Accepted paper:

Creating enemies in the War on Terror: the reinforcement of essentialized cultural difference through "legalized" torture

Author:

Elan Abrell (City University of New York)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the Bush regime’s attempt to legitimize torture as a process by which essentialized cultural differences centered around political ideology and religion are reinforced by the justification of policies through legal manipulation, draw a connection between this tactic and the larger project of producing an absolute enemy (to replace the defunct soviet “evil empire”) against which U.S. imperial military exploits can be legitimated.

Paper long abstract:

A series of executive orders and disingenuous legal memos produced by the Bush regime - most notably the infamous "torture memo" written by Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo while working at the Office of Legal Counsel - resulted in the de facto legalization of torture of people designated as "enemies" by the U.S. government in its "war on terror." This sanctioning of torture (along with other anti-rights policies) combined with a widely disseminated discourse conflating the threat of terrorism with radical political Islam has contributed to the production of a juridically reinforced category of essentialized cultural difference. This attempt to legally legitimize torture has had the ideological effect of further normalizing the perception of its Muslim targets as bad (evil, even) and thus deserving of such horrific treatment. This paper will focus on the Bush regime's attempt to legitimize torture as a process by which essentialized cultural differences centered around political ideology and religion are reinforced by the justification of policies through legal manipulation. After outlining the series of pro-torture legal opinions and executive orders produced by the Bush regime, it will draw a connection between this tactic and the larger project of producing an absolute enemy (to replace the defunct soviet "evil empire") against which U.S. imperial military exploits can be legitimated, stressing how this enemy is used to facilitate privatized war as a mechanism for racialized and culturally essentialized accumulation by dispossession.

panel W026
Imagining and constructing "terrorism" and "war on terror"