The readings for this week have made me seriously consider the questions I posed in my comment last week; namely, how have we (the greater American populace) created, or at least submitted to, a society which views torture as acceptable?
Before the gloves come off and the rage at confronting each of our personal complicity in this simple fact of American society, let me expand on my question. I do not doubt that the majority of our classmates believe that torture is wrong. But we are all living in a country where we benefit indirectly, and directly, from torture. We get oil for our cars, we get to feel safe knowing our army is out there fighting the terrorists, we get to buy our cheap consumer goods, we get to be happy. So whether or not we say we are okay with torture, our actions show that we are, actually, okay with it.
Phillips gave us some clues as to how this issue is being glossed over. He carefully lays out the idea, not in the main subject of his chapters, but along the way, that our government is legitimating torture. Moreover, who's really playing the terror card? 9/11 has lasting effects, but our government went out of their way to label Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and North Korea as members of an "Axis of Evil" (Phillips, 50). This terminology is a throwback to World War II, playing on historical fears from previous wars. The torture memos read for last class provide the paper trail of government officials laying the foundation for the legitimization of dehumanization. This use of semantics to sidestep actual ethical problems is also addressed when Nowlan and Benson made the distinction between "interrogation" and "tactical questioning," (Phillips, 60). The government plays on the public's fears, our fears, that we aren't safe, that another 9/11 could happen if we don't fight this war. Even better, were it not for the photos from Abu Ghraib, we wouldn't have see the effects of the war at all. In not directly addressing topics, the government sings us a sweet lullaby, encouraging up to look the other way, or if we do look, to not look to closely. We, the public, were, and are, afraid of terrorists attacking our homes. Phillips writes, "It turned out that senior government officials and low-ranking troops at Guantanamo had much in common. Everyone feared terrorist threats," (85). But our government took that fear and used it to sign off on torture, and assuming one guilty before proven innocent. That is what most goes against the US's honorable nature. The entire military hierarchy is in on torture, not just a few out of control, low-level foot soldiers.
In addition, our government is making this behavior legally acceptable. How can we show we're not okay with it? In an ideal sense, maybe we could try getting involved in the politics, or at least voting for people who will take a stand against it. I usually like Obama, but his stance on Gitmo is unfortunate in that it continues the legacy of torture in a place that does not legally exist, on people who do not qualify as human. Phillips takes all of Chapter 4 to demonstrate that torture is not even an effective means of getting information from someone. So why does the military continue to do this?
Puar provided evidence, explaining "torture is neither antithetical nor external to the project of liberation; rather, it is part and parcel of the necessary machinery of the civilizing mission," (Puar, 15). This makes something like the Holocaust argument we discussed in class on Thursday, in addition to my CORE Modernity course. Normalized and sanctioned torture is not an aberration of modernity, but just the flip side of the coin. The symptoms of modernity include the high-handed goals of industrialization and progress, and with them come efficient means of dehumanizing people. Puar's summary of the Orientalist effect on torture in Abu Ghraib, notes "[The] eroticization of enemy targets . . . triggers the objectiﬁcation process," (Puar, 18). He then refers to Lynndie England's role in this as showing what can happen with gender equality. It's extra poignant because, the same way torture comes with modernity, can't women's growing power provide the opportunity for the abuse of that power?
I don't have a clever segue, but here's the other thought that comes to mind when reading about the US fighting our noble wars abroad: Do we want to fight a real war on terror? Why don't we start with dismantling the KKK? They may not have hijacked a plane, but they are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Would bringing the war home make us realize what actually goes into a war? instead of playing into the "out of sight, out of mind" mentality?
Also, on a related note, I was in CORE Middle East for my Communities and Identities course, and we watched a film called "Shocking and Awful" which further detailed bombings like Fallujah. If you feel ambitious, here's a link: http://www.archive.org/details/ddtvshock1 It's sickening and saddening, and it's hard to keep seeing ourselves as the good guys in this equation.