This essay is excerpted from Sohail Daulatzai's Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, published by the University of Minnesota Press. A new 4K restoration of The Battle of Algiers is currently touring theaters across the United States.
Though it is both troubling and telling, the screening of the film by the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is only the latest chapter in the afterlife of The Battle of Algiers. In many ways, the film is a battleground and a microcosm of the enduring struggles between the West and the Rest, whiteness and its others. But in a post- 9/11 moment, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the centrality and omnipresence of the figure of the Muslim and the “War on Terror” have not only coded and shaped every aspect of social life but have also sought to undermine the power and politics of The Battle of Algiers.
“We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.” — John Chilcot.
The long-awaited Chilcot Report, spanning almost a decade of UK government policy decisions between 2001 and 2009, was released today. The report finds that there was no “imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein, and that Tony Blair had gone to war before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted — the UK's invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not a “last resort”.
Verso presents a reading list of books that contextualize the disaster resulting from the "War on Terror" and the refugee crisis rooted in its violence. After the invasion by coalition forces in 2003, Iraq began fracturing along sectarian lines, unleashing years of violence and displacement. With the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, ISIS exploited the chaos and societal tensions of the region to sweep to power on a brutal campaign that has displaced millions of civilians. The Iraq War, too, led to increased risk of terrorism in Europe as well as within the Middle East.
The recent violent rampage of an American soldier in Afghanistan who killed 16 civilians has sparked yet another uneasy investigation into US military presence in the Middle East, and in particular, how these shocking instances of violence germinate. In a new article for Latitude News, Joshua E.S. Phillips weighs in on the incident, and goes on to describe the mixed reactions he encountered on his tour for None of Us Were Like This Before, which details the lasting psychological trauma of torture on both detainees and American soliders. Phillips remarks:
I saw people use the book as a prism for viewing U.S. policy, veterans’ issues, and the legacy of torture. For some, the book stoked anti-American sentiment. Some fumed that it didn’t neatly focus blame on President George W. Bush, though the book showed how Bush’s decision to ignore the Geneva Convention on detainee treatment catalyzed what followed. Others were angry that it didn’t emphasize one group’s pain over the other.
Visit Latitude News to read the story in full.
Verso will publish the updated paperback edition of None of Us Were Like This Before in July 2012.
Tune into the Firedoglake Book Salon on Saturday, February 18 at 2pm PST (5pm EST) to join author Joshua E.S. Phillips in an online discussion of his book None of Us Were Like This Before: American Soldiers and Torture. In real time, participants, led by TruthOut's Jason Leopold, will weigh in on Phillips' incisive account of how ordinary soldiers in a US tank battalion, ill trained for the responsibilities foisted upon them, descended into the degradation of abuse.
Though the horrific images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib have been burned into the American cultural consciousness, what modes of redress are actually available to victims of US military torture? In an interview with Erika Eichelberger of the Nation Institute, Joshua E.S. Phillips discusses the grim shortcomings of the Detainee Abuse Task Force that he uncovered while researching his incisive investigation of American soldiers and torture, None of Us Were Like This Before. The DATF, Phillips explains, too often fails to properly investigate and resolve reports of torture: