The Monster Minority: John Yoo’s Multicultural Instruction and the “Torture Memos”
In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States declared a war on terrorism that would come to rely on legal memoranda to justify the surveillance, detention, and torture of “terrorists” held at the Guantánamo Bay Military Prison. Analyzing the language of these 2002 “Torture Memos,” this article contends that the memos discursively produced not only the racial formation of the terrorist but also the emergent figure of the “monster minority,” embodied by then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General, John Yoo. Defined in this essay as a patriotic, individualistic, and exceptional racialized subject who works on behalf of counterterrorism, the monster minority plays a central role in the legal construction of the terrorist precisely because of his exemplary status within US society. While Asian American studies explains the formation of the model minority that accounts for Yoo as a beneficiary of elite multicultural education, and post-9/11 studies of U.S. imperialism elucidate the formation of the terrorist-as-monster, this essay puts these fields in conversation to establish how Yoo’s particular brand of Asian American masculinity consolidates both the racialized enemy and the racialized agent of the US security state.
Model minority; Asian American Studies; John Yoo; war on terrorism; torture memos
Alsultany, Evelyn. Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. NYU Press, 2012.
Byrd, Jodi A. Transit of Empire: Indigenous Critiques of Colonialism. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Duggan, Lisa. The Twilight of Equality?: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy. Beacon Press, 2004.
Hong, Grace Kyungwon. The Ruptures of American Capital: Women of Color Feminism and the Culture of Immigrant Labor. University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
Hsu, Madeline Y. The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority. Princeton University Press, 2015.
Jaschik, Scott. “Protest During Poli-Sci Meeting.” Inside Higher Ed, 1 Sept. 2017, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/09/01/critics-berkeley-professor-stage-protest-during-his-talk-political-science-meeting.
Koshy, Susan. “The Fiction of Asian American Literature.” The Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. 6, no. 2, 1996, pp. 315–46.
Lowe, Lisa. Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics. Duke University Press, 1996.
Maira, Sunaina, and Magid Shihade. “Meeting Asian/Arab American Studies: Thinking Race, Empire, and Zionism in the US” Journal of Asian American Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, June 2006, pp. 117–40.
Mamdani, Mahmood. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. Reprint edition, Harmony, 2005.
Mayer, Jane. The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. Anchor, 2009.
McClintock, Anne. “Paranoid Empire: Specters from Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, vol. 13, no. 1, Mar. 2009, pp. 50–74.
Melamed, Jodi. Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism. University of Minnesota Press, 2011.
Ngai, Mae M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton University Press, 2004.
Nguyen, Mimi Thi. The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages. Duke University Press, 2012.
Nguyen, Viet Thanh. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Harvard University Press, 2016.
Osajima, Keith. “Asian Americans as the Model Minority: An Analysis of the Popular Press Image in the 1960s and 1980s.” Reflections on Shattered Windows: Promises and Prospects for Asian American Studies, edited by Gary Y. Okihiro et al., Washington State University Press, 1988, pp. 215–26.
Paik, A. Naomi. Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in US Prison Camps since World War II. The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
“Protesting Guantanamo and Demanding Accountability for Torturers at UC Berkeley Law School.” Defending Rights & Dissent, 29 Jan. 2019, https://rightsanddissent.org/news/yoo-gitmo-uc-berkeley-protest/.
Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Duke University Press, 2007.
Raymundo, Emily, “The End of Whiteness and the Rise of Multicultural Asian America in Chang-rae Lee’s Aloft.”Journal of Asian American Studies 20.3 (2017) 441–459.
Reddy, Chandan. Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the US State. Duke University Press Books, 2011.
United States, Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel. “Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzalez, Counsel to the President, RE: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation Under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340–2340A.” National Security Archive/Washington Media Associates, by Jay Bybee and John Yoo, 1 Aug. 2002, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/torturingdemocracy/documents/20020801-1.pdf.
United States, Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel. “Memorandum for John Rizzo, Acting General Counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency, Re: Interrogation of al Qaeda Operative.” The United States Department of Justice by Jay Bybee, 1 Aug. 2002, https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/olc/legacy/2010/08/05/memo-bybee2002.pdf
United States, Executive Office of the President [Barack Obama]. Executive Order 13491: Ensuring Lawful Interrogations. 22 Jan. 2019. Federal Register, vol. 74, No. 16, 27 Jan. 2019, pp. 4893–96, www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/DCPD-200900007/pdf/DCPD-200900007.pdf Accessed Mar. 2021.
Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew, editor. The Monster Theory Reader. 1st edition, U. of Minnesota Press, 2020.
Wu, Ellen D. The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority. Princeton University Press, 2015.
Young, Elizabeth. Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor. NYU Press, 2008.
Yoo, John. “Minority Search for a Middle Ground.” The Harvard Crimson, July 21, 1987. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1987/7/21/minority-search-for-a-middle-ground/. Accessed Nov. 2019.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The Copyright Holder of the submitted text is the Author. The Reader is granted the rights to use the material available in the RIAS websites and pdf documents under the provisions of the Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0). Any commercial use requires separate written agreement with the Author and a proper credit line indicating the source of the original publication in RIAS.
The University of Silesia Press provides immediate open access to journal’s content under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Authors who publish with this journal retain all copyrights and agree to the terms of the above-mentioned CC BY 4.0 license.
- Author’s Warranties
The author warrants that the article is original, written by stated author/s, has not been published before, contains no unlawful statements, does not infringe the rights of others, is subject to copyright that is vested exclusively in the author and free of any third party rights, and that any necessary written permissions to quote from other sources have been obtained by the author/s.
If the article contains illustrative material (drawings, photos, graphs, maps), the author declares that the said works are of his authorship, they do not infringe the rights of the third party (including personal rights, i.a. the authorization to reproduce physical likeness) and the author holds exclusive proprietary copyrights. The author publishes the above works as part of the article under the licence "Creative Commons Attribution - By the same conditions 4.0 International".
ATTENTION! When the legal situation of the illustrative material has not been determined and the necessary consent has not been granted by the proprietary copyrights holders, the submitted material will not be accepted for editorial process. At the same time the author takes full responsibility for providing false data (this also regards covering the costs incurred by the University of Silesia Press and financial claims of the third party).
- User Rights
Under the Creative Commons Attribution license, the users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the contribution) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) the article for any purpose, provided they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
If the article was prepared jointly with other authors, the signatory of this form warrants that he/she has been authorized by all co-authors to sign this agreement on their behalf, and agrees to inform his/her co-authors of the terms of this agreement.
I hereby declare that in the event of withdrawal of the text from the publishing process or submitting it to another publisher without agreement from the editorial office, I agree to cover all costs incurred by the University of Silesia in connection with my application.