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Defending Hamdan: Opening Remarks

I first came across Brian Williams - or rather, his work - a few years ago when I was starting to research sanctuary concepts and practices in the war on terror. Plumbing the depths of the International Studies Association's online paper archive, I stumbled across one that was unforgettably titled "Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001-2005. Waging Counter-Jihad in Central Eurasia." It was an anomaly among IR papers, written by an historian, offering a deep contemporary narrative of Al Qaeda - and a page turner, written with great style.

Since then, I've had the great  privilege to work with Brian on several occasions, including his work in two books that I've edited, with a third forthcoming. He was one of the first scholars I contacted when I was thinking about putting together CTlab. He is, perhaps, the most generous scholar with whom I've ever dealt. It was thus no great surprise, when I asked him if he'd consider drafting a blog post about his recent field research in Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, that he instead provided a detailed, 5000 word account of his role in the Hamdan trial.

What to do with it? Too long for a blog post, and too important to be abbreviated. The narrative touches on many of the issues and themes that concern the CTlab project. These are, it barely needs mentioning, immensely topical. Debates on the nature and health of the Al Qaeda threat have preoccupied such luminaries as Bruce Hoffman and Marc Sageman. So have contentions over the relationship between academia, the military, and government, a particularly pressing issue in these troubled times. Questions about the role of law, the character of justice, and the conduct of war have been hotly debated - indeed, have been emblematic of the post- 9/11 era - and continue to preoccupy.

Much of this has been mired in misunderstanding, hysterics and partisan politics. It made sense to leverage from Brian's generosity a unique opportunity to engage with these problems in an open, informal forum. We also wanted to explore the enabling potential of digital spaces in CTlab's development and offerings. About a month ago we starting polling potential participants, and here we are today.

Our multidisciplinary cohort of invited scholars, including representatives from across the disciplines - history, political science, psychology, sociology, anthropology, law - is truly global, based in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. They've published extensively and widely, and a fair number of them are inveterate bloggers. With that, I'd like to welcome our participants, as I cede the ether to them: 


  • John Matthew Barlow (History, Concordia University)
  • David Betz (War Studies, King's College London)
  • Christian Bleuer (Political Science, Australian National University)
  • Craig Hayden (Int'l Communications, American University)
  • Kevin Jon Heller (Law, University of Auckland/University of Melbourne)
  • John Horgan (Psychology, Pennsylvania State University)
  • Thomas Johnson (Cultural Studies, Naval Postgraduate School)
  • Jason Ralph (Politics & International Studies, University of Leeds)
  • William Snyder (Law, University of Syracuse/Maxwell School)
  • Marc Tyrrell (Anthropology, Carleton University)
  • Tony Waters (Sociology, California State University, Chico)
  • L.L. Wynn (Anthropology, Macquarie University)

Blogs Represented:

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