The art of Homo Sacer

132_img9872-1

 James Bridle‘s new installation, Homo Sacer, has opened at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) in Liverpool, as part of its Science Fiction: New Death exhibition:

Explore how our relationship with technology has blurred the lines between the real and the virtual; making our everyday lives feel increasingly like science fiction. Artists including James Bridle, Jon Rafman, Mark Leckey, Larissa Sansour and Ryan Trecartin, plus award-winning science fiction author China Miéville present works which explore how technology is creating new ways of living (and dying), of fashioning identities and the growth of cult-like communities.

The exhibition runs until 22 June, and you can (at least virtually) walk through it with Regine here.

There’s not much detail or documentation of Homo Sacer yet  – though see the image above – but James promises a video clip soon.  Meanwhile he explains:

The installation consists of a projected “hologram” in the entranceway to the gallery, of the kind increasingly found in airports, railway stations and government buildings. The hologram speaks lines from UK, EU and UN legislation, as well as quotations from government ministers, regarding the nature of citizenship in the 21st century, and how it can be revoked, which potentially fatal consequences.

BEN YOUNG Homo sacer

Other artists have been inspired by Giorgio Agamben‘s discussion(s) of Homo Sacer too (and, for those who take the Latin stubbornly literally, Femina Sacra), of life knowingly and deliberately exposed to death.  (If you want an artful preview of the final volume in Agamben’s series, The use of bodies, you can read Adam Kotsko‘s ‘What is to be done?  The endgame of the Homo Sacer series’ here.)  But back to art.  There’s Ben Young‘s Homo Sacer (above), for example, philosopher-artist Adolfo Vásquez Rocca‘s Homo Sacer (below), and and Tarek Tuma‘s haunting Homo Sacer series of canvases showing the faces of suffering in Syria (see here and here), which almost viscerally captures the double meaning of ‘sacra’, sacred and accursed.

ROCCA Homo Sacer

In a related vein, as I noted previously, there’s the State of Exception installation which showed what undocumented migrants abandoned as they crossed the US-Mexico border; first staged at the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities, it’s currently at Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Art.  (The wall of backpacks conjures up an after-image of the suitcases on display at Auschwitz, and although they gesture in different directions – one where movement comes to a hideous full stop and the other where flight takes off – both are redolent of Agamben’s preoccupations).  For a more wide-ranging view of States of Exception, see Angel Calabres‘s much earlier collaboration here, which trades on Agamben’s work to explore prison subjugation, torture and slaughter houses…

And this in turn brings me (back) to Abdelali Dahrouch‘s installation, Homo Sacer (2009) (below), which is a meditation on the waterboarding of ‘enemy combatants’ by the CIA:

Dahrouch

Agamben’s work has inspired not only visual artists.  There’s Christoph Winkler‘s dance-work Homo Sacer, for example, now ten years old,  which tanzjournal described like this:

The choreographer has truly succeeded in formulating a position that is both an aesthetic and ethical one. Life may be a sacred possession – in the face of sanctioned (war) crimes it becomes a disposable commodity. Dance cannot intervene in this state of affairs. But it can champion life, by displaying it in its vulnerability. Homo Sacer is not only in this respect Winkler’s most impressive piece to date.

Sophiensaele Homo Sacer

And Frankfurter Rundschau like this:

One after another, the other seven dancers climb out of the resting niches. All look distraught in the glaringly lit space, whose angularity contrasts with the fragile bodies. Following abrupt impulses, the dancers break out of themselves, only to quickly fall back into the frozen pose. Humans fleeing and hesitating in the same moment, developing an icy atmosphere of vulnerability … But in the following choreographic sequence, in which the dancers seem to be wrestling with themselves as if the truth were strangling them in its grasp, is a brilliant scene in which the ensemble intertwines and connects into complex structures that, only moments later are again severed. Energy shoots up like suddenly occurring memories – symbolizing the sudden convulsion of that very “base existence”…

And there’s even music – although Martin Kücher released only 250 copies of his solo jazz album Homo Sacer…  You can also listen to Vancouver’s own Dubstawk‘s remix Homo Sacer here.

Martin Kuchen homo sacer

All sorts of artworks have been used on the cover of Agamben’s texts, of course, and they can be revealing too: I know it’s often wrong to judge a book by its cover (but not always), and my favourite essay in Geographical imaginations is in fact my reading of the cover of David Harvey‘s The condition of postmodernity.  In any case, it’s interesting to track movements in the other direction and to see how artists engage with texts – particularly if you believe that artwork is part of the research/investigative/analytical process rather than merely one of its products.

Death, drones and Camp Delta

When I wrote ‘The Black Flag’ (DOWNLOADS tab), exploring the idea of Guantanamo Bay as a space of exception, three young men had just committed suicide in the war prison.  This is how I started:

In the early morning of 10 June 2006 three prisoners held at the military detention facility at the US Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, two from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen, were found dead in their cells. Although the three men had been detained without trial for several years and none of them had court cases or military commissions pending (none of them had even been charged), the commander of the prison dismissed their suicides as ‘not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us’. Although the three men had been on repeated hunger strikes which ended when they were strapped into restraint chairs and force- fed by nasal tubes, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy described their deaths as ‘a Public Relations move to draw attention’ – to what, she did not say – and complained that since detainees had access to lawyers, received mail and had the ability to write to families, ‘it was hard to see why the men had not protested about their situation’. Although by presidential decree prisoners at Guantánamo are subject to indefinite detention and coercive interrogation while they are alive, when President George W. Bush learned of the three deaths he reportedly stressed the importance of treating their dead bodies ‘in a humane and culturally sensitive manner’. 

KAISER Tod in Camp Delta

After ‘The Black Flag’ was published, I read a remarkable account of the despair and desperation of these three men by Mario Kaiser.  His original essay has now been updated and translated into English as ‘Death in Camp Delta‘ at Guernica.  Here is an extract:

At some point during their captivity, these three men began to retreat. They no longer touched the food the guards pushed through the holes in the doors of their cells. Their bodies dwindled. Their lives hung on thin yellow tubes shoved down their nostrils each morning to let a nutrient fluid drip into their stomachs. In their minds, nothing changed. They didn’t want to stay, and one night, on June 9, 2006, they decided to leave Guantánamo. They climbed on top of the sinks in their cells and hanged themselves.

In the Pentagon’s view, the men hanging from the walls of their cells were assassins whose suicides were attacks on America. The Pentagon struck back.

The story of the lives and deaths of these prisoners is an odyssey of three young men who left for Afghanistan and ended up in Cuba. It is the story of a war against a terror that is difficult to define, a war that the United States government wages even in the cells of its prisoners. It is about a place, Camp Delta, that exposes the asymmetry of this war, and it leads to the front lines—and the American lawyers standing between them, struggling to defend presumed enemies of their country. It is the story of the internal and external battle over Guantánamo.

Nobody but the dead knows the whole truth. But there are places where the story can be pieced together. There are files and letters, people who distinctly remember these prisoners. There are places where the strands of this story intersect. A law firm in Washington. A mosque in London. A living room in North Carolina. A cell in Guantánamo.

This is on my mind today for three reasons.  The first is that Kaiser describes himself as

‘a writer who combines in-depth reporting with literary storytelling. Taking on issues of social transformation and human rights, Kaiser’s stories are based on long-term immersion in environments that are difficult to access. His hope is that this approach provides a fuller understanding of the ways in which policies and social change affect people’s lives and long-term prospects.’

It’s worth reflecting on those aspirations if you read his essay (which I urge you to do) because they raise important questions about the lazy distinction between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, and about the ability of researchers to produce and animate publics through their (our) work.  There’s something there, too, about the power (and, yes, the seductions) of story-telling: so much academic writing still seems to substitute and so privilege our own narrative (‘I did this… then I did that .. I thought this…. then I felt that’) for the stories of others.  And, as Kaiser shows in that brief extract, those stories are often multi-sited.

AGAMBEN State of exceptionThe second reason Kaiser’s work matters to me is that I’m revisiting ‘The Black Flag’ for The everywhere war (more on this later) and, partly in consequence, thinking again about spaces of exception.  I’m in Mexico this week, and I’ve been re-reading Giorgio Agamben‘s Homo sacer and The state of exception.  I was originally doing this to sharpen my arguments about the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as a space of exception for air strikes by the CIA/JSOC and the Pakistan Air Force – I’ll be talking about this in Glasgow early next month, and I’ll post the presentation slides as soon as I’ve finished – but as I’ve worked my way through these texts still wider issues have emerged.

One of the central elements of Homo sacer (and Remnants of Auschwitz – though here too the differences between the two texts are suggestive) is the deliberate exposure of bodies to death: outcasts from whom the protections of the law have been stripped so that their death is no crime.  But in The state of exception Agamben’s focus is on the genealogy of the ‘force of law’ through which this takes place: the victims are nowhere in sight.  Throughout the short text Agamben makes much of the proximity of war and, for the ’emergency’ that activates the modern state of exception, of the First World War, but war and its developing armature of (international) law is never subjected to critical scrutiny.

Yet war (and its casualties) can reveal something else about spaces of exception.  On the battlefield – and let us immediately agree with Frédéric Mégret that ‘the battlefield’ is a highly unstable conceptual constellation – soldiers are at once vectors and victims of violence.  Here the usual restrictions on killing are removed; they can kill, provided they do so ‘lawfully’, without risk of punishment (‘combatant immunity’).  The other side of the contract, of course, is that those who might kill them are not subject to  legal sanction either.

This is not what Agamben means by the state of exception, and apart from repeated references to a contemporary ‘global civil war’ (and to Guantanamo) the transnational rarely appears in his writing and international law disappears into the margins.  His thumb-nail history of the state of exception is framed by the state and its sovereign.

But for reasons that I’ll set out in a later post, the proximity of the exceptional space of  the ‘battlefield’, of war zones and killing fields, to the ultimate reductions of bare life, is far from accidental.  In fact, that’s one of the links between the three deaths in Guantanamo Bay and air strikes and targeted killings in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan which, as I’ll want to show, requires a radically enlarged view of spaces of exception and their historical geographies.  (In the case of the FATA, the Obama administration insists it requires a radically enlarged juridical conception of the ‘battlefield’ in time and space too).

To be continued.

More dirty dancing

As I work on turning my Beirut talk on drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into a long-form version – which includes a detailed and critical engagement with Giorgio Agamben‘s characterisation of the state/space of exception – I’ll post some of the key arguments here.  But for now, two important developments.

Document-excerpt

First, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has just published a list of 330 drone strikes  between 2006 and July 2013 (data for the five strikes that took place in 2007 are missing) compiled by the Pakistan government (see extract above); this is an update of a partial release from the Bureau last summer.  The source is a series of reports filed each evening by Political Agents in the field to the FATA secretariat, and while it’s not a comprehensive listing – and Islamabad relies on other sources too – the document closely follows the Bureau’s own database compiled from other independent sources.  It also allows for a more accurate mapping of the strikes – more to come on this.

But one key difference between the list and the Bureau’s database is that, following the election of Obama, the official reports no longer attempted to classify the victims as combatants or civilians: and the coincidence may not be coincidental.  According to Chris Woods,

‘One of my sources, a former Pakistani minister, has indicated that local officials may have come under pressure to play down drone civilian deaths following the election of Barack Obama. It’s certainly of concern that almost all mention of non-combatant casualties simply disappears from this document after 2009, despite significant evidence to the contrary.’

One of the most egregious omissions is the drone strike on 24 October 2012 that killed Mamana Bibi, a grandmother tending the fields with her grandchildren.  The case was documented extensively by Amnesty International and yet, as the Bureau notes, while the date and location of the strike is recorded the report from the political agent is remarkably terse and makes nothing of her evident civilian status.

‘If a case as well-documented as Mamana Bibi’s isn’t recorded as a civilian death, that raises questions about whether any state records of these strikes can be seen as reliable, beyond the most basic information,’ said Mustafa Qadri, a researcher for Amnesty International…. ‘It also raises questions of complicity on the part of the Pakistan state – has there been a decision to stop recording civilians deaths?’

These are important questions, and in fact one of the central objectives of my own essay is to document the close, covert co-operation between the US and Pakistani authorities: what I called, in an earlier post, dirty dancing, trading partly on Jeremy Scahill’s inventory of ‘dirty wars’ and partly on Joshua Foust‘s calling out of the ‘Islamabad drone dance’.

We now know that this collaboration continued at the very least until late 2011.  The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center routinely prepared reports that included maps (see below) and pre- and post-strike imagery that were briefed by the Deputy Director to Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, and subsequently transmitted to Islamabad.

US_Pakistan_Panorama21382550661-1

And consistent with the reports from Political Agents to the FATA Secretariat, Greg Miller and Bob Woodward note that in these briefings:

Although often uncertain about the identities of its targets, the CIA expresses remarkable confidence in its accuracy, repeatedly ruling out the possibility that any civilians were killed.  One table estimates that as many as 152 “combatants” were killed and 26 were injured during the first six months of 2011. Lengthy columns with spaces to record civilian deaths or injuries contain nothing but zeroes.

The collaboration is important, because it has major implications for how one thinks about the Federally Administered Tribal Areas as a ‘space of exception’: there are multiple legal regimes through which the people who live in these borderlands are knowingly and deliberately ‘exposed to death’, as Agamben would have it.  More on this later, but for now there is a second, more substantive point to be sharpened.

I’ve previously emphasised that the people of FATA are not only ‘living under drones‘, as the Stanford/NYU legal team put it last year, but also under the threat of air strikes from the Pakistan Air Force.  Last week the PAF resumed air strikes against leaders of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in North Waziristan, using first F-16 aircraft and then helicopter gunships to attack what were described as ‘eight major targets’ in the villages of Mir Ali (Hamzoni, Issori, Khadi and Nawana). Although the Air Force described the operation as a ‘blitz’, it initially claimed that only two people were killed.  A different story soon emerged.

MIR ALI

According to Pakistan’s International News, the air raids started just before midnight on 20 January, and people ‘left their homes in desperation and spent the night in the open along with children when the jets started bombing.’

There were conflicting reports about the identity of those killed. Military authorities said all the 40 people killed in the overnight aerial strikes were hardcore militants or their relatives and family members.

However, tribesmen in Mir Ali subdivision insisted that some local villagers, including women, children and elderly people, were also killed in the bombing by the PAF’s fighter aircraft and Pakistan Army’s helicopter gunships as residential areas were attacked.

848700893_1390366252

Several days later there were reports of hundreds – even thousands – of people fleeing the area in anticipation of continuing and intensifying military operations.  On 25 January the Express Tribune reported:

“Most of the families of Mir Ali Bazaar and adjacent areas have been leaving,” Abdullah Wazir, a resident of Spin Wam told The Express Tribune, adding, “women and children have been leaving with household materials, but livestock and larger items of belongings are being abandoned by these families.”

“It is difficult to find shelter in Bannu,” said Janath Noor, aged 38, who travelled there with her family. “There are problems at home and here in Bannu too.” She added that the families were forced to act independently as the political administrations in North Waziristan and Bannu have not made arrangements for the fleeing families. Some families reportedly spent the night under the open sky in Bannu town, waiting for any available shelter.

Some IDPs have also faced problems such as harassment at the hands of the police, requests for bribes, soaring rates of transport from Mir Ali and inflated rents for houses in Bannu. Some families, suspected of being militants, have had problems finding accommodation in Bannu district.

Mir Ali:Bannu

By 27 January the government estimated that 8,000 people had arrived in Bannu, while many others unable to find shelter and unwilling to sleep in the open had hone on to Peshawar and elsewhere.  But the head of the FATA Disaster Management Authority declared that ‘No military operation has been announced in the tribal area so there are no instructions to make arrangements for the internally displaced people.’

Most local people were clearly sceptical about that and, certainly, there were authoritative claims that Pakistan was being put ‘on a war footing’ to counter the surging power of the TTP.  In the same week that the air strikes were launched, Islamabad promulgated an amended Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO), modelled on the imperial Rowlatt Act of 1919, that included provisions for secret courts, greater shoot-to-kill license for the police, house raids without warrants and the detention of terror suspects without charge. Rana Sanaullah, Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Public Prosecution in the Punjab and a close confidant of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told the Guardian: ‘I think what will be done will be no worse than what has happened in Guantánamo Bay.’  Not surprisingly, he also offered support for the US drone strikes:

‘We believe that drone attacks damage the terrorists, very much… Inside, everyone believes that drone attacks are good; but outside, everyone condemn because the drones are American.’

And, as I’ll try to show in a later post, it’s a different inside/outside indistinction that plays a vital role in producing the FATA as a space of exception.

Unfinished business

I’m sorry for the long silence: the past two weeks have been unusually busy, with a stream of wonderful visitors to the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, including Philippe Descola, Anne-Christine Taylor and Bruno Latour.  More on this soon, but during a series of conference presentations – in which, more or less in passing, I mentioned Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The act of killing (2012) (see here and here) – I was told of another, related project that readers will find interesting.

This is Yael Hersonski‘s A Film Unfinished [Shtikat Haarchion] (2010).  The centre of the documentary – you can hardly say its ‘heart’ – is an unfinished propaganda film shot by the Nazis in 1942, Das Ghetto, which purported to portray the Warsaw Ghetto.  It was found in an archive in East Germany in 1954, but in 1988 two discarded film cans containing 30 minutes of outtakes were discovered – scenes left on the cutting room floor – which radically transformed the interpretation of the film and revealed the elaborate staging of its scenes.  You can obtain another overview of the project here, which includes a number of stills from A Film Unfinished.

A film unfinished

The parallel with Oppenheimer’s project is drawn by Hersonski’s re-staging of an interview with one of the original cameramen, Willy Wist (he died in 1999 but Hersonski works from a transcript she found by chance in an archive in Ludwigsburg), and by her decision to invite five survivors of the Ghetto to watch the out-takes and to record their reactions.

This is from Jeannette Catsoulis‘s thoughtful review in the New York Times:

What if I see someone I know?jpg“What if I see someone I know?” one woman asks [she does], hardly daring to look. As the flickering atrocities play across the survivors’ faces — one film observing another — Ms. Hersonski silently creates space for memories. More than just valuable reality checks (“When did you ever see a flower? We would have eaten a flower!”), these recollections anchor the past to the present, and the images to human experience, in a way that shifts our perception of the Warsaw film. Whether cringing at the sight of naked men and women being forced at gunpoint into a ritual bath, or contemptuously dismissing the Nazis’ efforts to highlight Jewish privilege (“My mother wore her beautiful coat, and sometimes a hat. So what?”), the survivors seem to speak for those who cannot.

Here is the trailer.  The whole film is available on YouTube but I can’t embed it because it has a restricted rating, so you need to confirm you are old enough to watch it: here.

Catsoulis suggests that the film is concerned with the difference between watching and seeing, and in this sense the other obvious parallel is with Giorgio Agamben‘s philosophico-ethical probings of the witness and the camp.  Hersonski herself says that her film ‘first emerged out of my theoretical preoccupation with the notion of the “archive”, and the unique nature of the witnessing it bears.’ (She elaborates this in an interview with Max Goldberg here and there is also a really excellent interview with Lalev Melamed, ‘A Film Unraveled’, in the International journal of politics, culture and society 26 (13) 9-19, which includes an interesting comparison between Hersonski and Harun Farocki).

Witnessing is of more than historical significance, of course, and in an extended interview with Clyde Fitch – in which he asks her about complicity and guilt – Hersonski deflects his question from the past to our own present:

I’m asking myself a different question. I’m asking myself: What is my ethical position when I’m sitting very comfortably in my living room and seeing whatever is happening a few kilometers from my city in the occupied territories?…

What can I do? No, it’s not a rhetorical question. I’m seeing this and other events unfold — I’m watching it, I know about it, I know it’s there. I’m not talking about politics right now, by the way, just images of people suffering. And, as the images of people suffering in my own country go, you become a witness. Then what do you do as a witness? It’s a terrible question — it’s a haunting, torturing question. It’s our essential question.

I think that it was also a major reason why I made this film — because the Holocaust not only confronted humanity with an inconceivable horror but it also did mark the very beginning of the systematic implementation on film of that horror. And I think that something changed in our perception — I don’t know even how to define this something — after we saw images from the camps, something that we hadn’t witnessed before. It seems that documentation became more technically advanced, more massive, since then.

Well, as long as this bombardment of images becomes more intense, we will become more and more incapable of really seeing suffering, or war.

Fitch describes the film as ‘an act of anthropology’ – something which our three guests at the Wall would surely recognise too.

The camp and geographical imaginations

Last Thursday, the last full day of my visit to Ostrava, Tomas took me to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in the Polish town of Oswiecim: I’m still trying to come to terms with what I saw and felt.

It was Tomas’s third visit.  Last time, he said, it was in the depth of winter, with the ground covered in snow: Auschwitz rendered in the sombre black and white tones we’ve come to expect.  On Thursday it all seemed so incongruous: full colour on an unexpectedly sunny day – brilliant blue sky, flowers coming in to bloom and birds singing – and made even more unsettling by the new housing at the edge of the town and the supermarket up the road.  To say that is at once to invoke a moral geography of sorts, and in a series of revealing essays Andrew Charlesworth, Robert Guzik, Michal Paskowski and Alison Stenning have documented the controversies that have shaped the site since the establishment of the State Museum in 1947 and the subsequent development before and after the fall of Communism: see ‘”Out of Place” in Auschwitz?’ [in Ethics, place and environment 9 (2) (2006) 149-72] and ‘A tale of two institutions: shaping Oswiecim-Auschwitz’ [in Geoforum 39 (2008) 401-413].

Auschwitz then and now

But as soon as we entered the complex a different (though related) series of moral geographies were invoked, also about the dissonance between Auschwitz then and now but more directly bound up with what Chris Keil calls ‘Sightseeing in the mansions of the dead’ [in Social & Cultural Geography 6 (40(2005) 479-494] or what is variously called ‘thanato-tourism’ or  ‘dark tourism’: the tourism of death.  You can find other fine reflections, following in Keil’s footsteps, in Derek Dalton‘s ‘Encountering Auschwitz: the possibilities and limitations of witnessing/remembering trauma in memorial space’ [in Law, Text, Culture 13 (1) (2009) 187-225] here.  Significantly, Dalton argues that current theorising ‘fails to highlight the vital role of the imagination in animating the artefacts and geography of a place and investing them with meaning’.

AUSCHWITZ3 April 2013

For the tour is, of course, both pre-scripted (it is surely impossible for most visitors to come to what was the largest extermination camp in Europe without prior expectations and understandings) and scripted (it invites and even licenses a particular range of performances and responses). It takes in Auschwitz I (above), the original site more or less at the centre of Oswiecim that was established in the spring of 1940, and the sprawling open/closed space of Auschwitz II at Birkenau beyond the perimeter established the following year.  (Auschwitz III, the labour camp at Monowitz linked to the IG Farben works, is not part of the memorial complex; neither are any of the 40-odd satellite camps).

Auschwitz 1944

We started by walking through the gates, their hideous sign Arbeit macht frei silhouetted against the sky, and filed into a series of prison blocks in a silence broken only by the guide’s voice whispering through our headphones and the shuffle of feet on stone and stair.

AUSCHWITZ April 2013

Inside we saw the collections of suitcases and shoes stripped from those who were murdered inside the camp: signs of movement from all over occupied Europe to the dead stop of the gas chambers.  The first, experimental ones killed people in their hundreds; the later ones killed them in their thousands.  We will never know the exact number nor all their names, but we do know more than 1,100,000 people were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, around 960,000 of them Jews.

AUSCHWITZ Suitcases

AUSCHWITZ Shoes

Dalton’s attention was also captured by these collections: a fraction of the total, yet the sheer number of shoes confounded any attempt ‘to posit individual histories’; and even though the suitcases had names and sometimes dates on them, Dalton was numbed by his inability ‘to focus on an individual case; my eye took them in as a mass despite their differences.’  This is a recurrent theme in his essay, but I saw the artefacts differently.  As I looked at the collections behind the glass, I started to wonder about the aestheticisation of suffering – about what Keil calls ‘a Hall of Mirrors, a half-world between history and art’ (and in my photographs you can just about see the spectral reflections of the visitors in the glass) – and the ways in which these everyday objects had been turned into a vast still life that none the less could evoke such unutterable terror.

‘I have nothing to say, only to show,’ wrote Walter Benjamin (about his working method).  Perhaps that is the best way to apprehend the museum; perhaps, too, this begins to explain Theodor Adorno‘s insistence in Negative Dialectics that ‘to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.’ And yet he later qualified his remark:

‘Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as the tortured have to scream … hence it may have been wrong to say that no poem could be written after Auschwitz.’ 

He said his objection was to lyric poetry; perhaps, then, we need to reaffirm what Michael Peters [in Educational Philosophy & Theory 44 (2) (2012) 129-32] calls ‘poetry as offence’: a notice inside Dachau declared that anyone found writing or sharing poetry would be summarily executed. For as I trudged across the vast expanse of Birkenau, alongside the railway tracks and the infamous ramp and around the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, I began to think that Auschwitz made poetry all the more necessary – as defiant affirmation.

My visit also prompted me to re-visit Giorgio Agamben‘s meditations on Auschwitz in Homo Sacer: sovereign power and bare life and Remnants of Auschwitz: the witness and the archive (which is Homo Sacer III).   If you’re not familiar with his work, Andrew Robinson provides a short and accessible summary that speaks directly to his incorporation of the Nazi concentration camp here.

Auschwitz master plan (summer 1942)

AGAMBEN Homo sacerAlthough the cover of the English-language translation of Homo Sacer (right) shows part of the second master plan for Auschwitz (February 1942), which I’ve reproduced above (and you can find more maps and plans here), Agamben’s discussion is brief, confined to Part III and most of it in §7, where he treats ‘The camp as the nomos of the modern’ and, specifically, as ‘the materialization of the state of exception’ and ‘the most absolute biopolitical space ever to have been realized.’ The plan provided for the expansion of the camp, and van Pelt explains it thus:

The left side of the drawing depicts the concentration camp. Its center is the enormous roll-call place, designed to hold thirty thousand inmates. To the south are the barracks of the original camp, a group of brick buildings built in 1916 as a labor exchange center for Polish seasonal workers in Germany. To the east (on the right side), are the SS base and a Siedlung for the married SS men and their families. The center of town includes a hotel and shops.

Given what Agamben subsequently argued about the witness and the archive in Remnants, it is worth remembering that these detailed plans constituted important legal evidence against David Irving‘s notorious dismissal of Auschwitz’s function as an extermination camp as ‘baloney’ (in a Calgary lecture); you can find a detailed account of this early instance of forensic architecture in Robert Jan van Pelt‘s The case for Auschwitz: evidence from the Irving trial (2002) and a suggestive discussion of the plans (including an account in the appendix of the geographical selection of Auschwitz as a ‘central place’: given what we know of Walter Christaller‘s involvement in the spatial planning of Eastern Europe under the Third Reich, I wonder whether this was used in a technical sense?) in van Pelt’s ‘Auschwitz: from architect’s promise to inmate’s perdition’ [in Modernism/Modernity 1 (1) (1994) 80-120], from which I took the plan and explanation above. In our imaginations Auschwitz is full of people, and the plans are naturally as empty of the prisoners as today’s buildings: and yet through van Pelt’s patient, methodical commentary, they become redolent of the horrors they were intended to instil.

agamben_remnantsofauschwitz64In Remnants, Agamben does not attempt to make the plans and stones – the spaces – speak, but he is concerned, in quite another register, to erect ‘some signposts allowing future cartographers of the new [post-Auschwitz] ethical territory to orient themselves.’  Still, I’m left puzzled by the closed geography that captures his attention.  The nearest he comes to transcending this is his brief discussion of Hitler’s insistence on the production in central Europe of a volkloser Raum, ‘a space empty of people’, which Agamben glosses as a ‘fundamental biopolitical intensity’ that ‘can persist in every space and through which peoples pass into populations and populations pass into Musselmänner’, the ‘living dead’ of the camps (p. 85).  The sequence of transformations evidently stops short – there is, as Agamben says himself, a ‘central non-place’ at the heart of Auschwitz: the gas chamber – but Agamben’s reluctance to go there is in part a product of his interest in bare life and in part a product of an argument directed towards elucidating the position of the witness (even then his selection and examination of witnesses is, as Jeffrey Mehlman shows, strikingly arbitrary).  It’s a profound absence, but even Agamben’s abbreviated sequence shows that to make sense of Auschwitz-Birkenau and that still space at its centre you have to turn outwards and imagine spaces of exception that spiral far beyond and converge upon the dread confines of the camp: the contraction of the spaces of everyday life, the confinement of the ghettoes, the transit camps, the railway lines snaking across the dark continent.  Their absence from Remnants has acutely political and ethical consequences, because it threatens to turn the act of witnessing into a purified aesthetic act; the best discussion of this that I know is J.M. Bernstein‘s ‘Bare life, bearing witness: Auschwitz and the pornography of horror’ [in parallax 10 (1) (2004) pp. 2-16], which I drew on in my discussion of Agamben and Auschwitz in ‘Vanishing points’. Paolo Giacarria and Claudio Minca have more recently emphasised in their ‘Topographies/topologies of the camp’ [in Political geography 30 (2011) 3-12] that

‘what will eventually become the most infamous extermination camp was … not located in a void; quite the contrary, it was fully embedded within the broader spatialities and territorialities that were implemented by the Nazi imperial project.’

I sketched some of these geographies in my entry on holocaust in the Dictionary of Human Geography, and for me all this means that the immediate struggle during my visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was an effort of the imagination: to focus in on the individual lives lost in the mass murder while simultaneously panning out to the wider spaces of terror set in motion far beyond and, crucially, constitutive of the site of the camp itself.

REES AuschwitzBut the ongoing, far greater conundrum is to understand how it all was possible: how could people do such things?  Agamben himself portrays this as the ‘incorrect’, even ‘hypocritical’ question….  As with his more general argument about homo sacer, responsibility plainly does not lie solely with those who used political and legal artifice to put so many people to death; mass murder on an industrial scale, surely the most exorbitant of all the grim termini of Fordist war, required more than Hitler and Himmler.  Neither can the willingness of so many men and women to be party to these murders be explained by their “following orders” and being “fearful of punishment”, a putrid defence that most historians have exposed as a lie.  What is so extraordinary, after all, is the way in which, under general directives, so much was left to local improvisation and ‘ordinary’ functionaries.  The ‘prison within the prison’, Auschwitz’s Block 11, is an exemplary instance: here punishments were devised for people who were already destined for death.  I have no answer, but I do think that the key is not only in turning ‘ordinary’ people into ‘functionaries’ but also in luring and licensing the transformation of base imaginations into physical realities.

Note: There’s a vast specialist and a general literature on Auschwitz, but for a book that brilliantly bridges the two I recommend Laurence Rees‘s authoritative and accessible Auschwitz: the Nazis and the final solution, also published as Auschwitz: a new history (available in a Kindle edition).

ADDENDUM:  This post continues to attract many readers several years after I wrote it, so I should probably add that I’ve since become even more critical of Agamben’s views on the exception.  If we think of a space of exception as one in which groups of people are knowingly and deliberately exposed to death through the removal of ordinary legal protections then the conflict zone is surely a paradigmatic case (and its indistinction has become ever clearer [sic] since the ‘deconstruction of the battlefield’ from the First World War on); but this is not a legal void, since the right of combatants to kill one another – and the concomitant obligation to afford at least minimal protection to civilians – is regulated by international law (Agamben’s concern in State of exception is entirely with the suspension of national laws).  It is sadly the case that the invocation of international law as anything other than a rhetorical gesture has become all too common, but the failure to respect its norms or to sanction those responsible for its transgression has not reduced civilians crouching under the bombs or caught in the cross-fire to ‘bare life’.  For an indication of what I have in mind, see ‘The Death of the Clinic‘.

Exceptions R Us

tumblr_mkc2q1MRtU1s9d11ko1_250Alex Vasudevan writes to alert me to this all-too-relevant site, Agamben Toys or Toys for the State of Exception

Most of the baubles on offer are decidedly for play in the global North, but for older kids with global (in)sensibilities there’s always this model Predator…. and plenty more like it (for example here and here).  Commentary – and comments (you’ll see what I mean) – here and (from Infowars) here.

Toys appeared in a radically different way in an exhibition at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) earlier this year called State of Exception:

166510_475567315838743_1025941788_nLSA Professor of Anthropology Jason De León has spent long hours in the Sonoran environs, cataloging and collecting the items migrants leave behind as they attempt to cross into the United States. Water jugs. Shoes. Small kids’ toys. It looks like trash, but these objects, collected through his Undocumented Migrant Project (UMP), become data to help construct a record of people who are unknown, whose journeys rarely come to light.

Many of these objects are now on display through LSA’s Institute for the Humanities exhibit titled State of Exception. This exhibit considers the complexity and ambiguity of the found objects and what they may or may not reveal in terms of transition, human experience, culture, violence, and accountability.

This is the first major curation of De León’s work since UMP began in 2009, and is a combination of objects, installation, and video shot by photographer Richard Barnes along the U.S./Mexico border.

The exhibition closed earlier this month but you can still access the catalogue/brochure online here.

All of this reminds me that there’s a reason we spell ‘us’ the way we do…

Dirty dancing and spaces of exception in Pakistan

Following up my post on the air campaigns waged by the United States and by Pakistan inside the Federally Administered Tribal Territories and the North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), here are some screenshots from Chris Herwig‘s remarkable cartographic animation of casualties from US drone strikes from 2004 through to the present (data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism):

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2007

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2007

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2008

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2008

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2009

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2009

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2010

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2010

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2011

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2011

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2012

Casualties from US drone strikes to end December 2012

You can see the rapid escalation of strikes in 2009-2010 and their contraction in 2011-2012.  There is also a tendency for later strikes to cause fewer casualties; the Bureau suggests that this may have been the result of a deliberate decision to limit civilian casualties (the CIA was already reported to be using new, smaller missiles with a restricted blast field and minimal shrapnel by the spring of 2010, so the later change is likely to be down to a mix of better intelligence and greater circumspection) and, more recently, of a switch away from ‘signature strikes’ – the two are of course related – and John Brennan, who was one of the main boosters of the programme’s expansion, now claims that drone strikes are a weapon ‘of last resort’.  Maybe; most sources agree that even as the numbers of deaths dwindled, so too did their tactical significance.  By February 2011 it was clear that fewer and fewer were so-called ‘high-value targets’ and more and more were simply foot-soldiers.

Here are the Bureau’s raw figures:

Drone strikes in Pakistan (BoJ)

You can find an interactive animation of the Bureau’s tabulations from Pitch Interactive here (thanks to Steve Legg for the tip); the screenshot below doesn’t do justice to the political-aesthetic effect of seeing this in full motion (or of clicking on each strike for the details):

Drone strikes in Pakistan PITCH INTERACTIVE

The maps also show that the strikes have been concentrated on North Waziristan, increasingly so since 2010, the locus of the Haqqani Network (which is a longstanding ally of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence), with a secondary concentration on South Waziristan (a key locus of Tehrik-i-Taliban).  Here’s a tabulation from the Long War Journal, and although the strike numbers are marginally different from the Bureau’s the geographical concentration is clear:

US air strikes in FATA by district

What the maps can’t convey is the intricate, inconstant gavotte between Pakistan’s various military campaigns and US air strikes in the borderlands since 2004.  In the wake of 9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and in response to increasing pressure from Washington, the Pakistan Army launched a number of offensives against militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  In April 2004, after fierce fighting in the mountains of South Waziristan, Islamabad concluded a peace accord with Nek Muhammad, a key militant leader in the agency.  But he was killed just two months later, the first casualty of a US drone strike in Pakistan, and the agreement immediately collapsed.   In 2005 similar, fragile agreements were negotiated with Baitullah Mehsud, Nek’s successor, and other militant leaders, but these were soon broken.  Accords were also signed in North Waziristan in 2006 and 2007 but these too were short-lived.  In 2008 a peace accord was signed with the Tehrik-i-Taliban but heavy fighting continued, with major ground and air operations in the agencies to the north of the Khyber Pass.  In 2009 Pakistan’s military campaign became even more aggressive. Much of its effort was focused on the northern districts, especially around the Swat Valley, but attention then switched back to South Waziristan.  During the summer the Pakistan Air Force carried out regular air strikes in the region; in August 2009 Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike.  In October 30,000 ground troops entered the region, and US drone strikes in South Waziristan immediately juddered to a (temporary) halt.  These operations drove large numbers of militants into Orakzai, which in recent years has been a major target of air strikes by the Pakistan Air Force.

The previous paragraph is little more than a caricature of a highly complex and evolving battlespace, but the gavotte I’ve described has been artfully – if intermittently – choreographed by the US and by Pakistan in fraught concert: so much so that Joshua Foust writes of the ‘Islamabad drone dance’.

This may surprise some readers; earlier this month Ben Emmerson QC, the UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism and Human Rights, concluded a three-day visit to Pakistan by reaffirming what he described as ‘the position of the government of Pakistan’ that drone strikes in the FATA ‘are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.’  Emmerson met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and the Secretariat of the FATA – but not, significantly, with anyone from the military or the ISI – who told him that ‘reports of continuing tacit consent by Pakistan to the use of drones on its territory by any other State are false’ and that ‘a thorough search of Government records had revealed no indication of such consent having been given.’ Certainly, the government has repeatedly protested the strikes in public, and the National Assembly passed resolutions in May 2011 and April 2012 condemning them.  But Foust insists that Emmerson has been an unwitting participant in the dance.

We know, from the Wikileaks cache of diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Islamabad, that in August 2008 Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani told the Ambassador that he approved of the drone strikes as part of ongoing offensives in the FATA – ‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people’ – and that ‘We’ll protest it in the National Assembly and then ignore it.’  But this was more than ‘tacit consent’.  Foust reminds us that, until comparatively recently, US drones were being launched or supported from at least six different air bases inside Pakistan, shown below, including Islamabad, Jacobabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Tarbela Ghazi; the US was ordered to leave Shamsi and had its lease terminated in December 2011.

US bases inside Pakistan

Admiral Mullen greets General Kayani, August 2008But there’s more. Pakistan had agreed that the focus of the US strikes would be North and South Waziristan.  Earlier that same year, March 2008, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen asked General Kayani, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff,  for help in approving ‘a third Restricted Operating Zone for US aircraft over the FATA’, and writing in the Washington Post in November 2010 Greg Miller confirmed that these ‘flight boxes’ were confined to North and South Waziristan (although the US had unsuccessfully pressed for permission to extend the flights over Quetta, outside the FATA).  The geometry of those boxes is not known, though it would not be difficult to superimpose two likely rectangles over the previous map sequence. Operational details are, not surprisingly, far from clear.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on 26 September 2012, the CIA sends a fax to the ISI every month detailing strike zones and intended targets – replies apparently stopped early last year, but the US interprets the silence as ‘tacit consent’ since Pakistan immediately de-conflicts the air space to allow the Predators to carry out their surveillance – and a report in the New York Times earlier this month claimed that the US still provides the Pakistan military with 30 minutes notice of an imminent strike in South Waziristan (but no advance notice for strikes in North Waziristan because the Haqqani Network enjoys such close ties with the ISI that the CIA fears their targets would be warned of the attack).

The focus on the FATA follows not only from the militant groups that are based there; it also derives from the exceptional legal status of the borderlands.  Under British colonial rule, this was a buffer zone whose inhabitants were allowed a measure of nominal autonomy; colonial power was exercised indirectly through the authority vested in tribal leaders (who received subsidies from the British), and the special Frontier Crimes Regulations – in practice corrupt and draconian – were codified by Lord Curzon in 1901.  After partition and independence in 1947 Pakistan retained the 1901 Regulations, so that the President – who has direct executive control of the FATA – appoints a Political Agent for each agency who has absolute authority to adjudicate criminal and civil affairs; ordinary Acts of Parliament do not apply to the FATA unless the President expressly declares that they do. Limited reforms were introduced in August 2011, including the right to political mobilisation, but some commentators raised doubts about their implementation.  Preventive detention and collective punishment remain in force and the writ of the courts is still severely restricted.

FATA and NWFP map

AMNESTY The Hands of Cruelty Abuses by Armed Forces and Taliban in Pakistan s Tribal AreasThese special measures were reinforced by the simultaneous passage of the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulations in 2011, a quid pro quo demanded by the military, which allowed the Pakistan Armed Forces to carry out ‘law enforcement duties [and] to conduct law enforcement operations’, granted them sweeping powers of pre-emptive arrest and detention without charge, and forbade the high court from intervening.  According to one local politician, these new Regulations are ‘even more dangerous’ than the Frontier Crimes Regulations: ‘It is a system of martial law over the Tribal Areas.’  A new report from Amnesty International (from which I’ve taken these accounts) borrows its title, The Hands of Cruelty, from a despairing claim made by a lawyer from Peshawar: ‘The hands of cruelty extend to the Tribal Areas, but the hands of justice cannot reach that far.’

(Given the – I think abusive – attack on Amnesty’s report by Abdullah Mansoor at Global Research as ‘malicious’ and ‘misinformation’ that virtually ignores the violence perpetrated by the Taliban and other militant groups, I should also draw readers’ (and his) attention to Amnesty’s previous report, As if Hell fell on me, which provides a detailed indictment of exactly that).

In short, the FATA constitute a space of exception in precisely the sense given to that term by Giorgio Agamben: the normal rights and protections under the law are withdrawn from a section of the population by the law.  To see what this has to do with the geography of US drone strikes we can turn to an attack on 19 November 2008 on a residential compound in Indi Khel, 22 miles outside Bannu and about two hours by road from Peshawar.  Five alleged militants were killed and four civilians injured: not a large toll compared to other strikes, and yet the public reaction across Pakistan was extraordinary.

Drone strike at Indi Khel, Bannu, 19 November 2008

A diplomatic cable from US Ambassador Anne Patterson on 24 November explained the widening gap between what she called ‘private GOP [Government of Pakistan] acquiescence and public condemnation for U.S. action’:

‘According to local press, the alleged U.S. strike in Bannu on November 19 marked the first such attack in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, outside of the tribal areas. The strike drew a new round of condemnation by Prime Minister Gilani, coalition political parties, opposition leaders, and the media.

‘According to Pakistani press, the strike killed four people, including a senior Al-Qaida member, and injured five others. The first strike within “Pakistan proper” is seen as a watershed event, and the media is suggesting this could herald the spread of attacks to Peshawar or Islamabad. Even politicians who have no love lost for a dead terrorist are concerned by strikes within what is considered mainland Pakistan.’

The language is truly extraordinary, with its distinction between the FATA and ‘Pakistan proper’, even ‘mainland Pakistan’. In short: (imaginative) geography matters.  Not for nothing are the FATA known in Urdu as ilaqa ghair, which means ‘alien’ or ‘foreign’ lands.

The plight of the people in the FATA is exacerbated by the forceful imposition of a second, transnational legal regime: the right asserted by the United States to carry its fight against al Qaeda and its war against the Taliban across the border from the ‘hot’ zone in Afghanistan into militant sanctuaries in Pakistan.  This is part of a larger argument about the advanced deconstruction of the traditional, bounded battlefield – here Frédéric Megret‘s work is indispensable – and the production of a global battlespace, processes that have been accelerated by the remote operations permitted by drones.  But it remains both an assertion and an argument.  Although international law is not a deus ex machina, a neutral court of appeal above the fray, it nonetheless has a developed body of precepts that are supposed to regulate armed conflicts between states, and there are also protocols and tribunals that govern armed conflicts between governments and non-state actors within the territorial boundaries of a state (the former Yugoslavia or Ruanda, for example).  But conflicts between states and transnational non-state actors pose new and difficult questions, and perhaps even map a ‘legal void’.  Significantly, as Eyal Benvenisti points out in the Duke Journal of International and Comparative Law,

Concurrently with the successful efforts to impose restraints on intra-state asymmetric warfare, we have been witnessing efforts by the same powerful countries that pressed for intra-state conflict regulation to deregulate inter-state asymmetric warfare or what may be called “transnational” warfare.

I will leave a review of these debates, at once legal and political, for another day; among the most relevant recent contributions are Kenneth Anderson, ‘Targeted killing and drone warfare: how we came to debate whether there is a legal geography of war’ (2011), available here; Laurie Blank, ‘Defining the battlefield in contemporary conflict and counterterrorism: understanding the parameters of the zone of combat’, Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law 39  (1) (2010-11), available here; Jennifer Daskal, ‘The geography of the battlefield: a framework for detention and targeting outside the “hot” conflict zone’ (2012), available here;  Noam Lubell and Nathan Derejko, ‘A global battlefield? Drones and the geographical scope of armed conflict’, Journal of International Criminal Justice 11 (1) (2013) 65-88 (abstract here).  In this twilight zone, where Washington at once admits its actions through a never-ending string of off-the-record briefings and yet denies any responsibility for their collateral outcomes, there are no inquiries into ‘mistakes’, no culpability for wrong-doing, and no compensation or restitution for the innocent victims.

Whatever you make of the rights and wrongs of all this, what matters for my present purposes is that these two legal regimes, one national and the other transnational, work in concert to expose the people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to military and paramilitary violence and, ultimately, death.

It’s more than a matter of law, of course (and in any case we shouldn’t confuse legality with legitimacy).  Within these exceptional spaces there has been active, tactical collaboration between the US and Pakistan.  Another diplomatic cable reported a meeting on 22 January 2008 with General Kayani, who asked US Central Command to provide ‘continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area’ in South Waziristan, but was offered only Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to direct PAF air strikes by F-16s – an offer which was refused because of a reluctance to allow US ground forces to operate inside Pakistan.  But in September and October 2009 small teams of US Special Forces were deployed to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the Pakistan Army, which included a ‘live downlink of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) full motion video.’ (What is interesting about all these exchanges is the degree of collaboration they reveal not only between the US and Pakistan but also between the CIA and the US military, especially Joint Special Operations Command; this is not surprising, given the hybridisation of military and paramilitary violence and the close involvement of the military in supplying, servicing and even flying the drones used in CIA-directed strikes).

There have been several reports of continuing collaboration between American and Pakistani intelligence operatives working on the ground in Pakistan, and one source – who purported to run a network of agents and ‘spotters’ in North and South Waziristan – told Reuters in January 2012 that ‘Our working relationship is a bit different from our political relationship.  It’s more productive.’  He claimed that the US and Pakistan agreed priority target lists between them, and that it took little more than two or three hours between the location of a targeted individual and the firing of missiles.  These claims are impossible to verify, but the emphasis on a working relationship rings true.

FATA flagPerhaps the most chilling of the Wikileaks cables is this (redacted) message sent from Islamabad in February 2009, reporting a discussion with a senior member of the FATA Secretariat, who enthusiastically recommended the practice of ‘double tap‘ – follow-up strikes targeting rescuers – and endorses the rationale for signature strikes against unknown, un-named targets:

9.  (S)  XXXXXXXXXXXX remains a strong advocate of U.S. strikes. In fact, he suggested to PO that the U.S. consider follow-on attacks immediately after an initial strike.  He explained that after a strike, the terrorists seal off the area to collect the bodies; in the first 10-24 hours after an attack, the only people in the area are terrorists, so “you should hit them again-there are no innocents there at that time.”  His sources report that the reported September 29 strike in South Waziristan had been particularly successful; “you will see that you hit more than has been reported in the press both in terms of quantity and quality.”  XXXXXXXXXXXX also drew a diagram essentially laying out the rationale for signature strikes…

Here you can see two perspectives on administrative killing, one from Pakistan and the other from the United States, converging onto a single target.

The cables from which I’ve quoted are all four or five years old, but this reflects the shutters coming down after the subsequent assault on Wikileaks and the arrest of  Bradley Manning – the reports from seasoned investigative journalists are much more recent.  I suppose you might conclude that none of them contradicts that artful word that does so much silent work in the official statement repeated by Emmerson, in which Pakistan denies reports of continuing tacit consent.  But given what I’ve shown about the deadly dance over those five years, do you really think the music has stopped?