Vengeance, Security, and Political Repression: The Present and Future Struggle for Human Rights in the Wake of Structural Violence

Raymond J. Michalowski, Northern Arizona University

The suicide pilots who destroyed the World Trade Center towers, a portion of the Pentagon, and a fourth airplane did more than vaporize thousands of lives and millions of dreams; they created the conditions that have allowed an unelected President and his corporate cronies both inside and outside government to cripple U.S. civil liberties and corrupt American souls with promises of peace and security through vengeance. The rhetoric of axes of "evil," the continued narrowing of civil rights in the pursuit of "homeland defense", and the doublespeak that justifies killing of civilians in Afghanistan as "collateral damage" while condemning killing done by those we call "terrorists" poses serious challenges to our national perceptions of what constitutes law and what will give birth to justice. This paper traces the intersection of post-9/11 political strategies as a logical extension of the Conservative politics of vengeance that began shaping current justice police in the 1980s. Specifically it examines how the politics of vengeance generate a willingness to accept both domestic and foreign repression as the inevitable price of security, how these represent a serious threat to both world security and the American soul, and how these policies require a new politic - not of peace through security, but of security through peace.

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Updated 05/20/2006