Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Laleh Khalili's "Time in the Shadows"

Laleh Khalili is a Reader in Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), and the author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies and reported the following:
Page 99 is part of the conclusion of the chapter on Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and the legal struggles around the status of detainees there. When Camp X-Ray was first used to house detainees of the War on Terror we regularly heard that Guantánamo was a legal black hole. But what interested me was that the Camp was exactly the opposite. The vast edifice of laws, treaties, and court cases arguing its jurisdictional status loomed over the camp. But also what was really interesting to me was how much the discussion of Guantánamo as something monstrously new and unprecedented seemed amnesiac: what about the Haitian detainees held there in the mid-1990s, or all the other island prisons and detention centres used to hold combatants in small wars and counterinsurgencies over the course of the long 20th century?

On page 99, I sum up what I found most extraordinary about the mass of laws and legal arguments around Guantánamo: how all the cases revealed themselves for what they were via the precedents they invoked (colonial rulings, or cases which justified injustices). Page 99 mentions the Indian Wars, where many of the legal arguments of the War on Terror seem to have been rehearsed, including the usage of military commissions to summarily try non-citizens.

The book’s other chapters look at other forms of detention in the War on Terror, their ancestors from other wars, and the particular aspect of these liberal counterinsurgencies they reveal. So, extraordinary renditions, for example, tell us something about the use of proxies and local clients in these wars and the “plausible deniability” they grant the more powerful actor. Or the large-scale sweep of men between the ages of 16 and 55, and gigantic POW camps (such as those in Abu Ghraib, Camp Nama, or Bagram Air Force Base) reveal the vast apparatuses of information-gathering, bureaucracy, and re-education –alongside torture– used to “turn” suspected combatants. I also write about the mass incarceration of civilians via enclavisation or encirclement (as was done in a number of cities and neighbourhoods in Iraq, or indeed Strategic Hamlets in Vietnam), and how these forms prepare civilian spaces for door-to-door search-and-sweeps, intelligence gathering, and collective punishment of civilians that are the hallmarks of such asymmetric and unconventional warfare.
Learn more about Time in the Shadows at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue