“Generally, the grievously injured bodies shown in published photographs are from Asia or Africa. This journalistic custom inherits the centuries-old practice of exhibiting exotic — that is, colonized — human beings: Africans and denizens of remote Asian countries were displayed like zoo animals in ethnological exhibitions mounted in London, Paris, and other European capitals from the sixteenth until the early twentieth century. In The Tempest, Trinculo’s first thought upon coming across Caliban is that he could be put on exhibit in England: ‘not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver … When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.’ The exhibition in photographs of cruelties inflicted on those with darker complexions in exotic countries continues this offering, oblivious to the considerations that deter such displays of our own victims of violence; for the other, even when not an enemy, is regarded only as someone to be seen, not someone (like us) who also sees.”
— Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
“The conceit of secularism undergirding the promulgation of tolerance within multicultural liberal democracies not only legitimates their intolerance of and aggression toward nonliberal states or transnational formations but also glosses the ways in which certain cultures and religions are marked in advance as ineligible for tolerance while others are so hegemonic as to not even register as cultures or religions; they are instead labeled ‘mainstream’ or simply ‘American.’ In this way, tolerance discourse in the United States, while posing as both a universal value and an impartial practice, designates certain beliefs and practices as civilized and others as barbaric, both at home and abroad; it operates from a conceit of neutrality that is actually thick with bourgeois Protestant norms. The moral autonomy of the individual at the heart of liberal tolerance discourse is also critical in drawing the line between the tolerable and the intolerable, both domestically and globally, and thereby serves to sneak liberalism into a civilizational discourse that claims to be respectful of all cultures and religions, many of which it would actually undermine by ‘liberalizing,’ and, conversely, to sneak civilizational discourse into liberalism. This is not to say that tolerance in civilizational discourse is reducible to liberalism; in fact, it is strongly shaped by the legacy of the colonial settler-native encounter as well as the postcolonial encounter between white and indigenous, colonized, or expropriated peoples. This strain in the lexicon and ethos of tolerance, while not reducible to a liberal grammar and analytics, is nonetheless mediated by them and also constitutes an element in the constitutive outside of liberalism over the past three centuries. Tolerance is thus a crucial analytic hinge between the constitution of abject domestic subjects and barbarous global ones, between liberalism and the justification of its imperial and colonial adventures.”
- Brown, Wendy. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2006.
“To photographic corroboration of the atrocities committed by one’s own side, the standard response is that the pictures are a fabrication, that no such atrocity ever took place, those were bodies the other side had brought in trucks from the city morgue and placed about the street, or that, yes, it happened and it was the other side who did it, to themselves. Thus the chief of propaganda for Franco’s Nationalist rebellion maintained that it was the Basques who had destroyed their own ancient town and former capital, Guernica, on April 26, 1937, by placing dynamite in the sewers (in a later version, by dropping bombs manufactured in Basque territory) in order to inspire indignation abroad and reinforce the Republican resistance. And thus a majority of Serbs living in Serbia or abroad maintained right to the end of the Serb siege of Sarajevo, and even after, that the Bosnians themselves perpetrated the horrific ‘breadline massacre’ in May 1992 and ‘market massacre’ in February 1994, lobbing large-caliber shells into the center of their capital or planting mines in order to create some exceptionally gruesome sights for the foreign journalists’ cameras and rally more international support for the Bosnian side.”
— Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.
“… [T]he costs of intervention borne by the people that are supposed to be helped by it require greater examination. One part of that examination must include the complicity of Western states in a global system that exempt themselves from the consequences of violating international law; that support violence in the south; and prop up regimes that are illegitimate in the eyes of their subjects. … Rather than continuing to mouth hollow pieties about ‘women’s rights as human rights’, it is imperative now more than ever for first world feminists to critically theorize the local and discover how their own agendas have been used to further what can only be considered imperial power dynamics in the international sphere. I suggest that Liberal feminists think particularly carefully about the calls for use of international intervention to further women’s human rights decoupled from local contexts and understood as Liberal rights. Such uses of power as a means of progress resuscitate a colonial dynamic that is fraught with the peril of subjugation and violence towards the very people it seeks to liberate. …
“While I think it unnecessary to abandon second-wave feminism’s many contributions including the understanding that women in every culture live in a gender unequal system, critical theorists can give us a more nuanced approach that reveals how even within that system, women can maneuver and exert power and make choices. It can also give us the ability to recognize similar projects undertaken by women living in Muslim societies but not mistake these as projects that are the same as our own undertaken in our contexts. Moreover, it can make obvious the complex and contested nature of the global system particularly the role of economic disparity and increasingly environmental disparity and the way in which privileged women wield power — sometimes to the benefit and sometimes to the detriment of other women. Most importantly, it can underscore how the inequality in the global system cannot be ignored when engaging state power internationally or engaging international institutions for seemingly benevolent purposes.”
- Choudhury, Cyra Akila. “Empowerment or Estrangement? Liberal Feminism’s Vision of the ‘Progress’ of Muslim Women”. University of Baltimore Law Forum, Forthcoming; Florida International University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-10.
“The US State Department’s legal counsel, Harold Koh, told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Libyan adventure ‘does not constitute a war’ because there are no US ground troops in Libya, there is a limited risk of escalation, there is a limited means of military means and, remarkably, there are no US casualties. What you have instead are Drones and Cruise Missiles that strike at populations whose sorrows do not trigger any the legal terms that indicate warfare and suffering. We are back to the first aerial bombardment in world history, the Italian bombing of Tajura and Ain Zara in 1911. The first communiqué from the air force said what the NATO command would be more embarrassed to say, which is that the bombing had ‘a wonderful effect on the morale of the Arabs.’”
- Prashad, Vijay. Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. Oakland: AK, 2012.
“In Madrid in April of 1911, the Institute for International Law convened … The discussion focused particularly on what kinds of injury could be expected when a population was bombed. Paul Fauchille averred that the weight of bombs an airplane could carry was still very small in comparison with a battleship’s load. So the damage could hardly be larger than those already accepted in other forms of warfare, and air attack ought to be permitted. The opposition, represented by von Bar, argued that air attacks were difficult to limit to a specified target. As long as precision was so low that civilian casualties were impossible to avoid, air attacks ought to be forbidden. As a compromise between these two positions, the following recommendation was adopted: ‘Air warfare is allowed, but only on the condition that it does not expose the peaceful population to greater dangers than attacks on land or from the sea.’ …
“[On October 25, 1911] the Arabs had joined forces with the Turks in a counterattack that nearly drove the Italians back into the sea. The Italian army saw the Arabs as traitors, plain and simple, and struck back wildly against the Arab civilian population. ‘The floodgates of blood and lust’ were opened, according to the London Times (October 31). ‘This was not war. It was butchery,’ said the Daily Chronicle (November 6). ‘Noncombatants, young and old, were slaughtered ruthlessly, without compunction and without shame.’ Those who found themselves beyond the reach of the.bayonets were bombed instead. The first air attack was an act of revenge. It was directed at Tagiura·and Ain Zara, since Arabs from these oases had distinguished themselves in battle … [W]hen the Italians, in bombing some oases outside of Tripoli, conducted the first air assault in 1911, they could refer to international law in defense of their actions. It could not be argued that the air force exposed the noncombatant population or its property to greater dangers than did the army (which had just carried out a merciless massacre of civilians) or the navy (which during the days before the air attack had dropped 152 heavy shells on the same oases).”
- Lindqvist, Sven. A History of Bombing. New York: New Press, 2001.