CAMP

How is it that a camp like Guantanamo Bay can exist in our time?

We would like to begin our campaign with this simple question and join other organizations, lawyers, thinkers, and activists in contesting not only the existence of this camp but also examining its relation to other phenomenon we are confronted with in the social and political landscape.

We feel that Guantanamo Bay is only a more acute or extreme version of what is taking place around us in the name of security. And our campaign attempts to draw out those connections and link them to historical precedents as well as everyday phenomenon .

The Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, has introduced two critical questions that pertain to our current political crisis and to our campaign. 
 
First, that the state of exception, in this case, the suspension of the rule of law (e.g., Patriot Act, illegal combatants, military tribunals, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay), have become increasingly common devices of governance, perhaps the norm, in "democratic" states in this last century

Second, that the camp should not be seen exclusively as a historical fact (e.g. Auschwitz) or as an exception reserved only for the ”inhuman” (e.g. Guantanamo Bay) or displaced refugee (e.g. Palestine), but as the paradigm, the “hidden matrix and nomos of the political space in which we are still living.” This second theme is interesting because it is closer to a question which relies on discussion to first understand and then to interrogate and explore.

In this context, Camp X-Ray, Echo, Delta* become more than exceptional sites of the suspension of law, or mere examples of America’s unilateral policies and ignorance of international law. Instead they serve as glaring examples of what remains one of the critical apparatuses and unspoken structural underwriters of modern governance (including democracy). With this understanding the exception is not a freak occurence, but rather a means of conditioning and establishing (a relation to) the norm.

For these reasons, we believe that Guantanamo Bay is a critical site for developing a discussion with a public about various timely themes in politics today (e.g., security and terror, citizenship and statelessness, human rights vs. political and legal rights, the coming / unavowable / inoperative or terrible community).

CAMPAIGN

There are a variety of campaigns, campaigns for public office, campaigns for public awareness, fundraising campaigns, campaigns for specific causes, military campaigns, recruitment campaigns, campaigns to win our hearts and minds, campaigns of fear and even love. Our's is a campaign not as a campaign. Our's is not a campaign of slogans, clear messages, or even specific ends sought. No doubt we are propelled to begin this campaign because we reject the supposed necessity of the camps in Guantanamo Bay, we see ourselves as a part of the struggle to shut it down and encourage public debate/outrage about their existence. But we recognize that our struggle will not end, once it is shut down. We recognize that in order for our campaign to be successful, we need to also speak with our public not just at them. We recognize that there will be many other campaigns necessary to struggle for the community we desire.

If to be effective, campaigns require a clear focus, primary goals, specific ends sought, our difficulty has been to rethink what a campaign could be and achieve. Our's is a campaign of both refusal and generating questions. We do not want to be talked at and thus we imagine that the community to come or struggle for will have to speak directly with one another.

So even as we begin by refusing the current discourse on security in this country, we also recognize that the problem is far greater. Shutting down the camps in Guantanamo Bay is an immediate demand that we must make unequivocally, but we must also take this moment to understand what it signals. If we cannot understand this machine (which has throughout the 20th century) been able to legitimize the most atrocious of acts in the name of the security of the state or its people, we will perpetually be prey to the conditions confronting the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. If we cannot understand the machine (which has since Ancient Greece) been able to separate political life and bare life, we will perpetually be prey to the "human rights" disasters and the disasterour failure of human rights in our time.

If we have found a campaign that is inspiring, it is the "Other Campaign" of the Zapatistas. A campaign whose message is found as much in its means as its ends sought. We are a campaign of meager means, conversations, informal exchanges, spontaneous street actions, an old van, a few books, some materials we have collected from different places ranging from Occupied Palestine to Baltimore, Maryland, some horizontal campaign materials to remind us of the struggle ahead, some stickers and pins, and our voices.

 

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2006-8