'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Growth Industry: Construction of More Indefinite Detention Facilities in Iraq 

As described here in the past, the US continues to incarcerate, on average, approximately 13,000 Iraqis at US military facilities around the country. According to the Christian Science Monitor, it is anticipated that this number will soon triple:

But as the Baghdad security plan also known as Fard Al Kanoon moves forward, Petraeus is planning for the possibility of holding as many as 40,000 captives. Most are being held at two facilities, one at Camp Cropper in Baghdad and another at Camp Bucca, south of the city.

American commands will hold many of those detainees indefinitely to collect intelligence about local networks and terrorist or insurgent activity, providing regular reviews of their cases to assess the security risks they would pose if put back on the street. Many others will be transferred to the Iraqis, where they would become the subjects of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.

Predictably, this will require the construction of more prison facilities and more US military police:

As the Baghdad security plan under Army Gen. David Petraeus moves forward, US and Iraqi forces are apprehending hundreds of insurgents, terrorists, and other criminals. Many of them are quickly being transferred to the Iraqis for detainment. There's just one problem: The Iraqi judicial system, which is responsible for processing such detainees, isn't yet up to the task. This is forcing the Americans to build more detention facilities to hold all the detainees – and bring in more US military police to guard them.

The Iraqi judicial system has been hobbled by the four years of war, as well as the loss of judges and lawyers who either fled the country or were murdered. As a result, the judicial system simply doesn't have the capacity to process many of the new detainees.

This is posing a key challenge as American and Iraqi forces try to bring stability to some of Iraq's most dangerous neighborhoods. Thus US forces are beefing up their facilities, and also helping the Iraqis build their own detention centers. In addition, on Monday, the Pentagon formally announced the deployment to Iraq of more than 2,000 additional US military police, who will join the roughly 3,000 MPs already there.

A number of things come to mind when reading this story. First, let's look at this first sentence of this quote: As the Baghdad security plan under Army Gen. David Petraeus moves forward, US and Iraqi forces are apprehending hundreds of insurgents, terrorists, and other criminals. Really? If so, then why do we perpetually encounter stories about people seized and detained by occupation forces without any connection to the insurgency or any violence directed towards Iraqis?

Second, I thought that we were transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis, but it is a strange form of sovereignty that entails more US detention facilities and more US military police, with US commanders making the ultimate decision as to the disposition of detainees. Third, if the surge is resulting in the seizure of hundreds of insurgents, terrorists and other criminals, then why are facilities required for 27,000 more? Apparently, prison construction and the employment of correctional officers is a growth industry beyond the confines of the US. Lastly, it is evident that the author of the article, Gordon Lubold, qualifies as a classic embedded journalist, as he credulously accepts all of the explanations of the US military.

The institutionalization of indefinite detention in Iraq recalls the recent New York Times article by philosopher Slavoj Zizek about the confessions of al-Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed obtained through torture:

Mr. Mohammed has become what the Italian political philosopher Giorgio Agamben calls β€œhomo sacer”: a creature legally dead while biologically still alive. And he’s not the only one living in an in-between world. The American authorities who deal with detainees have become a sort of counterpart to homo sacer: acting as a legal power, they operate in an empty space that is sustained by the law and yet not regulated by the rule of law.

Here again, we encounter how Iraq has become the definitional experiment for military neoliberalism. Through a combination of military violence, privatization of government services and the stripping away of individual rights and privileges associated with the nation state, the US intends to create a new imperial model for the 21st Century.

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