Friday, August 18, 2006

Readings on the Terror Plot

Three items from the last week on the "foiled terror plot":

First, Robert Fisk, on the view from Beirut:
So I sat on the carpet in my living room and watched all these heavily armed chaps at Heathrow protecting the British people from annihilation and then on came President George Bush to tell us that we were all fighting "Islamic fascism". There were more thumps in the darkness across Beirut where an awful lot of people are suffering from terror--although I can assure George W that while the pilots of the aircraft dropping bombs across the city in which I have lived for 30 years may or may not be fascists, they are definitely not Islamic.

And there, of course, was the same old problem. To protect the British people--and the American people--from "Islamic terror", we must have lots and lots of heavily armed policemen and soldiers and plainclothes police and endless departments of anti-terrorism, homeland security and other more sordid folk like the American torturers--some of them sadistic women--at Abu Ghraib and Baghram and Guantanamo. Yet the only way to protect ourselves from the real violence which may--and probably will--be visited upon us, is to deal, morally, with courage and with justice, with the tragedy of Lebanon and "Palestine" and Iraq and Afghanistan. And this we will not do.
And Craig Murray, advising us to be skeptical of it altogether (link via This Modern World):
...many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.
Finally, Jodi Dean on our enjoyment of the war on terror:
Are these humiliations and pleasures [...] the contemporary equivalent to war sacrifice? So, we feel involved, like we are making a sacrifice to a greater cause, that we are actually at war, to the extent that we allow ourselves to be humiliated? We take off our shoes and belts, allow ourselves--innocent people!--to be frisked, doing our part for the cause?

And, likely we enjoy seeing it happen to others, seeing them brought down a bit, shoeless, with droopy pants. We like seeing how others pack. We enjoy the way the pushy and impatient are made to wait with the rest of us.

And, we enjoy our own humiliation as well--it proves to us we are alive, that we matter. Nietzsche describes the way the priestly introduction of God and the soul made man an interesting animal. The war on terror makes us not only interesting, but important: we could be dangerous; we are like spies, like James Bond; we are so mysterious that we could bring down planes! Our every item is potentially of interest, a sign of guilt, a hint at something, something suspicious and meaningful. Oh yes, we enjoy this war on terror.

Who are we? If recent trends toward pushing through first and business class travelers, toward giving them quick and easy service, rendering them above suspicion--after all, they already know how important they are--is any indication, then the we who enjoy are a large middle class. We have enough money to travel or are employed in occupations that require us to; it's unlikely that we spend a great deal of time using our physical strength, the labor of our hands, to earn our keep. We are neither the group most likely to give our sons and daughters to the war effort nor those who will profit mightily from investments in the war machine or financial speculations on its outcome.

We need to be interpellated. If we didn't enjoy the war on terror, it would collapse.

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