Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Warr Games

A Docufiction by Harold Jaffe.

Night after night throughout the wrecked city contingents of US troops in cartoon video uniforms hunt for hidden roadside bombs.
        On a recent night, a unit from Company B of the Fifth Engineering Battalion, out of Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., met in a darkened tent to prep for their road-clearing mission in a 27-foot armored vehicle called Cowpoke.
        At the end of their meeting, Staff Sgt. Jessie McGah, 31, of Greenville Arkansas, led his team in prayer.

Out on what passes for a road, crawling along at five miles per hour, the unit peer through blast-resistant glass windows, using giant floodlights and a remotely operated steel arm to help detect any telltale disturbance in the pavement or median that would reveal a buried bomb.
        To accomplish their mission, the engineers, or sappers, try to get into the enemy’s mind.
        "When we're out," Sgt McGah said, "we're thinkin’ like how the bad guys think, even like how we'd blow ourselfs up to keal Americans.”

Wolfing trash food, the bright American male 17-year-old sits cross-legged on the floor, pavement, tarmac, astroturf playing warr games.
        Video velocity, hand-eye coordination, game-theory-fantasy-slaughtering- cartoon-state-of-the-art weaponry.
        Speed speed.
        In warr games the fierce-eyed baddies wear long beards and turbans.
        Make agitated gestures and scream Jihad! Jihad! when they’re not sticking their collective butts in the air praying to Allah.

Meanwhile the bright 17-year-old’s older brother, dad and uncle are murdering the fierce-eyed baddies in their long beards and turbans.
        In what used to be called “real time.”
        Murdering the long beards’ wives and children.
        Infinite children, since the phrase “birth control” has never been translated into Arabic.
        There is no corresponding phrase in Farsi.
        In Urdu.
        No corresponding phrase in the million and one regional dialects of tribal Africa.

Hyper-brained 17-year-olds play warr games in their techno-caves
while their older brothers, sisters, National Guard dads, uncles are killed and maimed by roadside bombs.
        Poisoned by xenophobia.
        Sickened unto death by depleted uranium.
        Zombied home with PTSD.
        Resume a life of legislated dysfunction with sharply reduced benefits.
        Migrating patriotism.

40 years ago, before Starbucks, the internet, and boutiqued angst, 20-something males refused to kill while contesting the real-time war, and (no matter what the Discovery Channel tells us now) raised consciousness, as the phrase went, helped end the holocaust.
        End the war that in hindsight nobody wanted, not even one of its chief architects, Defense Secretary McNamara, previously a car salesman, president of Ford Motor Company, who long after the war received a seven-figure advance for dictating his old man’s recantation to a ghost writer.
        In Retrospect, 1995, Random House.
        Then gave contradictory lectures based on the book he didn’t actually write for big $$ where he bristled when the audience interrogated him.

“Mr. Secretary, you say you objected early in the campaign to the bombing, napalming, wanton murder of innocents, carpet bombing of neighboring Cambodia which was not even a player in the war.
        “Mr. Sec, if you had these objections early on, like you say, why didn’t you make a case for stopping the war to the president, to the congress, to the American people?”

Mac’s peeved response: “I was a member of the team.
        “I was not in position to instruct my President.”
        From the audience: “What about after you left Defense and headed the World Bank? It was ‘68; the war was still raging.”
        Mac’s response: “As president of the World Bank I had pressing responsibilities, no time for distractions.”
        “Mr. Sec, are you calling the genocidal Vietnam War a distraction?”

Do 17-year-old males playing video warr games in their techno-caves constitute a distraction?
        Are “real time” wars a distraction from accountable reality?
        What counts more than Reality (TV) in your palm in a strip mall in anywhere, America?
        More than the NFL, America’s game, with a GDP higher than Sub-Saharan Africa?
        More than XXXtreme Games?
        With God, family, hedge funds, and Xtreme patriotism, McNamara, an advocate of game theory and the technological “revolution,” has never (he says proudly) found time for play.

        Intelligence officers of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) have been studying postmodern theory.

        You’re lying.

        They recognize that the principles of waging warr must change in the new millennium.
        For Israel to contain its enemies on every side without taking big losses, the intelligence officers have studied Foucault, Lacan, Derrida, Althusser, Deleuze, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Bourdieu . . .

        Whole lot of Frogs.
        The French and Israelis don’t even like each other.

        They’ve read PoMo architects and scrutinized their erections.


        Origins are out.
        Except for the origin of the disputed territories, which belong to the Jews, indisputably.
        Perpendicular is out, swarm is in.
        If insurgent street fighters have mined an alleyway and are wedged into sniper positions in the buildings lining the alley on either side, the Israelis don’t enter the alley from the front and proceed forward.
        Instead, small contingents of Israeli commandos break through the walls of apartments in the buildings lining the alley.

        What do they do with the families living in those apartments?

        Lock them in a room, bolt the door.
        The commandos unwall the walls, collapse the space, swarm into the alley from either side.
        In medias res.
        Like ants, like killer bees.
        They blast the insurgents.
        Or they disrupt them, startle them out of their holes.

        I didn’t think freedom fighters startle that easy.

        Not easy.
        Reading postmodern culture theory isn’t easy.
        Applying postmodern culture theory to warr ain’t easy.

        What happens if the freedom fighters are not in the alleys?

        Then Israeli intelligence hacks into their technology.
        PoMo warr is fundamentally a discourse between enemies.

        They discourse in different languages.

        If the enemy’s lines of discourse are impeded they can’t communicate.
        An isolated, incommunicable enemy cannot warr effectively.

        You’re saying that the IDF, with their ruthless reputation world-wide, wage warr on their computers?

        PoMo battle-space is various.
        A network of interfacing but also unlooped spaces, offline and on.
        Battle-space is inseparable from living space.
        The souks, sewers, streets, mosques, kasbahs are where the enemy live, shit, pray, terrorize.

        How does the IDF distinguish combatants from innocents?

        Vermin is vermin.
        Nobody is innocent.

        Nobody on the insurgents’ side.

        It’s all in the mind.
        Which is the technology.
        Space is relational, subject to interpretation.
        So is innocence.
        We have the technology.


        The principle is if you can’t kill or brutalize the enemy, impede him.
        While the enemy moves haltingly, the IDF glides effortlessly.
        Online, off.
        Smooth, liquid, permeable movement vs striated, opaque, impeded movement is how the texts put it.

        The PoMo culture theory texts?

        Previously, the IDF, like other well-equipped, rigidly organized armies, warred strictly off-line via a traditional, Euclidian -- so to speak -- perspective.
        Now that centralized perspective has been put under erasure.
        Torqued, ruptured, shattered.

        If the freedom fighters are not murdered they will regroup.
        Resume fighting.

        Less effectively.
        Confidence shattered.
        An enemy does not have to be annihilated to lose a battle.
        Lose the warr.
        When the battle resumes the IDF “reads” and analyzes the dynamic; it kills with hardware, disorganizes with stratagems, reorganizes with software.
        One can win a post-millennial battle purely by reorganization.

        Were -- are -- any of those postmodern theorists soldiers, fighters?

        Postmodern theorists are pussies.
        Especially if they’re French.
        They’ll murder their wives.
        Or themselves.
        They do what they do.
        So long as they leave their texts behind.

        What happens to the unwalled walls?
        The inhabitants bolted into their rooms?
        What happens to the buildings the IDF breaks through in order to swarm like killer bees, reorganize space?

        The buildings remain unwalled.
        The inhabitants are not a factor.
        It could be they don’t even notice the unwalled walls.
        That is one of the advantages of warring with an impoverished enemy.

        You talk of the new post-millennial battle plan.
        Startle, swarm, disrupt, rupture.
        Battling situationally, with knowledge gained by studying the postmodern culture theorists?
        But isn’t this the way the most impoverished guerrillas on every bedeviled continent have been warring all along?
        Without having to read those French pussy theorists?

        But without our technology.

[Part 2 is drawn from Eyal Weizman, “Walking through Walls,” Radical Philosophy #136, March/April 2006.]

Saturday, January 17, 2009

When war wages on...

Below is a clip of a news story about the lasting effects of the U.S.'s use of agent orange during the Vietnam war. Three decades after blanketing parts of Vietnam with chemicals, many people are still suffering from its effects. Note the response of the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.