Following up on the CIA Torture Report.

Just over a week ago, New Matilda published my short-essay on the public reception of last December’s CIA Torture Report amongst Australia’s defence think-tanks. Since then, David Hicks’ Lawyer, Stephen Kenny, has stated that the US Government has “admitted that his conviction was not correct.” While it remains to be seen whether this acknowledgment will result in Hicks’ conviction being quashed, the admission nevertheless raises troubling questions. Should the conviction be quashed, it will throw into stark relief the Howard Government’s acquiescence to, and political complicity with, the rendition, detention, prosecution and torture of an Australian citizen by a foreign nation. Here, it is appropriate to highlight the recent statement by Bill Rowlings of Civil Liberties Australia on David Hicks’s case:

[Phillip] Ruddock is still an MP in the federal parliament. He should be called to account by the parliament for why he jailed an Australian who had committed no crime. He, John Howard and their advisers were told clearly at the time by all sorts of people that material support for terrorism was not a legal charge available to the Pentagon and the US Administration, and that Australia should have no part in jailing someone charged with a non-crime.

And yet, one cannot help but feel pessimistic about the chances that anyone will be actually held accountable for the crimes committed against Mr Hicks. As Cynthia Banham submitted, in one of the four articles published by the Lowy Institute on the report, the revelations highlight our indifference to the treatment of Mr. Hicks and Mamdouh Habib:

The fact is the Australian public and civil society have never cared enough about the likelihood that two Australians were tortured in the war on terror to force the government into holding a full, public inquiry into whether and how that occurred.

Alongside this, there are further issues raised by the report that neither we, nor the defence commentariat, cannot shy away from. For instance, there remain unresolved questions regarding the possibility and probability of ongoing and future abuses by US military and intelligence agencies. Susanne Schmeidl, for example, raised the issue that the report could just be the “tip of the iceberg” and that the CIA might be continuing such practices, albeit modified, by other means. She notes, for example, that whilst the program in its specifics was dismantled, the CIA remains embedded with contractors in Afghanistan, still largely removed from effective oversight and public accountability.

Moreover, in assessing the likelihood that the release of the report will have a meaningful impact on the CIA as an institution, one has to take into account its apparently recidivist nature. Indeed, it is only the most ideologically myopic commentator or analyst who could ignore the CIA’s long and bloody history of playing direct and indirect roles in the detention, interrogation, torture and murder of people across the world. Historical practices and programs aside, there are other reasons to believe that the potential for ongoing abuses remain. Drawing upon the recent UN Committee Against Torture Review, for instance, Nafeez Ahmed argues in his analysis of the report that, whilst the Bush administration’s torture program had been dismantled in its specifics by 2009, the Obama administration has not entirely dispensed with such practices. Rather, Ahmed contends, the Obama administration has adopted a modified register of techniques, codified in the US Army Field Manual, that includes “isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, chemically-induced psychosis, adjustments of environmental and dietary rules”.

Clearly, the implications of the CIA Torture Report and the troubling questions that they suggest are not confined to the extent and kind of military intelligence support that Australia provides the US during joint-operations and outside them. It suggests that not only does bipartisan support for the US-alliance run so deeply that the Australian political elite is content to allow Australian citizens to be falsely imprisoned and, subsequently tortured, by a foreign government, but that we as the Australian public either support such political complicity or are simply indifferent to its perpetration.

Against (Read)

You see,
it’s meant to be performed,
not read.

Because socially relevant passion
is not just a fashion,
but a must for that resume.

And like,
it’s meant to be provocative,
all high-brow and shit.

But I want you,
to watch me,
be relevant.

You see,
I want it to be enlightening,
not entertaining.

Because I want you,
to notice the gleam,

of my warm,
ocean coloured eyes.

And also,
I want you to know
that deep down,
I really do care.

But, sometimes,
what I say,
is just a consequence
of all the alcohol
and benzedrine.

(I thought that last reference might be a tad vague, but then I thought that it was worth keeping it in on the whole as, like, there’ll at least be a handful of you who would pick up on it. And besides, even if you didn’t, it wouldn’t really matter anyways as no one seems to really listen anymore. We’re no longer used to reading either. Spending so much time seeing and accepting Images, our ears shrivel up on our heads… Just like empty PEF-bottles on a merry campfire… but I digress…)

And now I’ve lost my place,
and now you as well…
which of course means,
that I’ve lost myself.

You see,
I wanted to say something clever,
I wanted to say something deep.

Something like, you know,
the Poet is just a poor-man’s Pope
with a bar for a pulpit
and pissheads for paupers…

Because,
I want you,
to watch me,

be relevant.

And yes,
I want you
to notice the gleam
,
in my conscience coloured eyes.

Run

An autumn afternoon,
in 1998.
A Thursday,
A classroom,
A cross legged audience,
waiting for tinfoil rabbits
and Willy Wonka profits.

Because, little boy,
Jesus sacrificed himself for you,
and you’d better run.

Sky-shirts,
navy-pants,
crosses over hearts,
and the dead Lord’s son
watching from the wall.
All the mass-produced symbolism,
for all the little children.
Because, you know,
he’s gunna die tomorrow,
but he’ll be back in three days.
And little boy,
you know you’d better run.

Whisper in his ear,
so the teacher doesn’t hear.
Hammer in your metaphorical nails,
with punctuated sneers.
That’s right fuck face,
Jesus died for you.

Prayer locked hands,
whisper in his ear.
Eyes shut tight,
whisper in his ear.
Lips forced shut,
whisper in his ear.
Palms bleeding sweat,
whisper in his ear.
Don’t you know,
Jesus sacrificed himself for you?

It’s over in a second,
and the whispering boy wails.
As the little boy trembles,
beneath the chatter of children.
Did you see it? Did you?
And they begin to beat their desks,
Crucify him, crucify him.
Did you see it? Did you?
Crucify him, crucify him.

And the little boy starts.
Crucify him, crucify him.
And the little boy panics.
Crucify him! Crucify him!
His rabbit-heart runs.
Crucify him! Crucify him!
And they scream it to the Lord.
Crucify him! Crucify him!
Crucify him!! Crucify him!!
Crucify him!!! Crucify him!!!
Crucify him!!! Crucify him!!!
Crucify him!!! Crucify him!!!
Crucify him!!! Crucify him!!!

An autumn afternoon,
in 1998.
A Thursday,
in a classroom,
and oh my lord,
little boy,
you’d better run…

Said the Critic to the Poets

What say you?
Said I to a they.
        What say we?
They mumbled…

Why this interest in questioning?
Why harass us so?
What say we!? No, we refuse to answer!
And ask instead, what do you do?

What do I do?
Now who harasses who!?
Fine! Let it be!
Let all of you see!

For I haggle over dialectics
as a dog worries over a bone.
I chain smoke through the nights
and want air from the dawn.

I stumble home drunk,
and nearly fall over
whilst pissing on street tags.
And the next day,
I declare them to be
barren expressions.
Of disenfranchised youth
who have yet to convert
anger to art.

I spit on hack pollys,
and cry woe at the sight of megaphones.
I throw up my arms
and gesticulate every which way, when
and wherever.
I go blue in the face,
as I go red in the tongue,
as I go round and round
and round
in cycles of arguments
that eclipse everything
but this ‘I’.

I am a critic
And, I haunt your footsteps
just as your shadow clingsto your feet.
I am the harbinger of something greater
but of what, I do not know.

And they looked,
and they paused,
and they said:

Socrates’ daimonion
is the diamond of your eye.
‘A vanity spawned by fear’,
and though you have no hemlock
you think alcohol is an adequate supplement.
You haven’t written a single word in years.
Oh, type you may do,
but no longer do you
paint with the pen.

Of Diogenes the beggar
and Aristophanes the playwright,
you are repulsed,
and from them you recoil.

For the word of the Poet
remains the instrument of the heart.

But still you bind yourself
to reasoning by percussion.
The keyboard your piano,
and binary-light your only candle.

Indeed, hallowed be the Poets,
whose words you so quickly dismiss.

For you,
you are a critic,
who hides behind arguments,
and dismisses Love
with the most eloquent of sophistries.
And never,
never from the shadows

do you emerge.

Haunt us you may,
but know
that you follow
in the wake of those
who would rather singe our skins
whilst gardening
under the sun.

LIVE-TO-AIR: A poetic reflection on light, life and ecology.

Prologue.
I had a childhood friend once,
and he would scratch at this wooden desk and question its reality.
Hunched over, he would wonder where the world finished,
and the pixels started…

Live-to-air.
Welcome, one and all to this Age:
Where life is too fast,
and books are too slow.
Where our moral compass needs a new GPS,
and your time is not your own.
Where fantastical sprites become glitching bytes,
and sensuality dissolves in a sea of broad-band porn.
Where the real is an image
and the image is the news,
and the news is a cinema
that broadcasts the world,
at the speed of Live-to-Air.

Where God’s transcended the VHF,
and the Holy communion transmits in High-Def.,
it’s beneficent grace, in digital space;
and the Image alone is divine.
Where holograms of Tupac,
breed digital headlines.
Here, the dead go on living,
in our telepresent sublime.
Where the living switch on,
so as to switch off,
so beneath all these lights,
we’re caught dead to rights
as zombies watching zombies
in this Spectacle of Live-to-Air.

Where the tyres that burn in Ukrainian eyes,
turn cold light screens into warm fire-sides.
Where the roar of revolt becomes the beep of SMS,
and as we sing to ourselves the tunes of the press…
Gil, our elder and love,
how wrong your children were…
the revolution will always be televised,
for the picket-line is just a headline
in these global politics of Live-to-Air.

Where our faces interface,
as ‘profile-pics’ in code-space.
We’re becoming minimal-selves
in this minimal-state!
Where the grey screams
of Munch-screens,
explode in our eyes
and implode in our dreams.
Where we re-live our lives
by pause and rewind,
and forever is a preset future
in these digital times,
and thus we cling so tenuously
to our Life and Air.

But at least we’re together,
connected at last.
In this no-place community
of tactile glass.
Where the world’s becoming a desert,
and the skyscrapers our mausoleums.
On an Earth scraped clean of living things,
in a world made smooth for high rise screens.
For this is the digital ecology of our techno-economy,
that’s replacing our Life and Air.

So welcome, welcome one and all,
to this, the never-here;
to a world hijacked too-long ago.
Where we were flown away,
into the never-there,
at the speed of the cameras
streaming Live-to-Air.

So join us, then,
on this last transmigration!
For this is the final call to board.
Where our bodies become still,
and our codes converge.
And as were over-exposed
by digital sights,
we’re becoming the ghosts
of this, our very own Cosmos,
and even that
is becoming
little more
than Light…

 

An epilogue in five parts.

(1) The poem.
Punched in,
through standarised arial font.
This expression of mine,
came to me pre-made by digital tools.
My word processor processed them,
and I re-presented them as poetry.
But this a deception.
An imposition of Image over Writing,
that I rhythmically recited in proper position.
I prioritised front and pace
over ink and space
and substituted repetitive percussion for Art.
Substituting, Soul for Code.

(2) A history of…
The soul became self,
and self became identity.
Now identity becomes code,
and, thereby, Being has become
an exponentially growing
and exploitable set
of intangible commodities.

(3) … the present.
Byte by byte,
I am uploaded into a non-place,
dismembered into everywhere.
And, it doesn’t even hurt.

Byte by byte,
parts of me are bought and sold,
in pieces at a time for a token price.
And, it doesn’t even hurt.

Byte by byte,
my soul is transformed into code,
for search engine optimisation and advertising.
And no, it doesn’t even hurt.

(4) Consequences.
The room was dark, a small jade light relieved the features of the couple on the bed. The first figure was lying down, their head in the lap of the second figure, their lover, who reclined against the wall, the the hair of their lover’s head with care. And a figure whispers:
My mind brushes against the boundaries of my imagination, and a deep chill runs through me. I know that I have reached the bounds of thought, because every time I attempt to push against them, my mind slips away. I am distracted. I am diverted. I become bored. But I’ve been pressing against these bounds, with all the will that I possess and still I proceed no further. It’s here that I realise that I am terrified. I know I am not terrified of what lies beyond these bounds, but rather than that I am incapable of perceiving what lies beyond them. It does not matter that this or that trifling notion may or may not be possible. The only thing I feel to be certain is that I am incapable of imagining something beyond that which already is, of other ways of living, breathing, perceiving, of loving… It is though a bell has been struck in my soul, and I feel that my imagination is caged. It is this of which I am terrified. Who built these boundaries in my mind? Was I a willing labourer in my own creative imprisonment? This is why I whisper to you in the dark, my love. Because the only question I feel that is worth pursuing anymore, is in discovering when my life, my being as a potential, died.

(5) Futurescape.
As the ecological world of our origin is stripped and refashioned into the wheels and check-points of binarised-light; the deserts shall become fields of tranquility – true oases – amidst the tropical wildernesses of cities populated by the horrors of our accidents.

Spider’s Silk

He sits on the
corner of the bed.
He doesn’t speak.
She doesn’t stir.

Her long black arms
poised and prepared.
She doesn’t speak.
He doesn’t dare.

He dresses himself in silence.
She watches his every move.
With her endless eyes upon him,
He watches his every move.

With pressed black pants,
and polished black shoes.
A starched white shirt,
and a black silk jacket.
With authorised lanyard,
and plaited leather belt.
A touch-screen phone,
and dark tint glasses.

He arms himself with silence,
He doesn’t speak a word.
With her endless eyes upon him,
the spider weaves his world.

He hides behind appearances,
Her pupils guide his hand.
He guards his gestures carefully,
Her lens is a command.

Power and prerogative,
Submissive and sublime.
Appearances and absences,
the Sovereign and the Sign.

Forthcoming in 2015.

Whilst the initial desire to create a public writing space has nagged at me for a while now, I could find no single theme or particular field that I felt committed to exclusively writing on.

Hence, this space will likely start as an eclectic series of commentaries and reflections that will, hopefully, begin to coalesce and gain focus more clearly as it develops.

From academia to war, activism and popular culture; work will be forthcoming in 2015.

jason