Violence All Around (Hardback)John Sifton (author)
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A human rights lawyer travels to hot zones around the globe, before and after the September 11 attacks, to document abuses committed by warlords, terrorist groups, and government counterterrorism forces. Whether reporting on al Qaeda safe houses, the mechanics of the Pentagon's smartest bombs, his interviews with politicians and ordinary civilians, or his own brush with death outside Kabul, John Sifton wants to help us understand violence--what it is, and how we think and speak about it.
For the human rights community, the global war on terror brought unprecedented challenges. Of special concern were the secret detention centers operated by the CIA as it expanded into a paramilitary force, and the harsh treatment of prisoners throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. In drafting legal memoranda that made domestic prosecution for these crimes impossible, Sifton argues, the United States possessed not only the detainees but the law itself. Sifton recounts his efforts to locate secret prisons and reflects on the historical development of sanctioned military or police violence--from hand-to-hand combat to the use of drones--and the likelihood that technology will soon enable completely automated killing.
Sifton is equally concerned to examine what people have meant by nonviolent social change, and he asks whether pure nonviolence is ever possible. To invoke rights is to invoke the force to uphold them, he reminds us. Ultimately, advocates for human rights can only shame the world into better behavior, and their work may involve advocating the very violence they deplore.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 335
Weight: 454 g
Dimensions: 213 x 145 x 28 mm
John Sifton travels through the post-9/11 war zones of Afghanistan and the Middle East and digs deep into our enduring love affair with lethal force. Violence All Around is a thought-provoking reflection on the human condition.--Andrew North, BBC South Asia correspondent
[Sifton's] book chronicles the common experience of human-rights monitors everywhere. At this level alone the book is of value. Too little has been written about human-rights field workers, and Sifton performs a service in describing this little-known or -understood professional world. Sifton's book, however, seeks to go much further. His experiences have propelled him to confront the nature of violence and to question whether in its face human-rights work can have any utility. In his exploration of these issues he weaves a remarkable blend of storytelling, philosophical and theological reflection, history, literature, personal reminiscence and political science... Taken as separate essays, the chapters are usually riveting: elegantly written, informative and displaying an impressive breadth off learning... Sifton's book stands as a thought-provoking reflection in which he stays true to his motivation to 'produce something positive and somehow reverse the greater negative sign that violence represents.'-- (07/18/2015)
Violence All Around by John Sifton is a thoughtful, well-written book that is made stronger through Sifton's personal anecdotes, as well as his own research into the history of violence... This is a wide-ranging, ambitious work that examines the notion of violence from a panoply of angles... It seems safe to assume that acts of terrorism (and violence) aren't going away anytime soon, but a degree of reflection seems to be in order. Sifton's detailed examination of violence forces readers to think more deeply about this important issue.-- (06/18/2015)