This is the second of two consecutive posts pertaining to French historian Sophie Wahnich’s La liberté ou la mort: essai sur la Terreur et le terrorisme (Liberty or Death: Essay on the Terror and Terrorism). I originally wrote the entry below in my philosophical journal on the date indicated.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wahnich does an excellent job not only of contrasting The Terror [of the French Revolution] with “terrorism,” but also of [contrasting] The Terror as response to dread (the anger and demand for justice that, under and as The Terror, is what became of the ressentiment of the oppressed against their oppressors), to the Bush response (the anger and demand for justice that Bush issued after 9/11) to 9/11 itself. In the latter case (p. 98), “the image [the “fascinating” image of horror and “cruelty”] precedes the account.” And she contrasts that with the joy with which the news and images of “9/11” were greeted in Nigerian, Palestine, even parts of France and elsewhere, where, despite all, the attacks at last gave a voice to the oppressed who theretofore had been denied all voice.
Bush (pp. 99-103, the book’s end) in effect shanghaied the “sacred body” of America, which he identified not with any sovereign power of the people at last finding its place and its voice, but with the “victims” of 9/11 and the “heroes” made of the rescue workers. Thus, it was an altogether de-politicized sacred public body. Pp. 101-102: “These bodies [of the dead of 9/11], divested of their responsibility in terms of common political existence, are the effective incarnation of the American political project. Such a project assumes that the true mode of liberty consists of knowing nothing any longer of such responsibility.”
P. 103: “The political project of the Year II [the year of The Terror during the French Revolution] envisioned a universal justice which still remains a hope: that of equality between human beings as reciprocity of liberty, that of equality between peoples as reciprocity of sovereignty.” Then, two paragraphs later, she ends her book this way: “The violence exercised on September 11, 2001, did not envision either equality or liberty. No more does the preventive war announced by the President of the United States.”