:
Article No.12, in Atelier No.10 is an essay by Noam Chomsky originally published in his book, Fateful Triangle: "The Ways of the Conqueror". Readers can access this essay directly by clicking on the address below:
from Dahr Jamail :
Doctors in Fallujah
are reporting there are patients in the hospital there who were forced out by
the Americans, said Mehdi Abdulla,
a 33 year-old ambulance driver at a hospital in Baghdad, Some doctors there
told me they had a major operation going, but the soldiers took the doctors
away and left the patient to die. He looks at the ground, then away to the
Honking cars fill the chaotic street outside the hospital where they'd just received brand new desks. The empty boxes are strewn about outside. Um Mohammed, a doctor at the hospital sat behind her old, wooden desk. How can I take a new desk when there are patients dying because we don t have medicine for them, she asked while holding her hands in the air, They should build a lift so patients who can t walk can be taken to surgery, and instead we have these new desks! Her eyes were piercing with fire, while yet another layer of frustration is folded into her work.
And there are still a few Iraqis who think the Americans came to liberate them, she added while looking out the broken window. The glass lay about outside-shattered from a car bomb that had detonated in front of the hospital. These people will change their minds about the liberators when they, too, have had a family member killed by them.
Mehdi then takes us to a refugee camp of Fallujans over on the campus of the
We contact a sheikh for permission to talk to some of the families. He greets us then says, You can see how much we have suffered. We have 97 families here now, with 50 more coming tomorrow. People are kidnapping refugee children and selling them.
A 35 year-old merchant from Fallujah, Abu Hammad, starts telling us what he experienced, and barely breathes while doing so because he is so enraged.
The American warplanes came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah! It did not stop even for a moment! If the American forces did not find a target to bomb, they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give a picture of how panicked everyone was.
He is shaking with grief and anger. In the mornings I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lives in it. Even poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah-they used everything-tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground. Nothing is left.
Several men standing with us, other refugees, nod in agreement while looking at the setting sun, the direction of Fallujah.
Abu Hammad continues, Most of the innocent people there stayed in mosques to be closer to God for safety. Even the wounded people were killed. Old ladies with white flags were killed by the Americans! The Americans announced for people to come to a certain mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed!
One of the men standing with us, a large man named Mohammad Ali is crying; his large body shuddering with each bit of new information revealed by Abu Hammad.
There was no food, no electricity, no water, continues Abu Hammad, We couldn t even light a candle because the Americans would see it and kill us.
He pauses, then asks, This suffering of the people, I would like to ask everyone in the world if they have seen suffering like this. The people in Fallujah are only Fallujans. Ayad Allawi was a liar when he said there are foreign fighters there.
He continues on, There are bodies the Americans threw in the river. I saw them do this! And anyone who stayed thought they would be killed by the Americans, so they tried to swim across the river. Even then the Americans shot them with rifles from the shore! Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their heads to show they are not fighters, they were all shot! Even people who couldn t swim tried to cross the river! They drowned rather than staying to be killed by the Americans.
Mohammad cuts in and begins his plea. He is from the Julan district of Fallujah, where much of the heaviest fighting occurred, and continues to occur. They call us terrorists when we live in the city. We own the city. We didn t go to fight the Americans-they came to our city to fight us. Fallujans are defending our city, our houses, our mosques, our honor. Ayad Allawi says we are his family-can you attack your family Allawi? Do you attack your own family Allawi?
He now raises his hands to the sky <http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album21&id=100_3339> and asks loudly, We are asking Islam, all the Islamic countries to have a clear conscience to look at what is happening to Fallujah. We were the most secured city with the police and ING (Iraqi National Guard) without the presence of the Americans. But now when we come to
His large body continues to shudder as he talks on, We did not feel that there is Eid after Ramadan this year because of our situation being so bad. All we have is more fasting. They said they are going to reconstruct Fallujah-but I would like to ask when and how, and what did they do to
I notice a man with one leg sitting near the mosque <http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album21&id=100_3329> nodding while he smokes his cigarette while Mohammad continues, I would like to ask the whole world-why is this? I tell the presidents of the Arab and Muslim countries to wake up! Wake up please! We are being killed, we are refugees from our houses, our children have nothing-not even shoes to wear! Wake up! Wake up! Stop being traitors! Be human beings and not the dummies of the Americans!
He is weeping even more when he adds, I left Fallujah yesterday and I am handicapped. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I lost everything.
As Mohammad no longer speaks, a 40 year-old refugee, Khalil, speaks up. When the Americans come to our city we refuse to accept any foreigner coming to invade us. We accept the ING s but not the Americans. Nobody has seen any Zarqawi. If the Americans don t come in our city, who do Fallujans attack? Fallujans don t attack other Iraqis. Fallujans only attack the American troops when they come inside or near our city.
Rather than weeping like so many others I interviewed, Khalil is raging. His sadness is being covered with anger. If we have a government-the government should solve the suffering of the people. Our government does not do this-instead they are always attacking us, our government is a dummy government. They are not here to help us. The Minister of Defense and Interior are speaking that we are their family-so why do they collapse our houses on our heads? Why do they kill all of us?
But then tears find his eyes, and while pointing to several small children nearby he says, Eid is over. Ramadan is over-and the kids <http://dahrjamailiraq.com/gallery/view_photo.php?set_albumName=album21&id=100_3343> are remaining without even a smile. They have nothing and nowhere to go. We used to take them to parks to amuse them, but now we don t even have a house for them.
He continues pointing at the children, along with some women nearby, What about the children? What did they do? What about the women? I can t describe the situation in Fallujah and the condition of the people-Fallujah is suffering too much, it is almost gone now.
He then explains, We got some supplies from the good people of
He said those who left Fallujah did not think they would be gone so long, so they brought only their summer clothes. Now it is quite cold at night, down to 10 degrees C at night and windy much of the time. Khalil adds, We need more clothes. It s a disaster we are living in here at this camp. We are living like dogs and the kids do not have enough clothes.
As of today, a spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent told me none of their relief teams had been allowed into Fallujah, and the military said it would be at least two more weeks before any refugees would be allowed into their city.
More writing, photos and commentary at http://dahrjamailiraq.com
from Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba :
The Taguba Report
from Wayne Madsen :
MORE ON TORTURE
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA-IN-EXILE