Critical Analysis: Killing one person is murder. Killing 100, 000 is foreign policy: A look into recent Anti-War Movements, post 9/11

The Hamilton Coalition to Stop War, hereafter regarded as the HCSW, are an anti-war movement. In a post 9-11 context, HCSW have demonstrated protests against Canadian legislation passed for wars across seas. Particularly, the Palestinian and Iranian conflict, where the need to increase homeland security through the implementation of regulatory legislation has caused a distaste for numerous individuals affected by such measures. For instance, the Canada’s Special Economic Measures (Iran) Regulations, passed in 2010, forbids Canadian financial institutions from providing financial services to anyone in Iran or for the benefit of Iran. These individuals include ethnic minorities, and religious affiliates that go against the states purpose for war against. Furthermore, these individuals represent a power dynamic that exists between the state; where the deviant becomes a reflection of a historical and social relationship of a broader strategy of repression and control. Stuart Hall and his colleagues in “Crime, Law and the State,” critiques a theoretical understanding of how a transactional process is needed between crime and control. In other words, historically the need to secure power by institutionalizing the corporations instilled the ideological practice of security. Immoral acts became threats to the nation state, where the need to control unwanted immigrants resulted in oppressed individuals pushed down a criminal justice system designed to regulate. As Hall and his associates argue, implications of such a process have set standards in hegemonic ideals (Hall et. al 1978: 187). In other words, policing a vulnerable group in society is based on the best ‘interests’ of the state, and individuals that go against these interests are demonized. Therefore, the notion of fear is built into this ideology for control purposes.

Fearing a particular group in society, especially ones that exhibit dissent, becomes a very important mechanism for state governance. The HCSW, sided with other Hamiltonians, McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice, Political Action Committee of CUPE 3906, and Independent Jewish Voices organized rallies against the possibility of invading Iran. These rallies became the focus of attention for state officials because it reflects interests that go against the general appreciation for war in the Middle East. The HCSW have protested on numerous occasions, in which its interests for war do not reflect the general norm. In doing so, the state ‘others’ these groups of individuals, and uses this mechanism by building its own interests. For example, sending military personnel towards Iran and Palestine serve to create a power dynamic, where the states need for dominance is at the expense the ‘othered’. These individuals who belong to the ‘othered’ framework serve the state, where the states interests for war is legitimized through the fear instilled towards these ‘othered’ individuals. Hall and his associates refer to this as a process where norms in society are regulated by the forbearance of a recognized deviance, in which a social order is produced and institutions enforce measures to establish this order (Hall et. al 1978: 186). This production of power is relevant in the case of the HCSW. The HCSW are regarded as an unwanted entity because of its motives and interests pertaining to anti-war protests. In part, the power of the state is built through legal norms. Although the state is not independent of class struggle, they are represented as a rational entity. This form of legitimization and governance is discussed in Nikolas Rose’s piece on “Government and Control”.

Rose attempts to explore the ways in which particular illegalities have been problematized, especially through the framework of ‘freedom’. This is particularly useful in understanding the moral consciousness, self-control, and self-advancement. Rose argues that governments have ambitions, and this is true with advanced forms of liberalism (Rose 2000: 335). In other words, the need to govern from afar is the new form of control. There’s an emphasis on creating active individuals who will take responsibility for its own fates through the exercise of choice. Consequentially, the organization of a socio-political framework is processed through management and minimilization of risks of lifestyles. It is then equated for the rational individual, who chooses criminality and has to fear the consequences of its actions (Rose 2000: 349). This art of governance fosters a civil society, where individuals who do not adhere to this ideology are deemed irrational and problematic. In the eyes of the state, the HCSW have made the rational choice to go against war interests abroad. By demonstrating its distaste through protests, the HCSW represent a problem for the state. In a civil society, individuals who do not adhere to the morals of the community are seen to govern its own motives through rationalization. In doing so, the state takes no responsibility of another’s actions because it believes that the individual had the right to choose. This form of management from afar is relevant to the actions of the protesters  Therefore, the HCSW violate the bonds that are built in the obligations of trust to the community because its adherence to protesting a common norm. As Rose would argue, the HCSW are consciously making the decision to dissent and are responsible, in the eyes of the state, for its own actions. However, this is a form of governance through freedom, in which a shift of crime control is made through indirect mechanisms of the rational self, and individual decision-making.

Furthermore,  a crisis between the function of ideology and hegemony is in question. This common-sensical approach becomes the main goal for state actors, in which the need to control individuals is set through ideological adherence’s.  Michel Foucault in “Security, Territory, Population,” argues that modalities of power are a historical shift of police structures to government relations (Foucault 2009: 338). The state maintains a power that has an inter-related connection with knowledge. Particularly with ideology and hegemony formations that govern the self. In other words, individuals who believe that a particular action, such as terrorism, is morally wrong, do not commit that act because of a self-governance. This need to do right over wrong legitimizes state power, and re-enforces state interests to maintain a society. This creates a population of law-abiding citizens that govern its actions based on the adherence to the ideology of the state, while criminalizing individuals that do not conform. Foucault defines this power structure as an existing relation, where any resistance to the state is deemed as an unproductive entity (Foucault 2009: 350). For example, the HCSW and other anti-war movements, reflect a form of insecurity for the state because they do not ensure the greater good. What the HCSW and other anti-war movements instill is an ideology that does not adhere to disciplinary mechanisms of the state. By protesting against the Iran and Palestine war, the HCSW showcase that the normative knowledge, which the state holds accountable for, is counter-productive to the common-good of the community. The state, however, views these motives as an individualistic choice made to counter-act hegemonic and ideological ideals of national security. Ultimately these individuals are framed as criminals because these forms of governmentality and common-sensical approaches to crime. Thus, the process of identification and modern mechanisms of control reflect a greater order that continues to divide and group individuals in society; and adds little value to creating the `common-good` it so obsessively desires.


Foucault, Michel. 2009. Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the College de France, 1977-1978. New York: Picador. Pp. 333-358.

Hall, Stuart, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John N. Clarke, and Brian Roberts. 1978. “Crime, Law and the State.” Pp. 181-217 in Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. London: Macmillan.

Rose, Nikolas. 2000. “Government and Control.” British Journal of Criminology 40: 321-39.


One comment

  1. Great Analysis! your work provides a concise overview of the core problems that are revolving around Iran. In a news conference in 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that “Iran is the world’s most serious threat to International Peace”. If the head of a state is making such statements, it is inevitable that it was cause moral panic. Drawing upon the “ideology of governance” further clarified your argument and provided a theoretical explanation of the tactics such as hegemony the state is utilizing. I agree that by placing financial sanctions, the minorities in Iran endure countless problems. It is clearly visible through your analysis that the Hamilton Coalition to stop war are facing challenges which restrict the impact of their movement and the message they are relaying to the population. It is also clear through your analysis the types of tactics the state is using to minimize and criminalize the behaviour of HCSW. Your analysis raises issues that are praiseworthy. Great work!



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