where the writers are
Plunder Blog! The torture memo seems an occasion to begin an unapologetic radical discourse.

I completely agree with both Michele and John. On the power of ideas and particularly on their power if they can originate some critical thinking that clearly exposes past horrors (which are still current).

I really hope that Obama reads Galeano. That book was out there for almost  fourty years and it would have been nice if it had already read it! But of course it had the "stigma" of being published by Monthly Review a place  perhaps dangerous to attend by someone preparing a career path to become the President of the US! Incidentally I am very happy that Monthly Review Press will make some money out of it. They were the first press that gave Laura and I an offer for Plunder  and eventually we passed thinking that a corporate publisher would be more reassuring for potential readers! As soon as we have the Castillan  version I should send it to Chavez!

As to being openly radical on the left I do not think we could do much better at this point...It costs a little bit, like being excluded from some elitist academic  places but I ensure you guys that are young academics: there is nothing more boring and structurally conservative than elite academic institutions! And i really mean it. it is really the death of critical thinking or at least its normalization when it comes from there.

Sometimes it costs feeling not generous enough or too impatient like with Barack Obama that most people seems to love and I cannot for all what he symbolizes. We have an occasion to check his good faith and to press unapologetic right-wing thinkers, people like  Dershowitz  or John Yoo that they actually MUST apologize. And this is the issue of the torture memos.

Perhaps if they will have to apologize for that they will sooner or later apologize for zionism and also for neo-liberal policy. And that would be a grat victory of truth like that in the pages of Eduardo Galeano (or as for zionism of Ilan  Pappe). 

So let's "take action" as Amnesty tells us down here. One day Bush, Cheney, Rice and other murderers might  be forced to apologize.   TAKE ACTION NOW!Momentum for an independent investigation is snowballing.
Send a letter to President Obama and Congress telling them that any investigation must be backed by the full force of law and adequate funding.  Dear Ugo,

Just as the volume of calls for investigations into the U.S. torture program reached deafening levels this week, another classified report came out Tuesday that revealed new details about the military's role in torturing detainees.

This latest report by the Senate Armed Services Committee exposes the "few bad apples" argument as a complete farce.1 While the Bush Administration was publically saying the horrors of Abu Ghraib were just aberrations, this report clearly shows that in fact, torture was sanctioned and even encouraged in military detention centers.

Thanks to your countless actions over the past few weeks, the momentum for investigations is snowballing. Last Friday President Obama said this was a time for "reflection, not retribution"; less than a week later, national newspapers are reporting the President is now open to an investigation.2

But what kind of investigation? There's a growing risk that we may get an investigation that lacks independence, legal authority, and the adequate funding necessary to tell the full truth about the illegal, U.S. torture program.Rumsfeld and Cheney
What we need is a non-partisan independent commission, free from political influences, that has subpoena power and enough money to track down every lead.3

Tell President Obama and Congress that any investigation must be independent, backed by the full force of law, and have enough funding to uncover the full truth behind the U.S. torture program.

Even with the release of this classified report, we still only know a portion of the truth. And it's only by exposing the full truth of what was done in our names, that we can once and for all move forward and restore our nation's credibility.

Let's make sure whatever investigation moves forward, it's backed by the authority and support it needs to be effective.

Please send your letter now to President Obama and Congress urging for an independent investigation backed by the full force of law and adequate funding.

In just one week, we've gone from seeing an investigation as a long shot, to talking about what kind of investigation we need. Your actions, phone calls, and visits before Congress are making an impact. We're getting closer to seeing our government actually do the right thing.

Thanks for standing with us.

Njambi Good
Director, Counter Terror with Justice Campaign Take Action Donate Blog1 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/us/politics/22report.html?hp
2 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/21/AR200904...
3 http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGAMR511512008DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE. Messages sent to this email address are not read. If you have a question or comment, please use our interactive online help system. Subscribe to our RSS feeds.  Find Us On Facebook MySpace YouTube Twitter Change.org 

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Ugo's comment about the

Ugo's comment about the intellectual mind-numbingness of choosing prestigious institutions over dynamic/experiemental environments reminds me of Duncan Kennedy's work on hierarchies inside the classroom, and trying to equip his students with a sociological understanding of the struggle they were participating in.

I agree that the 'torture' issue is a major event that needs to be seized upon. In this sense, I just wanted to think about the issue in relation to Zizek/Laclau, in that the very idea of 'torture' is not a settled context, but something that ultimately is fought over, negotiated and re-negotiated, and all the more reason why we need to stand up and face the current moment, to not let this word escape its meaning and being taken over by cynical pragmatists and political powerbrokers. This means signing petitions, donating money as possible, and so on... Here is one question I've just been playing around with personally, in what ways could be push the 'torture' issue beyond the immediate context of Bush's kabal, to open up a more systematic reflection? Is this desireable (while not stopping one's other activism)?

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re: a radical discourse


I'm reading Marnia Lazreg's "Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad" which is mostly about how the French used torture in the Algerian War 1954-1962 but at the end she discusses Iraq a little. I think that Lazreg's so far making some fascinating connections between a failing empire like the France in 1954 after the Vietnamese defeat turning to torture to try to keep it's remaining empire.

Lazreg also has a lot to say about identity and torture or how torture defines identity for the people who torture, the victims of torture, and the nation which uses torture: "The centrality of torture .. was not only a catalyze for identity crystallization among its perpetrators, but also a trigger to a broader search for the meaning and purpose of the violence unleashed by the war. Torture in Algeria was a watershed for French intellectuals." Sartre, Fanon, Camus and many other French intellectuals "shed light on the philosophical-psychological springs of torture and terror as they traced the consequences of the original act of colonization."

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That's such a cool quote. I

That's such a cool quote. I just wanted to respond to it with some brief thoughts.

First, its cool how the quote suggests that there is no set composition or definition of torture, but rather it is one of those 'empty signifiers' that functions as a locus for contesting ideologies each claiming to encapsulate all others but ultimately failing. Against these failures, though, and despite the fact that our experience of understanding 'torture' is highly contingent and contestable, this all operates against the idea that there is something called 'torture', something that exists beyond as a goal, something that is never completely said or that never quite fits into its articulation. In this context, with our pure idea of torture always somewhere external or partly unsaid, it seems to me that it gives us a sense of hope - that there is some gentle spirit that identifies with those that suffer, and so on. We are suddenly not only searching for empathizing with the Other (the torture victim), to see through her/his eyes, but more importantly, we are thinking about what the Other thinks about us, and what that tells us. Of course, all this is a purely imaginary move on our parts to a large extent, so it is really a call for self-reflection. It seems in this sense that an interesting approach for the US would be if it looked to Germany as a model for national appraisal and redemption.

Second, the quote seems to me to suggest a performative nature to our understanding of torture. I'm not talking here about how it is open to different ideologies, but how it opens a space for pathologies, not necessarily opposing each other even, but that draw satisfaction and channel their violence and anger and paranoia into various plotted arguments that are fulfilled in the very witnessesing and making professions / confessions. By supporting torture as a pragmatic exercise, people experience a certain thrill in taking a risk, in being bold. I think this is a positive thing. The more people take stronger stands, on whatever side, and are willing to accept the risks and consequences of those stands, then there is more of a possibility for new alliances and influence.

Third, in relation to the reference to colonialism. Perhaps one of the surviving vestiges of the colonial era is 1) the way that we have come to be able to separate colonial expansion )as an exploitive, but also changeable practice) from domestic, internal inequality (that denies redistributional schemes in the name of some 'natural' imbalance), and 2) the nation-state. As to this second, the nation state, it is interesting how as sovereignty breaks down, and financial institutions and multinational corporations symbolize choatic agents that are 'part of the problem', that people are beginning to turn to the state as the vehicle for reform, and curbing what are viewed as 'excess'/'greed'/'abberations', whatever, to what is otherwise a stable system. In other words, the crisis becomes a new call for re-enacting the basic world-view and assumptions from before, rather than opening up a moment to question the 'naturalness' of these assumptions. So, in some ways, the move towards defending torture, is endemic of the general return to the state as some 'heroic' saviour. This seems to me to all lead to why it seems that so many of the calls against torture to focus on individuals rather than the larger system that legitimized and gave space for the torture under the Bush administration. In other words, by focusing on particular individuals, the idea of 'torture' becomes a way of reaffirming the goodness of the state and society, as having purged the rotten apples, without ever having to question its own complicity - ie, to what extent is liberalism prone to these horrors (torture, genocide, etc)... It was cool how the quote really pushed that idea to thinking about how violence is unleashed in a broader sense.

Hey, this was a lot of fun to think about. I apologize if any of the writing feels overly discursive or laboring, I'm trying to work it out myself, and interested in other thoughts. I think my own thinking on this right now is processing it through writing by Zizek, Laclau and Butler.