Saturday, February 5, 2011

Alfred McCoy (and others) on American network of rights abuses

Alfred McCoy's recent book, - Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009)- , discusses covert operations. His discussions make grave and soundly-reported implications concerning ongoing secrecy if not the common control/master-minding of various US persons working with the US government. The web of dark operations continuing after the Bush administration - not only in McCoy's various writings yet also from many other American writers - is indicated to be huge and sticky world-wide.

Certainly from McCoy and countless other historians and analysts in and out of America, the American Secret Services are in "cohoots" with US military leaders, contractors, diplomats and those in the American Justice Systems. Add to this the multiplication of leaders in many other parts of the globe who -- via lies, fear, perks, cross-ups, threats and/or inertia -- continue to work with the US in these capacities.

McCoy's less recent classic, - A question of Torture - has also received much attention. In a review "A Call to Soul-Searching" Michael Hopping says the following:
"McCoy recounts the political moves that paved the way for prisoner abuse to become US policy during the war on terror. And he documents the inability or failure of judicial, military, and congressional authorities to hold high-ranking personnel in the executive branch, CIA, military, or behavioral sciences accountable. In such an environment, he believes we should expect a continuing series of revelations concerning direct and indirect US sponsorship of torture.

'Does torture work? McCoy finds little specific factual evidence to suggest the "ticking time bomb" rationale for torture on a small scale has merit. The Manila police learned of a plot to destroy several airliners from Abdul Hakim Murad's laptop computer, not from the sixty-seven days of torture that followed. Israeli claims of many suicide bombings prevented by harsh interrogation techniques boil down to one documented case. Mass torture, such as that practiced by the French in Algeria, Project Phoenix in Vietnam, the right-wing Latin American dictatorships of the Pinochet era, the shah's Iran, and the Marcos Philippines did win battles. But, in each case, the popular reaction to it contributed to losing the war.

'If the "ticking time bomb" justification for torture doesn't correspond to experience and mass torture loses wars, why do governments resort to it? The reason, McCoy concludes, is not rational and not very different from kicking the dog after being barked at by the boss. "In sum, the powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis, not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment.

'A Question Of Torture is a lucid exposure of an evil open secret and of the skeins of denial and justification swaddling it. This book deserves a wide readership and should, but probably won't, stimulate some serious national soul searching."


Let me mention here that this blog is covering Egypt in an unusually revealing way - and connecting problems in America in a way rare in the mainstream. SEE and more by Stephen Soldz below, at Common Dreams among many other places.


As indicated above, McCoy is an historian many have found indispensible (and I have as well)in human rights work and study - thus I've printed in detail the following references to his other work:

Alfred W. McCoy

History Department
Center For Southeast Asian Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Alfred W. McCoy is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the past forty years, his writing about Southeast Asia has focused on two topics--the political history of the modern Philippines and the politics of opium in the Golden Triangle. The first edition of his book, published in 1972 as The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, sparked controversy, but is now regarded as the “classic work” about Asian drug trafficking. Now in its third revised edition, this book has been translated into nine languages, including, most recently, Thai and German. Three of his books on Philippine historiography have won the Philippine National Book Award--Philippine Cartoons (1985), Anarchy of Families (1994), and Lives at the Margin (2001). In 2001 as well, the Association for Asian Studies awarded him the Goodman Prize for a “deep and enduring impact on Philippine historical studies.” His latest book, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009), draws together these two strands in his research--covert operations and Philippine political history--to explore the role of police, information, and scandal in the shaping both the modern Philippine state and the U.S. internal security apparatus.

History 319: The Vietnam Wars
History 458: Southeast Asia--1800 to the Present
History 755 (Seminar): Empire and Revolution in Southeast Asia
History 755 (Seminar): CIA Covert Warfare & the Conduct of U.S. Foreign Policy
History 755 (Seminar): Tropical Dictators--Authoritarianism in Indonesia & the Philippines
History 755 (Seminar): Islands of Southeast Asia--Comparative History of Indonesia & the Philippines


* "Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State" (Madison, 2009).
* (ed. with Francisco Scarano), "Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State" (Madison, 2009).
* ed., "An Anarchy of Families: Filipino Elites and the Philippine State" (Madison, 2009).
* "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror" (New York, 2006).
* "The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Traffic" (New York, revised, 2003).
* ed., “Lives at the Margin: Biographies of Filipinos Ordinary, Heroic, Obscure" (Quezon City, 2000).
* "Closer Than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy" (New Haven, 1999).
*”Philippine Cartoons: Political Caricature of the American Era, 1900-1941” (Quezon City, 1985).”
*“Priests on Trial” (Melbourne,1984).
* ed.,”Philippine Social History: Global Trade and Local Transformations (Quezon City, 1982).
* ed., “Southeast Asia Under Japanese Occupation” (New Haven, 1980).
*”Drug Traffic: Narcotics and Organized Crime in Australia” (Sydney, 1980).
* ed.,”Laos: War and Revolution” (New York, 1970).


“A Hundred Years of Drug Prohibition: A Study in the Failure of Global Governance,” in Michael Heazle, Martin Griffiths, and Tom Conley, eds.. Foreign Policy Challenges in the 21st Century (London: Edward Elgar, 2009), pp. 207-30.

“Covert Netherworld: Clandestine Services & Criminal Syndicates in Shaping the Philippine State,” in, Eric Wilson, ed., Government of the Shadows (London: Pluto Press, 2009), pp. 226-55.

“Legacy of a Dark Decade: CIA Mind Control, Classified Behavioral Research, and the Origins of Modern Medical Ethics,” in, Almerindo Ojeda, ed., Trauma of Psychological Torture (Westport: Praeger, 2008) pp. 40-69.

“Torture in the Crucible of Counterinsurgency,” in, Marilyn B. Young and Lloyd C. Gardner, eds., Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: Or, How Not to Learn From the Past (New York: New Press, 2007), pp. 230-62.

“The Stimulus of Prohibition: A Critical History of the Global Narcotics Trade,” in, Michael K. Steinberg, Joseph J. Hobbs, and Kent Mathewson., eds., Dangerous Harvest: Drug Plants and the Transformation of Indigenous Landscapes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 24-111.

“America’s Secret War in Laos, 1955-1975,” in, Marilyn B. Young and Robert Buzzanco, eds., A Companion to the Vietnam War (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 283-313.

“RAM and the Filipino Action Film,” in Rolando B. Tolentino, ed., Geopolitics of the Visible: Essays on Philippine Film Cultures (Quezon City: Ateneo University Press 2000), pp. 194-216.

“Mission Myopia: Narcotics as ‘Fall Out’ from the CIA’s Covert Wars,” in, Craig R. Eisendrath, ed., National Insecurity: U.S. Intelligence After the Cold War (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), pp. 118-48.

“Requiem for a Drug Lord: State and Commodity in the Career of Khun Sa,” in, Josiah McC. Heyman, States and Illegal Practices (Oxford: Berg, 1999), pp. 129-67.

How to contact Professor McCoy:
Phone: (608) 263-1855
5131 Humanities
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706

1 comment:

  1. Come back soon to see an Op Ed I'm writing about the lack of fair judicial practice and the attempt to preempt international human rights in a few particular cases - an example is the case of a likely contractor in Pakistan.