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(en) Aporia #2 - An Anarchist Analysis of the Detention of Immigrants and War, post 9-11 - by Zen Dochterman

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://aporiajournal.tripod.com/)
Date Tue, 11 Nov 2003 09:48:48 +0100 (CET)


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The War on Terror is the world's latest state of emergency. Why,
long after the ebb of the attack, after the capture of hundreds of
suspected terrorists, after the (non-terrorist) threats in Iraq, Syria,
and North Korea have been bombed or lulled into extinction, can't we
say we have reached normalcy again? Threats will continue to exist so
long as American hegemony continues, and today such threats seem
no more imminent than in the hijacking- and car bombing-laden 70's
and 80's. The War on Terror is no longer a shift in foreign policy aimed
to fight a supposed threat. Nor is it simply an economic expansionist
effort on the part of the U.S. elite or its corporations. It is a
systematic erasure of the category of normalcy that allows for force
to replace legality. The first casualty of this expanded use of force is
what we once took to be the "political". The new deployments of
power post-911 provide the legal justifications for an extreme
intensification of control over immigrants, asylum seekers, and
non-whites the world over.


The State has assumed extensive control over a number of areas
previously inaccessible to it or considered untouchable by
international legal standards. The Bush regime has done everything to
increase its capacity to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists and
immigrants (solely on the basis of being immigrants from Moslem
countries). It has taken measures to collect information without
probable cause and suspend privacies (Patriot Act), as well as to try
prisoners of war in military tribunals (Military Order on Detention and
Treatment of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism). It
has extended regulation of surveillance into the libraries and other
institutions (Patriot Act). The State legitimates these ends by
instantiating a state of emergency that justifies every use of force.
Not to use such force would "endanger" national security. Giorgio
Agamben described this shift in sovereign power as the moment when
"the state of exception thus ceases to be referred to as an external
and provisional state of factual danger and comes to be confused with
juridical rule itself" (138). The ultimate aim is to mask the "political"
aspect of America's wars, legal changes, and detainments behind the
veneer of "protection". For citizen to question political choices
becomes a matter of suggesting that they do not value the "safety" of
"security" of their country.


Force, beyond all law, is the basis of all law. It may be said that in
its "normal" deployment, force is supposed to uphold law rather than
be a law unto itself. However, this analysis misses the point. Force
can only be exerted when the law is suspended. Cops can only arrest
and beat people because they are beyond law. Or better, during
revolutionary times, the military steps in to show that State power
rests upon a violence that both exceeds and circumscribes the
political order. Legitimized force is thus the privilege of the state. The
"legitimized" use of force - and what constitutes that legitimacy - is
spreading in new and unprecedented ways and infecting ever more
innocuous areas of our existence.


The question anarchist and other radicals should be asking is not,
"what's happening to our civil liberties?". This implies that we once
had them and only want a nicer administration to restore them. Rather
we should be asking how state-monopolized force is deployed and for
whose protection. "Our" civil liberties or "our" human rights already
implies that there are those who lack them, who can be stripped of
them and only lent such rights through a certain type of government.
To demand the restoration of civil liberties and of human rights as
self-is an inevitable struggle that I have no doubt will benefit those
most hurt by the current order. However, such reformism does nothing
to undermine the order that can decide whose civil liberties to protect.
In fact, it must be argued that it is only by stripping a great number of
people of such rights that the political rights of others (citizens) can
be ensured. Thus, operating within the discourse of civil liberties or
human rights is a necessarily self-defeating project. Change must be
more all-pervasive.


Agamben differentiates between the two ancient Greek words used
to describe life, bios, in the sense of one's political/legal existence,
and zoe, the pure biological being, or "bare life". The detainments of
hundreds of immigrants in detention centers around the country, the
indefinite imprisonment of "enemy combatants" and terrorist suspects
at Guantanomo Bay demonstrate the racial character of this body
without civil liberties or political rights, this bare life. Agamben argues
that "[t]he camp is the space opened up when the state of exception
begins to become the rule" (168-9). The camp, such as that at
Guantonomo Bay, can "protect" the public by removing potential
threats from the social realm, in a space beyond legality. It is
precisely this extra-legal space in which sovereign force operates and
it is the body of the immigrant on which it acts. 9-11 has provided a
convenient excuse for the State to refine its demographic controls and
shatter every guideline for the treatment of refugees outlined in
Geneva Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of
Refugees (see the July 8th, 2002 letter from Guenet Guebre-Christos
of the UNHCR to Edward Kennedy regarding the illegalities of the
Department of Homeland Security or the April 15th letter to Rebecca
Sharpless of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center regarding
selective detainment and detainment as an immigration deterrent).


Besides Giorgio Agamben, Alain Joxe offers ways to understand
the liquidation of the political in our times and the new movement
towards an expansive sovereign force. In Empire of Disorder, he
envisions a new state in which "military rationality, its political
source, would disappear, replaced by something else, by a technique
for constant management of a calculated massacre as an act at
directly regulating, not politics...but demographics and the economy"
(12). The new empire has the goal of "regulating disorder by means of
financial norms and military expeditions and has no intention to
occupy conquered territories" (14), thus refusing to provide some form
of "protection" against armed groups, crime, and civil war. Witness
post-war Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not to say that a
neo-colonialism based on occupation rather than indirect rule is
preferable. Instead we must see the ways in which the American
empire erodes state protection abroad while refusing to provide it,
leaving this task to the U.N. or N.A.T.O., or often worse, local
racquets and armed groups.


We may also notice that in Joxe's formulation the empire sets itself
primarily to regulating "demographics and the economy". This allows
us a point of entry for uniting Foucault's and Agamben's notions of
biopolitics with a more traditional Marxist/anarchist economic
analysis. For Foucault, biopolitics begins during the 18th century as
the regulation of the species life of human beings, their "propagation,
births and mortality, the level of health, life expectancy, longevity"
(History of Sexuality, 139). He notes the role of demographic
information and population control as essential factors in the
deployment of biopolitics.
If we take Joxe's claim seriously about the demographic controls
carried out by empire, we can see in the present moment the
rearticulation of biopolitics, formerly in the hands of medical
institutions and bureaucrats, by the war machine itself. Policing
instances of ill health, sordid living conditions, human rights
violations, and "rogue states" become an affair of the American state,
the U.N., and N.A.T.O. as well as the N.G.O.s that follow quickly
after them. The civil wars that empire produces (as in the Phillipines),
now often melded into the rubric of "terrorism", thus provide more
instances for America to go to war and regulate population flows and
the material conditions of life, Westernizing what it can in the
process.


Agamben's concern with the zoe (bare life) of the immigrant and
refugee takes on a double significance. Empire's wars and global
capital will increasingly displace people and provide for violations of
so-called "human rights"; however, it is such displacement that comes
to be the concern of the war machine itself. This type of analysis
helps to explain the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which
without a clear short-term economic benefit (who thought Iraq would
be "manageable" within a few months?) have more to do with
extending empire's capacity for biopolitical control. When N.G.O.'s
and humanitarian institutions step in to occupied countries, the
biopolitical regulation of "births and mortality, the level of health and
life expectancy" swings into full effect. Introducing such seemingly
innocuous organizations can radically alter the bureaucratic and at
times, the cultural constitution of a country, and must be seen as the
first step in neo-colonialist projects by the West. This central fact
illuminates the otherwise mysterious bombings of the U.N. buildings
and attacks on health workers in Iraq. These attacks send the
message that it is not a question of one master or another, however
benign, but a total rejection of the system of global neo-colonialism in
both its military and bureaucratic guises. Thus, sovereign force,
manifest in the U.N., N.A.T.O., the American military and carried out
by N.G.O.'s, humanitarian organizations and "peacekeeping" groups
comes to have a direct relation to the bare life (zoe) of the people of
other nations, their living standards and their health. This is a
biological infection of the "outside" of Empire by Empire.

If globalization creates population flows and if such a radical
transgression of national boundaries is a threat (rather than the act of
"victims" with nothing left to do) to capital, perhaps the wars abroad
and the war on immigrants in America through post 9-11 policy should
be seen as two ways of denying the mobility of the thousands who
escape the death of sedentary existence. But nomadism is vaster than
a logic of simple escape. It is the glitter of Paris, New York, London.
It is trains and drunkenness, the omnipresence of mortality and the
surrender to chance. It is the elsewhere of possibility. It is what must
be fought for in an age when globalization breaks down economic
barriers to national sovereignty, but does nothing to undermine
nations' monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

Our first effort must be to insist on the normalcy of this world. This
will be a shock to both the left and the right. We are not in a state of
exception, an emergency. First there have always been attacks on
American interests; these are no more present today than in the past.
Second, we are inhabiting a world of rampant force and violence. The
right of the State (here I do not exempt Europe from the equation) to
monopolize force has always preceded this way under capital. To
pathologize it implies curing it rather than annihilating it. Our second
effort must be to fight for the destruction of all barriers to free
movement. It seems today we are further off from this goal than ever.
However we need to reintensify our attacks on the use of force to
detain and arrest people without cause, as the scale of such arrests is
particular to the last two years. This will be the jumping point for a
critique of the Statist appropriation of legitimized violence. As its
most obvious and pernicious form, immigration policy is our best point
for attack. It also provides the opportunity for trans-national alliances.
Such alliances across national boundaries exist already, in a spectral
and soon-to-be realized form.



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