Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Torture and the Future

by Lisa Hajjar | published May 2004

There is a popular belief that Western history constitutes a progressive move from more to less torture. Iron maidens and racks are now museum exhibits, crucifixions are sectarian iconography and scientific experimentation on twins is History Channel infotainment. This narrative of progress deftly blends ideas about “time,” “place” and “culture.” In the popular imagination, “civilized societies” (a.k.a. “us”) do not rely on torture, whereas those societies where torture is still common remain “uncivilized,” torture being both a proof and a problem of their enduring “backwardness.”

Washington's Physics Problem in Iraq

by Chris Toensing | published July 12, 2011

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, says its chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, has a “physics problem.”

According to a 2008 accord between the United States and Iraq, the US military is to be evacuated from Mesopotamia -- down to the last tank mechanic and dishwasher -- by the close of the calendar year. Lately, there have been hints that Iraq might want a “residual force” of as many as 12,000 troops to stay, but nothing firm.

Hence Mullen’s dilemma: How does the Pentagon plan for withdrawing its personnel and equipment when it doesn’t know for sure how many soldiers will be leaving? There are only so many C-130s to load and so much time in which to load them.

Rosen, Aftermath

by Chris Toensing
published in MER257

Nir Rosen, Aftermath (Nation Books, 2010).

In addition to numberless tales of human misery, the post-September 11 US wars in the greater Middle East have produced a veritable library of war reporter’s books. Most of them are formulaic and eminently forgettable, but a few are valuable chronicles that considerably improve the state of knowledge about the traumatic ruptures that war has wrought in the societies caught in the crossfire. Nir Rosen’s Aftermath falls in the latter category.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Visser, A Responsible End?

by Chris Toensing
published in MER257

Reidar Visser, A Responsible End? The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010 (Just World Books, 2010).

There are few keener students of contemporary Iraqi affairs than Reidar Visser. Since the spring of 2006, when he released a lengthy paper on the politics of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Visser has enjoyed growing respect in Western academic and journalistic circles as a close observer of post-invasion Iraq with a talent for debunking the mainstream narrative.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Enloe, Nimo's War, Emma's War

by Lauren Geiser
published in MER256

Cynthia Enloe, Nimo’s War, Emma’s War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

War is usually presented as all about hard power and weaponry. In school, students are taught about generals, battlefields, advances in armaments and innovations in military strategy. The historical figures associated with wars whose pictures are featured in textbooks are overwhelmingly male. Women’s experiences are considered to be of secondary importance in understanding armed conflict.

Please Subscribe to access the full contents of this article.

Poetic Injustice

by Ian Urbina | published November 8, 2002

In its war against terrorism, the United States has trumpeted its intentions to spread democracy in a region where there is little. Many around the globe remain skeptical about whether toppling leaders is an effective method for cultivating a respect for the rule of law and a liberalization of the political process. However, there is one place where, with minimal diplomatic pressure, the United States could radically bolster prospects for democracy. To the scandal of its own people as well as the international community, longtime US ally Turkey rigged its November elections. But the real scandal is that the United States had nothing to say about it.

Is the US Ready for Democracy in the Mideast?

by Ian Urbina | published November 10, 2002

Those in favor of an Iraq invasion argue that a regime change will be the first step in bringing democracy to the Middle East. But unnoticed in all the recent national focus on Iraq, recent elections in Morocco, Bahrain, Turkey and Pakistan indicate that democracy, albeit in small increments, has already begun arriving in that region and parts of Islamic South Asia.

The question is whether we are prepared for what those elections may bring. In many cases, these elections were precedent-setting. Morocco held its first transparent vote last month, and set aside 30 seats in the lower house expressly for women. Bahrain, with its first democratic elections in 30 years, included eight female candidates in the final round for parliament.

Anti-War Thinking: Acknowledge Despair, Highlight Progress on Moral Preemption

by Ian Urbina , Desmond Tutu | published March 1, 2003

It is difficult not to feel despair and powerlessness at this awful juncture. Millions in the world fought with all their hearts and minds to avoid violence in Iraq. Inevitably, when bombs fall, there is a deep and emotional void that is opened.

Many will pray. Others will simply reflect. Countless numbers will continue to take to the streets. But all will worry over the extent of destruction to come and the scope of its repercussions.

We have seen dark moments before. Slavery, the holocaust, the Vietnam War — man’s inhumanity to man is not to be underestimated.

Occupational Hazards

by Elliott Colla | published June 1, 2003

Reluctantly, some American officials recently began to use a new word when talking about our presence in Iraq: occupation. Even though the Bush administration worked hard to keep this word out of our national vocabulary before and during the war, it has nonetheless started to appear in press briefings and news reports.

Bush Misled Public About Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction

by Chris Toensing | published June 1, 2003

At long last, many are realizing that President Bush misled the public about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But unlike the vigorous questioning of Prime Minister Tony Blair in Britain on the same issue, our long overdue debate about Saddam Hussein’s presumed illicit arsenal is missing the point.

Before the war, the question was not primarily about whether Iraq retained proscribed weapons from its old stockpiles. Many at the United Nations, and many American anti-war commentators, assumed that it did. Remnants of the stockpiles may still be found.