From garrison state to garrison planet: state terror, the War on Terror and the rise of a global carceral complex

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Abstract

Introduction Through the military and the police, states have enormous capacity to coerce citizens and inflict violence. It is not surprising then that state terrorism, looked at in terms of numbers killed and harmed, is far more prevalent and significant than that of non-state actors (Green and Ward 2004). And yet, ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ are concepts that are considered almost exclusively in terms of the individual and sub-state groups. As a consequence of this myopia, ‘counterterrorism’ has frequently become the justification for state terror and violence that far outweigh the harm and violence they are purporting to counter (Jackson 2008). When state terror and terrorism are considered, it tends to be in the context of ‘failed states’ rather than the democracies of the West (Blum 2000). This chapter focuses on the violence and harm inflicted on prisoners and detainees in US prisons in the War on Terror and links this to the regular, routine and normalized state terror practised daily on millions of prisoners held within US domestic prisons. This state terror, experienced vastly disproportionately among criminalized and racialized communities, amounts to state terrorism as it sends a warning to whole communities about their place in the social and economic hierarchy and the price of transgression. Revelations of torture and abuse of prisoners in the US-led War on Terror have led to a growing body of critical research on the relationship between US domestic prisons and War on Terror prisons. The responses from the mainstream within the United States have included outright denial alongside declarations that the horrendous cruelty inflicted on prisoners is unrepresentative of the values for which America stands (Rajiva 2005). Critical scholars, on the other hand, pointed to parallels and connections between torture and abuse in US offshore prisons and the routine and normalized state terror inflicted upon prisoners and detainees within the United States (Davis 2005; Greene 2004: 2-4; Gordon 2006: 42-59). There is also an emerging body of critical commentary, research and scholarship that focuses on the role of private corporations, profit and corruption in the War on Terror (Whyte 2007a: 177-95; Whyte 2007b: 153-68; Scahill 2007; Singer 2003; Klein 2007). This chapter extends these critiques by elaborating on the significance of the role of the United States as a self-appointed jailer to the world and by building an understanding of the drivers behind this development, including the role of private corporations and private profit. It argues that the War on Terror reflects, extends and reinforces the penal punitiveness and state terror that have taken root at the heart of the criminal justice system in the United States and many other Western countries. More specifically, it argues that the US role as global jailer and the way it executes this role need to be understood as logical extensions of the mass incarceration in which the United States is global leader and exemplar. Understanding mass incarceration and its global spread under the banner of the War on Terror warrants a consideration of private prisons along with the processes, dynamics and consequences of neoliberal globalization. While critiques of the War on Terror often set out to document its many and manifest failures, the purpose here is to consider and analyse who and what benefits, particularly the ways that the War on Terror and the state terror which accompanies it succeed in opening new markets for private capital and profit, thereby maintaining a fertile climate for the advance of neoliberal globalization more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary State Terrorism
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Practice
EditorsRichard Jackson, Eamon Murphy, Scott Poynting
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
PublisherRoutledge
Pages196-212
Number of pages17
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781135245160
ISBN (Print)9780415498012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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