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Seeing the Twilight War: Human Rights & the 9/11 State of Emergency
Bard College
Fall 2016

Description

For fifteen years – longer than some of us can remember – Americans have been living in a state of exception: a constitutional dictatorship where the human rights on which Americans so pride themselves have been routinely circumscribed. In Abu Ghraib and in secret “black site” prisons around the world American interrogators have tortured prisoners on the orders of American leaders. In Guantanamo, American troops stand guard over nearly a hundred men who are imprisoned indefinitely without trial. In Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have struck and killed without warrant or due process perhaps 5000 people. Far from causing outrage or revolt, all of this has taken on the character of the barely noticed day to day. The United States, which prides itself on its leadership of the human rights movement, has become a nation that violates central precepts of the human rights regime every day as a matter of accepted state policy. In this class we will study this post-9/11 “new normal” and seek to understand how the state of exception came to be imposed, why it was accepted and how long it might endure. Among the authors we will read are Andrew Bacevich, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barton Gellman, Osama bin Laden, Jane Mayer, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Sayyid Qutb, Clinton Rossiter, Ron Suskind, Bob Woodward, Joby Warrick, Robert F. Worth, Lawrence Wright, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri.



Syllabus

Class Requirements

This class will be a mixture of lectures and discussion, backed up by a large amount of reading. The most important requirements are that students

 

*Attend all class sessions

*Keep up with all reading assignments

*Participate in discussions

*Deliver one presentation to the class

 

A student’s record of attendance and participation in class discussion, together with the thoroughness of his or her preparation, will determine the success of our class and contribute the better part of the grade.

 

 

Schedule Note that classes will meet Monday and Wednesday mornings at 10:10 a.m. in Olin 309. Class will not meet September 5.

 

Reading Our primary reading will draw largely from a number of books on the war on terror and its aftermath. They are listed below. I strongly urge you to obtain these books in your own copies, and in the edition specified, either from the school bookstore or from online suppliers, so that you will be able to highlight and annotate them.

Writing There will be a midterm examination on October 12. The midterm will consist of short-answer questions and some essay questions. Depending on response to the reading there may be an occasional in-class quiz.

     To bolster the clarity and vigor of your English prose, I strongly suggest studying two works: George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language” and Strunk and White’s little manual, The Elements of Style. The text of the Orwell essay can be found easily on the web.

 

Presentations Each student will make one presentation in class on a subject related to our assigned reading or discussion. Use of multimedia and social media is strongly encouraged.

 

Office Hours I will hope to meet with each of you individually at least once during the course of the term. We will make these appointments on an ad hoc basis. I am best reached via email, at mark@markdanner.com. My office is on the fourth floor of Stevenson Library. My writing, speaking and other information can be found at my website, markdanner.com.

Grading Students will be graded on their preparedness and their participation in class, the strength of their presentations and the quality of their written work, as follows:

 

Attendance            25 percent

Participation          25 percent

Midterm Exam      25 percent

Presentation          25 percent

 

To do well in this class a solid record of attendance is essential.

 

Required Texts

 

Andrew Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (Random House, 2016)

 

Mark Danner, Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War (S&S, 2016)

 

David Kilkullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism (Oxford, 2016)

 

Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Anchor, 2009)

 

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantanamo Diary (Little Brown, 2015)

 

Jeremy Scahill, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program (S&S, 2016)

 

Joby Warrick, The Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Doubleday, 2015)

 

Robert F. Worth, A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS (FSG, 2016)

 

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage, 2007)

 

Recommended Texts

 

Gellman, Barton. Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. New York: Penguin, 2008. Print.

   

Tentative Syllabus

 

Presentation sign-up: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LBBdrYDvOXsqAw5cHzBbWg7gu9eJ1xpkocONz_-lLOY/edit?usp=sharing

 

August 29, 2016 – Introduction to the Forever War. September 11 and What It Did. The Components of the Emergency State. Outlining the Class. Requirements: Attendance, Participation and Presentations. The Midterm Exam. How To Make The Class Succeed.

 

Class Notes 8/29/16:

1.     Defined the “twilight war”- Murky, somewhat indiscernible war the USA has been involved in for 15 years. Most US citizens go about their days as if the war is not there.

2.     Defined “Human Rights” – Moral entitlements to protect humans under any circumstances.

3.     Discussed Post-War Era and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10th, 1948.

4.     Introduced the idea that the USA was founded on ideals rather than blood, and discussed whether those ideals have been upheld since 2001’s declaration of war/ Authorization of Military Force (AUMF).

5.     Defined “State of Emergency” – or state of siege/exception, where in some way, normal actions are suspended.

 


 

Indefinite Detention

 

August 31 – The Coming of September 11 – and Why They Hate Us. Seeing the World from Their Point of View. Introducing Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

 

Class Notes 8/31/16:

1.     Discussed Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s life and the events that lead to his capture, key factors being his connection to Al Qaeda, use of Osama Bin Laden’s phone, and his membership to a mosque that had a member involved in the millennium plot.

2.     Discussed how prevention became the government’s priority following 9/11, as opposed to punishment.

3.     Defined “Habeas Corpus” – A writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person's release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention (Oxford Pocket Dictionary).

4.     Discussed how POW’s where considered unlawful combatants, and where therefore excluded from the Geneva Convention.

5.     Defined “Common Article 3” – section of the Geneva Convention that forbids the torture of POW’s.

 

Reading: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantanamo Diary (Little Brown, 2015), pp. ix – 188.

 

September 5No Class

 

September 7 Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). The evolution of torture. We know they know: the Torture Paradox. Gitmo.

 

Class Notes 9/7/16:

1.Leah did a presentation on Mohammad al-Qahtani, the 20th highjacker, who is still in GTMO. Time Magazine article: http://ti.me/2c8gUHd

2.     Discussed GTMO Diary. Specifically MOS’s travels during incarceration.

3.     Defined “Black Site”: secret USA location for interrogating suspected terrorists.

4.     Defined “Extraordinary Rendition”: When CIA seizes people and sends them to a black site for interrogation.

 

Reading: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantanamo Diary (Little Brown, 2015), pp. 191 – 374.

Reading: President Bush Addresses the Nation. (http://wapo.st/2crjL3s)

 


 

The Meaning of September 11

 

 

September 12 – Why attack the United States? The roots of the 9/11 plot. The ideological underpinnings. Zawahiri and Qutb.

 

Class Notes 9/7/16:

1.    Daniella did a presentation on Muhammad Atta, the leader of the 9/11 highjacking

2.    Discussed the singular nature of 9/11.

3.    Discussed how the hijackers were young intelligent, relatively privileged college students that were lead by strong ideals.

4.    Defined Jahilliya: pre-Islamic period.

5.    Defined Salafi: large movement that refers the blessed forefathers of Islam, and the need to return to this time’s way of life.

6.    Defined apostate: someone who renounced Islam

7.    Defined infidel: someone is in not and never was muslin.  

 

Reading: Michael Scott Doran, “Somebody Else’s Civil War,” Foreign Affairs, Winter 2001. http://www.stetson.edu/artsci/political-science/media/civil_war.pdf

 

Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage, 2007), pp. 3 – 138.

 

 

September 14 – Osama bin Laden and the rise of the Base. The move toward the Far Enemy. Preliminary actions leading toward The Big Wedding.

 

Reading: Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage, 2007), pp. 139 - 324.

 

Reading: Mohamed Atta’s final letter. Link: http://bit.ly/2cTH2Kf

 

 

September 19 – The United States and the War on Terror. The FBI and the Counterterrorism Center of the CIA. How to miss an attack.

 

Reading: Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage, 2007), pp. 325 - 421.

 

 

 

The Response to September 11: Whence It Came

 

 

September 21 – Oil and US Policy in the Middle East. Imperialistic Roots from East of Suez. “Foreign Intervention” and the Carter Doctrine.

 

Reading: Andrew Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (Random House, 2016), pp.

 

 

 

September 26 – US Policy Toward Iraq. The Gulf Wars and the American “Tilt.” The Saudis, Saddam and America.

 

 

Reading: Andrew Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (Random House, 2016), pp.

September 28 –

 

 

October 3 – The Iraq War and Creative Destabilization. The Fiasco in Iraq. Consequences of Iraq and the Arab Spring.

 

 

Reading: Andrew Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (Random House, 2016), pp.

 

 

October 5 –  Another Path? Open Class Discussion

 

 

October 10 – Fall Break (No Class)

 

 

October 12 – Midterm Exam: Short Answer and Essay Questions Intended to Gauge Your Grasp of Our Reading and Discussions

 

 

 

From 9/11 to The Dark Side

 

October 17 – The September 11 Attacks and the Rise of Counterterrorism. The Black Sites. Torture and Enhanced Interrogation.       

 

Reading:  Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Anchor, 2009), pp. 1 - 138

 

 

October 19 – Making Torture Legal. The Torture Memos. Stress and Duress: A History. Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

 

Reading:  Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Anchor, 2009), pp. 139 – 335.

 

 

The Dark Side and the Black Flags

 

October 24 – The Rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Planning for Iraq. The Iraq Invasion as Opportunity. Zarqawi as International Hero.

 

Reading: Joby Warrick, The Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Doubleday, 2015), pp. 1 – 101

 

 

October 26 – The Iraq War and the Iraq Insurgency. Suicide Bombing as Industrial Warfare. Playing on the Sunni-Shia Divide.

 

Reading: Joby Warrick, The Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Doubleday, 2015), pp. 101 - 223

 

October 31 –The Rise of the Islamic State. The Syrian Crack Up. ISIS Mutates. From Terrorist Group to the New Caliphate.

 

Reading: Joby Warrick, The Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS (Doubleday, 2015), pp. 223 – 317

 

 

 

Creative Destabilization in the Middle East

 

November 2 – The Coming of the Arab Spring. A Fire in Tunisia. From Self-Immolation to Tahrir Square: The Fire Spreads. Libya.

 

Reading: Robert F. Worth, A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS (FSG, 2016), pp. 3 - 126

 

 

November 7 – An Advancing Revolution. The Ideological Vacuum. The Old Order Fights Back. The Fall of Morsi. The Return of the Dictator.

 

Reading: Robert F. Worth, A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS (FSG, 2016), pp. 127 - 234

 

 

 

Drones: Mowing the Grass

 

November 9 – Bush and the Roots of the Drone War. Drones as Supplement, Drones as Lead Weapon. Quick, Clean, Silent.

 

Reading: Jeremy Scahill, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program (S&S, 2016)

 

 

November 14 – Do We Know Whom We Are Killing? Drones and Intelligence. Kill Lists and Conference Calls.

 

Reading: Jeremy Scahill, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program (S&S, 2016)

 

 

 

The Great Unraveling: Terror and Counterterror

 

November 16 –The Strategy of the War on Terror. Striking Nodes and Mowing the Grass. Assassination. Where It Went Wrong.

 

Reading: David Kilkullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism (Oxford, 2016)

 

 

November 21 – Can US Counterterrorism Be Reformed? How to Fight the War on Terror. Ending the War or Spreading the War.

 

Reading: David Kilkullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism (Oxford, 2016)

 

 

November 23 – How to Fight the Terror War: A Discussion & Debate.

 

 

Spiral: The Coming of Constitutional Dictatorship

 

November 28 – What Have We Become? Defining the Constitutional Dictatorship. Can We Be Safe and “Who We Are”?

 

Reading: Mark Danner, Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War (S&S, 2016)

 

 

November 30 – Toward A New Counterterrorism. Is Deterrence Possible? Protecting the Country, Ending the War.

 

Reading: Mark Danner, Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War (S&S, 2016)

 

 

December 5 – Seeing the Forever War: An In-Class Debate.

 

December 7 – Conclusions and Reflections on Endless War.

 



© 2017 Mark Danner