The motives of policing
A new year, a new argument. This week, as stories of an increased troop level in Iraq abound, there rest beneath the surface decaying motives, distorting the possibility of correcting any American activities in Iraq.The Iraq War was a war of liberation, in order to overthrow a regime of terror (Saddam Hussein), and implement a regime against terror (Iraqi democracy). Specifically, in this sense, there is no category by which one can distinguish the goals of the Iraqi state from the goals of the foreign policy. Iraq was to be an American satelite.Yet, liberation never happened. Due to a complete misinterpretation of Iraqi sentiments, a complete fabrication of human nature ("the liberty we cherish is not our gift to the world, it is God's gift to humankind"), and a complete misunderstanding of ethnic arrangements and loyalties in Iraq, the war was a complete failure (I don't see how anyone can argue this point, given that the goal for Iraq was a satelite state in the War on Terror, a middle-eastern allie in America's war against the middle east)...The motives in Iraq were never motives of freedom. They were motives of national security, only thousands of miles away, in a strange land. The beauty of this for Americans is that the brunt of violence against America is shifted, to a satelite rather than to the motherland. In this sense, Iraq is nothing more than a punching bag that a husband puts in the basement to beat senselessly in times of stress, an alternative to beating his wife.The key: the Iraq War is a war that is meant to perpetuate violence. And yet, it's hardly a "war" any longer; the American presence is now determined to serve as a police operation, to train Iraqis to handle their own security. This is a bizarre turn of events, because the War was never about Iraqi security; and yet, I doubt that it really truly is about Iraqi security, even with the shift to American policing (from American dominance, asserting the raw power through which one state can create a satelite).But, is policing in this sense an administration if justice? Or an attempt to suspend violence? One must be skeptical that the policing efforts of America in Iraq are actually meant to surpress violence in general; rather, the policing effort of America in Iraq is meant to redirect the violence......but to where?The situation in Iraq is that of sectarian violence. To correct this is not to rid the situation of violence, but to unite the violence against a different target. The target, of course, is presumably terrorism. However, uniquely, the terrorist situation in Iraq is now split, split into sectarian camps, where terrorist violence occurs on a daily basis in a brutal campaign of retaliation, murder, vigilence, and ultimately, redemption (for one's sector, of course. The other can rot).So, the motives remain, but they are a ruin. There is not "a" terrorism any longer. (In fact, there probably never were merely "terrorists," joined together in one easy-to-find, easy-to-eliminate enemy). There are many terrorist sectors now, almost none of them unified. Targets need not be discriminated; targets range from sects of Islam, sects of ethnicities, and American police.The motives for the Iraq war were never introduced as motives that promote a police effort to redirect violence from being-against multiple sources (bad) to being-against one source (good). The motives in the Iraq War werenever explicitly stated as "to perpetuate violence in general in the world."But yet, those were the motives. Combatting one unified terrorist organization introduces a great and formidible enemy to Americans, an enemy worthy of a long, hard, endless battle that requires various sacrifices by American people (insert any familiar slogan chanting at we, the people, by the Bush Administration, preparing our psyches for what was never intended to be a war without end).Thus we should not be surprised at the administration demanding 20,000 more troops in Iraq. Those troops will serve as honorable targets from various terrorist sects, but they will not serve without purpose; they will serve to perpetuate violence, and tragically so, violence for which they will be the targets.For this reason we should be brutally opposed to the ethical activities of the Bush Administration; we must demand that a regime of instilling peace-as-security (which really means perpetuating violence, which only demands that the targets be consolidated) be shifted to a regime of delivering freedom-without-security.Our freedom as humans will never consist in a real peacefulness; for, what we always forget in our totalitarian pushes, desires, and demands for security is that freedom is insecurity; but, insecure as it is, our freedom, when executed, when we are emancipated from our prevalent order, will at the very least end the idea of violent acts to perpetuate violence in general; for, perpetual violence is a surefire sign of totalitarian security operating at its highest level.
The Death of Santa
As the holiday shopping season nears its close, the final weekend of a shopping frenzy, we are consistently bombarded this season with advertisements from numerous corporations that are making great jokes (attempted satire, really) about the ineptitude or irrelevance of Santa Claus. Old St. Nick. Now, these commercials seem to be plesant, light-hearted jokes on the surface. Children so ignorant and unphased by the excess of presents beneath the tree, so excited about a Best Buy box that he dives beneath the Santa-sown fare. In another, two children sit, hypnotized by a bright Best Buy box, as Santa attempts to catch their attention. After all, he's not used to children ignoring his mythical status.In our postmodern society, which values the death of grand narratives (which merely secretly means that we no longer wish to pay any attention whatsoever to grand, systematic criticisms or condemnations of capitalism), the icon of giving is no longer needed. Giving is irrelevant in times of excess. But, who really cares? As Best Buy shows us, the thriving consumerism of hypercapitalism negates any necessity for traditional, loving, giving. It's not the thought that counts, but the packaging; the march of capital makes even tradition obsolete.Hopefully, we will awake from our daze. If not, at least we will be hypontized by our boxes.
The Death of Sovereignty
Iraq is not a sovereign nation. Or, in fact, Iraq was not a sovereign nation. This fact was apparent in 2003, when the war was in its stages of rhetoric, and is more confusedly apparent now, albeit in a new context......Pakistan is a sovereign nation. President Bush made such a proclamation recently when speaking about the potential movement of American troops into Pakistan in order to follow an elusive bin Laden. This quote is shocking. If we followed the rationale for the Iraq war to its apex, we should not have been surprised whatsoever if the war's consummation resulted in the overreaching death of the sovereign nation. For, the idea of sovereignty becomes quite confused when one nation invades another for the sole purpose of overthrowing a regime, and, subsequently, nation building.(Of course, there can be no doubt now that this was in fact the intended purpose of the Iraq War. The toppling of Baghdad signified the continuation of Manifest Destiny moreso than the continued manifestation of the War on Terror. What was the selling point of the war? "Freedom is not our gift to the world, it is God's gift to mankind." What were the premises of Manifest Destiny? When it is boiled down to the foundations, Manifest Destiny is about the fact that there exists a God-given measure of how to rule over and use land. The flipside of this is, if a people (in this case Natives) is not properly ruling the land (in this case capitalism, liberal government, Christianity) there can be no other action than taking over that land and instilling proper rule. Could there be any higher outcome of "destiny" than living according to the rule of God (or, the God-sanctioned rule on earth)?).The terms of "nation" are blurry. What makes Pakistan more-sovereign than Iraq is not entirely clear. One aspect is that in the War on Terror, Pakistan had a decision: it was either to be with the U.S. or against the U.S. (and thus, with Taliban and the Terrorists). Pakistan chose wisely, and thus spared themselves from the rule of God.And yet, the War on Terror fully transcends nations. In fact, the War on Terror transcends religion, nations, ethnicity, and race. The terrorists transcend these categories because the signularity of their actions. A terrorist attack, no matter its connection to a larger organization, is a singular occurence. There is never another guaranteed terrorist attack after the occurence of one (if there were, then terrorists would cease to be terrorists and would morph into militaries).Terrorism requires a disjoint between agent and nation, agent and ethnicity, agent and religion, agent and race.The United States is now confusedly piecing these categories back together. But, the War on Terror falls more on the side of terror, insofar as this War transcends those overreaching categories in the same manner that terrorists do, despite the supposedly clear division between an extensively organized military, and a terrorist actor.Both the terrorists and United States transcend nation because as the terrorist knows no border or sings no anthem, so too does the United States confuse the status of nations (via sovereignty). What once was meaningful in the demarcation of nationality is now useless.Both the terrorists and United States transcend religion because both misuse the premises of God. Religion for the United States and terrorists is merely politics under the guise of gods, gods that are battling over nothing particularly heavenly, the reign of their ideology on this planet. President Bush's Christianity and Osama bin Laden's Islam merely battle over the realm of whose dead god gets to rule over the flourishing of culture. (Thus, their battle entirely excludes the True God).Both the terrorists and United States transcend ethnicity and race, because the terrorist is faceless and has no loyalty, and the American race is merely a chimera. Both are sides of the same confused agent: the idealized color and culture that corresponds to no particular person that actually exists, and the betrayal of the true practices of actual, authentic, loyal persons. Both the United States and the Terrorists turn their backs to their real constituents.The weak result is a War of confusion and angst, of persons disappointed by the non-correspondence of their ideals to reality. The strong result is a War that illustrates, in its negativity, the reality of the deaths of our world: the Death of God, the Death of Sovereignty, and ultimately, the murder of culture and personal identity. The faceless terrorist and the faceless soldier share the same fate: execution at the hands of the misguidance of a larger ideal. The person that reaches for the chimera has nothing to hold onto. The person that betrays their ancestry and origin can destroy the earth because they have nothing to fight for. Together, they will self-defeat. But, the battle really seems endless.Those of us away from the fight have a task: we are given various Deaths, which slowly present to us, in fragmented form, reality. We must rigorously piece together these fragments and we must not turn away from any mistakes or failures in the task; for, we must be the bearers of what reality reveals to us. In the face of an endless battle of betrayal and imagination, we must steer the real away from the pull of unreality, and towards an ethical outcome. We must stand against this battle so that we may remain ethical in our dispositions; so that our heads may soberly rest in the actuality; so that we may express this actuality with pointed, critical, and meaningful responses to the battle.
The funny thing about human rights...
The recent Supreme Court ruling, which has come under fire from some members of the GOP and brought on cries for "broader" interpretation by some Democrats, deals with a decidedly tactical issue. Quick question: how are the persons upholding the law in a state's executive able to thwart legality and practice illegality? This is, specifically, the issue of tactics. I have in mind, blatently, Georg Lukacs, and his extensive notes on Legality and Illegality, and Tactics and Ethics.
Rather than reading into this court case as a huge overriding victory for those that situate themselves against the administration, I am taking this court case as it is: one small aspect of the Administration's War on Terror is now labelled "illegal," which should not surprise anyone that is familar with the use of tactics outside of the realm of politics--namely, ethics (which is, in fact, where this War resides--it is not a political issue. It is a moral issue which many politicians have confused as a political issue).
Any given legislative regime is limited--be it the American state beneath the Constitution, the body of states beneath statutes of International Law, etc. Thus, in certain situations, the realm of morality must exist as "broader" than the realm of politics. Which is why legality is not a necessary qualification for action---illegal actions can be equally as advantageous as legal actions, and a sound ideological agenda can in fact be built without constant regard for that which is "legal;" and, that which is "illegal" is not necessarily always worth curbing.
Countless revolutionaries, Marxist theorists, heads of state, heads of government, and coalition leaders have made this point. There is not necessarily anything new about this point. But, there is something incredibly unique about the disposition of the Bush Administration, regarding legality and illegality, and this particular Court ruling: that is, the Administration, which upholds the rule of law and human rights, has in fact broken their pact with the law and worked beyond it. Their position is one of stark contradiction: on the one hand, obvious praise and worship of the institutions of law ("democracy," "a judiciary without activist judges," etc.), and, on the other hand, obvious dismissal of outlets of law (see, for instance, the most recent Supreme Court ruling regarding War Tribunals).
This is where the GOP comes in. The most frightening occurence following this court ruling has not been the weakening of possible tactical advantages that may be gained in order to win the War on Terror; rather, what is most frightening is the responses of GOP lawmakers that laud the court's decision as a "victory" for the Bush administration, as an election talking point which suggests that the administration is "too tough on terrorists," and, further, lawmakers that show continuous disregard for the constraints of international law (the most recent response deals with possible implications of the court ruling which suggest that American militants might actually be tried for crimes of war).
Furthermore, these GOP lawmakers point out what seems to be an "obvious" point to most Americans (a point that is actually presumed as a basis for many other opinions regarding the War on terror): a United States military officer should not be held on equal ground as a terror suspect.
Which is bizarre. Here the lawmakers reveal their mistakes: they are, in fact, confusing a moral issue with a political issue. The legality of their tactics means nothing; the War on Terror is a war that must be won, and the demands of legality are one tiny aspect that are merely eligible to be cleaned up later, after the history books are allowed to offer their initial judgments on the war. (Although, it is quite obvious from many perspectives that history has already shown that He is on our side--the "end" of history is in fact liberal-democratic government).
All the while, there exist these underlying arguments that have been severely overlooked; arguments that were meant to pave the way for the War. It was proclaimed, for instance, on many occasions (most notably the 2003 State of the Union address) that freedom is a human right, and it is manifest in liberal democratic government. President Bush memorably stated, ironically signalling is growing engagement with the demands of "human" rights, "freedom is not our gift to the world, but God's gift to mankind."
A war cannot be lost when the laws of God stand behind it, ultimately justifying any tactical needs that stand without the jurisdiction of mere "national" legislation. And, yet, now the GOP lawmakers, who most likely would agree that "freedom is God's gift to mankind," are actually calling for the juxtaposition of American law and International law to be disengaged: this signals a return to national law from international law, a step back towards "national' right from "human" right.
What these contradictions reveal, of course, is a tactical effort that is confused, and not actually worthy of the moniker, 'tactics.' The level of shifting between "human" and "national" right, from "American" to "International" law, from "illegality" to "legality" reveals not a strong, ethical engagement pushing towards an emancipatory project, but a rather disorganized and desperate power surge that wishes to hind behind the bounds of "the Law" while simultaneously exhibiting a merely romantic draw to illegality. Hiding behind 'the Law,' these politicians, and our own executive, display, again and again, their confusion about this issue: their promotion of freedom to Arabic persons serves a limited, misguided regime (politics), giving the administration nothing more than a mere momentary advantage, as opposed to the ultimate objective that must be obtained in the truthful regime of tactics (ethics).
The Importance of an identifiable minority
Reports by Human Rights groups are raising alarms about legislation purportedly passed by the Iranian parliament: this legislation stipulates that a Muslim dress code be implemented, whereby persons adhere to a strict code of similar "Islamic" clothing items, and that non-Muslims wear badges that identify them as such (Jew, Christian, Zoroastrian are the major non-Muslim groups identified). It appears obvious that this is a tactic designed to further implement an ideal Muslim state in Iran, which poses a unique problem. Culturally, non-Muslim advanced or developed societies, such as the United States or France, see such cultural identifications as "closed" or "undemocratic." What's unique is that many Iranian clerics counter arguments about their state's "undemocratic" procedural politics with arguments about the inherent democratic participatory norms of Islam--an Islamic state, for many Muslims--is inherently democratic by participation in the laws of God passed down to man. These completing claims about participation, and the types of legislation that follow, are quite difficult to measure against one another.
A larger problem emerges from this purported situation in Iran: the identifiable minority. In many cases, states that wish to impose a particular form of association--the slave economy, the national socialist regime, the Indian reservation, the refugee camp--depend upon an easily identifiable minority that is in fact clearly powerless--which means that such persons are easily outside of the structures of power that dictate "inclusion" and "exclusion." "Exclusive" politics is the norm in most states; this much is clear; what is troubling is figuring how to measure various points of exclusion.
-The Illegal Worker. The inherent contradiction in American society is building an economy of free exchange upon the tenets of exploitation of a marginal group. This has occurred multiple times in various points of history: the slave worker, the Chinaman on the railroad, the industrial laborer in the age of Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie, etc. The point is to build productivity and societal prosperity upon the backs of a group that is in a twofold position: (a) in need of basic survival (obtaining food, shelter, etc. depends upon the conditions of labor, whether that labor is voluntary or involuntary); (b) “other-than” or “different-from” the society at large. This helps keep such groups in positions of inferiority even long after the terms of labor are void; the image of the other remains clearly in tact, in our minds, as we understand that such a person is clearly identifiable as our inferior; our politics of equality of opportunity thus depend upon our providing an opportunity that strengthens our position or status in the state, while keeping the status of the other in relative flux (e.g., politics are equal if there is one official language through which the state conducts its language; politics are equal if there are persons that can be identified as “illegal,” which means that their status as persons, their status for existence, rests outside of the weights and measures of political process.
(The contradiction, of course, is that if the pressure by Americans to exclude illegal immigrants and rid America of illegal laborers succeeds, one of the major tenets of free exchange will disappear, and slowly the exploitative jobs filled by undocumented and clearly powerless, illegal workers will need to be filled by either (a) a newly excluded, identifiable minority group, or (b) non-minority workers—this possibility is incredibly interesting in my mind. Will non-minority workers, legal workers with access to political process, take such marginal positions of labor?)
-The Religious Other. In the realm of cultural practice, as viewed in Iran, based upon religion, the terms of exclusion (the same terms, on the other side, as political equality or participation within/access to political process) are determined through Muslim status. The unique point of this sort of exclusion is its relative separation from linguistic, ethnic, or racial minorities. There is no Jewish race, there is no Christian ethnicity; these entities, and their exclusion or identification, are based upon practice and affirmation/denial of beliefs. This type of exclusion is equally as dangerous as brute exclusion based upon ethnic or linguistic minority status (which is an easier status to determined); and thus, the exercise of exclusion depends upon the introduction of new symbols of oppression: the star of David; the Swastika; and in Iran, blue cloth for Zoroastrians, yellow badges for Jews. The contradiction of equality are here the juxtaposition of a certain participatory status offered to Muslims over and above these other groups, based upon a new symbol. What’s difficult to swallow here is the defiling of a great religion; for, what occurs when one religious group introduces new symbols that they impose upon other groups in order to exclude them from some participation in society? Will the yellow badge of the Jew become a new symbol of worship in Iran? Marginalized group, marginalized worship/cultural practice equals, on the other hand, the strengthening of the mainstream political process, one of worship and democratic participation beneath the laws of God as dictated to man—here a contradiction in terms.
This contradiction is a cultural equivalent to the American economic contradiction of legal, free exchange versus illegal worker on an exploitative jobsite (marginalized group, marginalized labor equals, on the other hand, the strengthening of the mainstream political process, one of “free and equal democracy”—here a contradiction in terms).
Beware of the terms of your equality, the terms of your participation in society. Beneath your status of inclusive politics resides its contradictory counterpart, the exclusion of a group that in turn solidifies the mainstream order. This is a destruction of politics. Politics cannot exist in such a situation; inclusivity cannot be maintained by exclusivity and remain political; such is the politics of coercion, the politics of repression. If we are concerned about democracy, we will not only criticize Iran and demand truly equal terms of participation; we will work on our own contradictory “democratic” participation, the participation of free exchange above marginal labor and illegal workers.
Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. It's been crazy and busy these past four weeks. The good news is, I'm done with undergrad work, and will be staying at MU for two more years for an MA in philosophy, during which I will be sending out another round of apps for PhD programs...
A worker is a worker is a worker....
Published in April 6, Marquette Tribune viewpoints section...The immigration debate is heating up, as though there were a shortage of hot political issues in America. Joseph Kastner's April 4 Viewpoint argued against legislation that might aid the advancement of the status of illegal immigrants through amnesty. Apart from his "practical" proposals, there are two theoretical problems that plague his Viewpoint. The first issue concerns rights. Kastner states that "illegal immigrants are not U.S. citizens, and therefore, are not entitled to the same rights, or privileges as official residents." As strong as this statement by Kastner appears, there is a problem with his idea of rights. Since the inception of the global war on terrorism, the Bush administration has come to define rights less by nationality and more according to the status of human persons. Freedom is not America's gift to the world, President Bush stated in his State of the Union originally justifying the Iraq war; rather, freedom is God's gift to humanity. The political context for rights is terribly unclear because of this. There is a sense in which this administration really does think that humans are afforded rights on their status as humans, rather than as their status as members of a particular nation. While many may be chuckling under their breath about the true opinion of the Bush administration concerning human rights, this apparent break from nationality for defining human status raises a troubling question for Kastner: How do the rights of American citizens differ from human rights? The second problem for Kastner is capitalism. The real issue of illegal immigration is not illegal immigration: It is capitalism. What does this mean? Imagine, for a moment, a context in which illegal immigration is abolished — either by one extreme (building a wall and apprehending all "illegals"), or by another (abolishing "illegal" status by offering progressive steps for "illegals" to obtain citizenship). One problem remains: who will fill their shoes as menial laborers in the American capitalist system? Kastner is confused when he muses about the existence of bureaucratic red-tape for those that wish to "legitimately" live and work in the United States. The problem is simple: There is no difference between a legitimate or illegitimate worker in the eyes of capitalist economics. A
worker is a worker is a worker! What Kastner means by legitimacy is legality. But this is a stale definition of legitimacy. It's easy to hide behind legality when one feels that the law protects a particular political position. But, the whole situation becomes cloudy when the law itself is illegitimate. The laws, as they exist, do nothing to address illegal immigration because the laws need illegal immigrants to support a large, cumbersome economy. In order to address the issue of illegal immigration, we must actually step away from the issue of legality into the realm of morality and attack the issue at its foundations. I offer this challenge: If one truly wants to abolish illegal immigration, one must abolish capitalism, for to rid America of illegal immigrants is to rid America of menial labor as an institution. We must abolish illegal immigration not because we care about the legal status of persons, but because we are concerned with the exploitation of human persons made readily available by American legality in itself.