The Image and the Imagined: On Why We’re not Allowed to see Detainee Abuse

By Aisha Ghani

Abu Ghraib painting by Fernando BoteroBy Aisha Ghani

 

On Monday, November 30th the Supreme Court overturned a Second Circuit Court of Appeals order to release photographs of U.S. soldier abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a statement by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, disclosing these photographs “would pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces.”

The contestation over the release of these photographs began four years ago, when a trials court judge claimed that the Bush administration was evading obligations imposed on it by the Freedom of Information Act in withholding the images. Although earlier this year the Obama administration argued in favor of releasing the photographs in an effort to encourage ‘transparency’, the decision was later reversed. While the Supreme Court has historically challenged the state’s assertions in cases concerning the rights of detainees, this time they sided with the  Obama Administration, permitting the Pentagon to block the release of these photographs and others like them.

Are we to believe that concern for the safety of U.S. soldiers and civilians lies at the heart of this decision, or can we sense a certain disingenuity when we think about how the state endangers both soldiers and civilians everyday by subjecting them to war?  Insincerity, as George Orwell tells us, is “the gap between one’s real and declared aims.”

What is it about the nature of the image in general and, more specifically, about the ‘possible’ content of these images in particular that is creating a palpable gap between the state and judiciary’s real and declared aims?

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A Keynes Primer

John Maynard Keynes

Peter Clarke speaks to C. S. Soong of Against the Grain about John Maynard Keynes.

Download program audio (mp3, 46mb)

John Maynard Keynes died in 1946, but Keynesianism, in one form or another, is alive and well: the British economist’s name has been invoked repeatedly since the global economic meltdown began in 2008. But how much do we really know about Keynes, and what did he really say and write? Peter Clarke has written a new book about Keynes’s life and ideas.

Loach and Laverty Support Aminatou Haidar

Aminatou Haidar is known as the “Sahrawi Gandhi”

Scottish writer Paul Laverty and British director Ken Loach issued a joint statement on December 1st (commemorating the anniversary of Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her bus seat for a white passenger) in support of Western Saharan human rights activist Aminatou Haidar.  Haidar is in the third week of a hunger strike after being deported against her will by Moroccan authorities occupying her homeland.  You can watch Democracy Now!’s coverage of Haidar’s plight here.

Statement concerning Sahrawi human right’s activist Aminatou Haidar 

Haidar’s boarding card and Rosa Parks’s seat

On the 1st December 1955, in Montgommery, Alabama,  Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver and give up her seat to a white passenger.  On Friday the 13th of November 2009 Aminatou Haidar refused to fill out her boarding card as instructed by the authorities in Laayoun (where she lives)  in Morocco controlled Western Sahara.  

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Pakistan and the Global War on Terror: An Interview with Tariq Ali

by Mara Ahmed, with Judy Bello

Tariq Ali and Mara Ahmad at Hamilton College, NY.

Mara Ahmed and I were given the opportunity to interview Tariq Ali when he spoke at Hamilton College in Upstate New York on November 11, 2009, during his recent speaking tour of the United States. Tariq, a native of Pakistan who lives in England, is a well known writer, intellectual and activist. He has traveled all over Southwest Asia and the Middle East while researching his books. Mara, who is working on a film highlighting the opinions of the Pakistani people regarding the current situation in Pakistan and the Western initiated ‘Global War on Terror’, had a lot of questions for Tariq about the internal state of Pakistan. I wanted to ask Tariq for his opinion about the effects of American foreign policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and what alternatives he thought might be available.

Mara: What is the role of Islamophobia in the Global War on Terror? Many American war veterans have described the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as imperialistic, racist and genocidal. Your comments?

Tariq: Well, I think Islamophobia plays an important part in things, because it creates an atmosphere in which people feel, “Oh, we’re just killing Muslims, so that’s alright.” And this situation is becoming quite serious in the United States and in large parts of Europe, where people feel that the fact that a million Iraqis have died is fine because they’re not like us, they’re Muslims. So, Islamophobia is becoming a very poisonous and dangerous ideological construct which has to be fought against.

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