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Washington Square News (New York)

Klein: In War on Terror, Are You Next?

Shaunna Murphy

You shouldn't be sure you'll never end up in a damp, tiny cell in Guantanamo Bay, said best-selling author Naomi Klein to the NYU students and faculty gathered last night in Hemmerdinger Hall.1129 01

"We think we don't fit the profile," she said. "If we feel safe, we are banking on the racism of our government."

Klein, author of current New York Times bestseller "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," visited the Silver Center last night to participate in the panel "Torture and Democracy," along with Lisa Hajjar, chair of the law and society program at the University of California at Santa Barbara and author of "Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza."

"We're here to talk about the relationship between torture and democracy," Klein said. "The thesis of the book is that the central claim of our time that the free market and democracy go hand in hand is a fairy tale."

Klein made it clear that her definition of democracy is not a country that holds elections, but a nation that values human rights and civil liberties that are being stripped away by the use of torture as a "crude tool of coercion." She finds that shock coupled with torture is being used to scare both individuals, largely in Guantanamo, and mass publics into submission.

"Torture is always public," she said. "In order for you to be scared, you have to know it's going on."

Hajjar spoke of the relationship between torture and law, and agreed with Klein that the government's acceptance of torture can break down entire nations.

"Torture produces false information, breaks a society and leads to mass imprisonment," she said. "You torture people, they confess and you can say you caught a terrorist. Torture doesn't produce truth; the ticking time bomb notion is ridiculous - '24' notwithstanding."

Though the common consensus across the panel was that the current situation in the United States is bleak, Klein offered some positive advice for improvement.

"Just like torture sends individuals into shock, events like Sept. 11 send whole societies into shock," she said. "They lose their narrative. We need to start telling stories of why terror is happening."

Shaunna Murphy is features editor. E-mail her at

© 2007 Washington Square News

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