The United States is currently engaged in what the media—with no trace of irony—is calling “the national debate on torture.” With the White House adamantly rejecting Senator John McCain’s amendment to ban U.S. use of torture, the morality of torture has suddenly become something that can be openly and respectably “argued.” Not only are certain torture techniques advocated on the grounds of their utility (see for example the November 30, 2005, column “Tortured Logic” by Jonah Goldberg, online editor for the National Review), but the executive branch is presenting arguments in court against releasing the latest photos of torture by U.S. operatives—on the grounds that public viewing of these photos would undermine the war effort. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been visiting European heads of state in early December 2005. Her diplomatic mission: to defend the present U.S. practice of stealing away “terror suspects” and taking them to undisclosed secret prisons in Europe and elsewhere for intensive interrogation and torture. For those seeking a grasp of the full moral and political dimensions of the current U.S. torture regime we strongly recommend the new Monthly Review Press book The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media by Lila Rajiva. Not only does Rajiva expose the reality of U.S. torture of prisoners, she also uncovers the media’s complicity in legitimating such practices
Volume 57, Issue 08 (January)
Today’s imperial ideology proclaims that the United States is the new city on the hill, the capital of an empire dominating the globe. Yet the U.S. global empire, we are nonetheless told, is not an empire of capital; it has nothing to do with economic imperialism as classically defined by Marxists and others. The question then arises: How is this new imperial age conceived by those promoting it?
Faced with the difficulty of “placing” a stranger, the most common opening gambit is to ask, “What do you do?” Except perhaps in a few small hunter-gatherer tribes, a person’s occupation is one of the most important delineators of social identity. In many European cultures this is reflected in family names. People called Schmidt, Smith, Herrero, or Lefebvre, for instance, had ancestors who were iron workers. Wainwrights and Wagners are descended from wagon makers, and so on with the Mullers (Millers), Boulangers (Bakers), Guerreros (soldiers), and all the myriad Potters, Butchers, Carters, Coopers, Carpenters, Fishers, Shepherds, and Cooks whose names can be found in any North American phone book
It was a fittingly ironic end to an election full of grotesque twists: When George W. Bush was narrowly reelected president of the United States, it was the electoral votes of the state he had harmed most that gave him the final nudge across the finish line. Ohio went for the second election in a row to the Republican clown prince. But if the first Bush victory was tragedy, the one in 2004 was surely farce: has world history ever turned before on the artful elevation of gay bashing to an electoral tactic?
The image still haunts me: a man in his thirties, eyes glassy, blood streaming from a head wound. A foot soldier in the domestic Cold War, this union stalwart had been beaten by anticommunist thugs who imagined that changing unions in the Westinghouse Electric plant in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania would be a blow against Stalin. Mistaking assault on a volunteer organizer for damage to a Soviet leader is just the kind of tragically stupid error one might expect in a period generally befuddled by fear. Fifty-five years later, confusion as to the meaning of these events continues to hang over the era like an early-morning fog
When, almost ten years ago, I came from Italy to study in New York I was shocked by the discrepancy between Italian-American and Italian politics. To my amazement, I discovered that the left, which has always played, and still plays, an important role in Italian politics, occupies a marginal, if not nonexistent, place in Italian-American political culture. Even worse, I learned that Italian Americans are perceived as a basically conservative group, whose only ties to Italy appear to be the Mafia and food. How did Italian Americans end up identifying themselves, and being identified, with such conservative values and reactionary political forces? Why did their political consciousness diverge so markedly from their Italian counterparts?