We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Imperialism And The Politics Of Torture
The most valuable contribution Petras makes in this essay is his explanation of why torture is used by imperialists: not so much to obtain information, but to terrorize their subjugated populations from collaborating with freedom fighters. After that his essay deteriorates into moralism.
His political analysis of various government actors who acquiesced in, or facilitated, the practice of torture is more moralistic than sound political reasoning. As a result, he denigrates the concept of a deep state and reduces everything to morally tarnished government actors who, he insists, should be punished. Of course, they should be punished, but that moralistic statement like all the others does not shed light on the reasons they are not punished, why government officials engaged in such devious behavior, nor why ruling class figures weigh the use of torture purely on a pragmatic basis.
It's clear to me that once a ruling class decides to engage in imperialist actions for reasons of self interest, all their following actions are immoral but necessary to accomplish their crimes against oppressed populations. Imperialism is intrinsically an anti-social act, and therefore immoral. However, once a decision is made by a ruling class to engage in such anti-social behavior, they are often forced to use secrecy, public reports that are heavily redacted to protect the perpetrators, excuses about not knowing, and a refusal to punish anyone.
The same reasoning applies within class structured societies in which a ruling class secures its self-interests at the expense of the greater society by various anti-social methods all of which are covered up and/or justified by indoctrination agencies and media. Their enforcement agencies avoid using torture as punishment against law-breakers in most cases because of the threat of exposure, but they will engage in milder forms of torture such as we witnessed in the case of Chelsea Manning or aggressive police actions against poor African-Americans as long has their indoctrination and media agencies can cover it up and/or enable the wider public to accept it.
The problem with liberals (or capitalist left-wingers) like Petras is that they refuse to frame issues within a class analysis, or expose a "deep state", because that would undermine the legitimacy of the ruling class and reveal their widespread exploitation of the rest of society. Liberal educators serve "domestic imperialism" because they, like their counterparts in government who permitted or facilitated the torture of foreigners, have always been so well rewarded for doing so. The system of capitalism inevitably results in a ruling class with enormous wealth which is used to offer material rewards to collaborators (from government officials to torturers to liberal academics) of their class rule.