Arts @ UCSB
A hooded Iraqi man stands on a box in a crucifixion-like pose at Abu Ghraib prison. Wires attached to his hands suggest the possibility of electrocution. The photo, dated 2004, became a shocking symbol of human rights violations committed during the presidency of George W. Bush — including some torture tactics supported by the current administration.So writes UC Santa Barbara professor Elisabeth Weber in her new book, “Kill Boxes: Facing the Legacy of U.S.-Sponsored Torture, Indefinite Detention, and Drone Warfare” (punctum books, 2017).
“Unfortunately, we have been forced to become accustomed to the fact that the new president of the most powerful country in the world displays either ignorance of or disdain for U.S. and international law,” Weber said, noting that President Donald Trump has argued that “torture works.”
In contrast, her aim is to make people more aware of the devastation caused by unethical warfare. Scholars have the privilege and responsibility to go beyond news sound bites, she said, when they see “blatant injustice.” That was her motivation for writing “Kill Boxes.” In the succinct definition of French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou, Weber noted, a kill box is a “temporary autonomous zone of slaughter,” where “one may fire at will.”
A professor of German and of comparative literature, Weber — who grew up in post-Nazi Germany — focuses on ways that literature and critical theory can contribute to the exploration of trauma and human rights violations. Obtaining reliable information was difficult during the Nazi era, she said, but the internet solved that problem and rendered irrelevant every excuse for not being informed about what’s happening in the world now.
“Nevertheless, many citizens don’t know what Abu Ghraib stood for; only a few are aware of the ongoing scandal of Guantánamo; and even fewer are aware of the expanding drone war,” Weber said, adding that it’s “troubling that those …