Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies

Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies

Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies

Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies


Detention and confinement-of both combatants and large groups of civilians-have become fixtures of asymmetric wars over the course of the last century. Counterinsurgency theoreticians and practitioners explain this dizzying rise of detention camps, internment centers, and enclavisation by arguing that such actions "protect" populations. In this book, Laleh Khalili counters these arguments, telling the story of how this proliferation of concentration camps, strategic hamlets, "security walls," and offshore prisons has come to be.

Time in the Shadows investigates the two major liberal counterinsurgencies of our day: Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. War on Terror. In rich detail, the book investigates Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, CIA black sites, the Khiam Prison, and Gaza, among others, and links them to a history of colonial counterinsurgencies from the Boer War and the U.S. Indian wars, to Vietnam, the British small wars in Malaya, Kenya, Aden and Cyprus, and the French pacification of Indochina and Algeria.

Khalili deftly demonstrates that whatever the form of incarceration-visible or invisible, offshore or inland, containing combatants or civilians-liberal states have consistently acted illiberally in their counterinsurgency confinements. As our tactics of war have shifted beyond slaughter to elaborate systems of detention, liberal states have warmed to the pursuit of asymmetric wars. Ultimately, Khalili confirms that as tactics of counterinsurgency have been rendered more "humane," they have also increasingly encouraged policymakers to willingly choose to wage wars.


In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts
turning to… torture. ok, not cattle prods or rubber
hoses, at least not here in the United States, but something
to jump-start the stalled investigation of the greatest crime
in American history. Couldn’t we at least subject them to
psychological torture, like tapes of dying rabbits or high
decibel rap? (The military has done that in Panama and
elsewhere.) How about truth serum, administered with a
mandatory IV? Or deportation to Saudi Arabia, land of
beheadings? (As the frustrated fbi has been threatening.)
Some people still argue that we needn’t rethink any of our old
assumptions about law enforcement, but they’re hopelessly
“Sept. 10”—living in a country that no longer exists…. Even
now, Israeli law leaves a little room for “moderate physical
pressure” in what are called “ticking time bomb” cases.
Jonathan Alter, 2001

Moazzam Begg, a British citizen of South Asian origin, a devout Muslim, and a charity worker whose specialty was Muslim war zones, was arrested in Islamabad in February 2002 by Pakistani intelligence and handed over to the us military; he then made his way through a number of Afghan prisons, including Bagram Air Force Base, to the Guantanamo Bay detention center. in his harrowing account of his carceral passage through semisecret us prisons, Moazzam Begg conveys something of the horror and banality of the process:

I soon began to see that there nothing was consistent—except inconsistency. Noth
ing that was true in Bagram would necessarily be true in Guantanamo. Rules,

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