blogorrhoea
Thursday, September 16, 2004
 
YESTERDAY'S NEWS

Well it seems we've already buried Mazin Tumaisi and his supporting cast of little corpses, then.

It seems we live in a time and a place in which explicit 'live' footage of the murder of children and journalists is merely of rapidly passing interest. Even when it's "our" side doing the murdering.

Especially then.

When the slaughter, terror and anguish is hidden under distant plumes, I guess it takes imagination to grasp what's afoot. Official footage, with its official narrative, is all about discouraging such imagination, and perhaps we lack the imagination necessary to counter basic public relations techniques.

But what exactly is it we lack when explicit, unambiguous 'live-to-camera' murder leaves us unmoved? What validates our claims to 'civilisation' then? What exactly is the nature of these precious 'values' we're so bloodily bent on exporting, then?

Even if there were convincing answers to these questions (are there?), how could we persuade the hundreds of thousands of bereaved that we mean a single carefully crafted word of 'em?

In a world ever more torn down the middle, all "they" know is that a few dozen zealots killed 3000 of "our" civilians, and that "our" righteous response has been to kill maybe ten times as many of "theirs".

And that we remember "our" cruelly slaughtered few in orchestrated orgies of state-sanctioned solemnity every S11, but never ever one of "their" cruelly slaughtered many.

You don't have to be very old to know none of these questions is new.

They're just important, that's all.
 
Monday, September 13, 2004
 
WHAT HAVE WE WROUGHT?

It takes a blogger of sound morale and strong stomach to follow Cursor's daily sojourn around the grounds. Here are the thoughts that happened to me as I tried it today ...

26-year-old Mazin Tumaisi's transition from young-journalist-at-scene to yet-another-bloody-corpse-on-an-Iraqi-street should be a big story because it happened right in front of a Reuters camera. Nice-looking lad, I thought. Reckon I'd have liked him. I like most people I meet, so I'd probably have liked a lot of these people, too.

In the short run, it's good domestic politics to fight counter-insurgencies from the air. The pity of it seems to be that 'tactical airstrikes' are rarely as 'clinical' as the chaps who think up words like 'clinical' would care to admit, especially when they're perpetrated in city streets. Seems to me this 'democratic' mode of warfare tends to manufacture more enemies than it demolishes. :

The U.S. military said it was trying to scatter looters who were attempting to make off with ammunition and pieces of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, which had been hit by a car bomb early in the morning on Haifa Street, a troublesome north-south artery west of the Tigris River.

But witnesses, including a Reuters cameraman who was filming the al-Arabiya journalist when he was shot, disputed that account and said the crowd was peaceful, Reuters reported.

In the video, which was shown on al-Arabiya throughout the day, the journalist, Mazin Tumaisi, 26, can be seen reporting near the burning armored vehicle. It is not clear what the people around it were doing. As the camera moved to the sky to capture the image of two low-flying military helicopters swooping onto the scene, bullets rained down, hitting Tumaisi and the cameraman, Seif Fouad, who was seriously wounded. The camera lens was sprayed with blood, and Tumaisi could be heard saying, "Please help me. I am dying."


Mazin was not the only person to die in Iraq yesterday. There were lots of kids around that Bradley, too. I'm 46, and I'd love to take a peek inside a damaged Bradley. At twelve, I couldn't have resisted it. At twelve, I had a Mum, a Dad, two brothers and a sister. Five people who'd have hated my killers for years to come.

On the slaughter which occurred at Tel Afar on this very same yesterday, *The Independent* offered this piece of British understatement: The attack on Tal Afar shows how the US can capture any city in Iraq but it must also pay a high political price for using its great firepower in the middle of heavily populated areas.

Too many Stars-and-Striped-coffins is political death, and the way to avoid political death (in the all-important short run) is to deal the real death from as safe a distance as possible. If a couple of hundred thousand conscripts are retreating up the Basra Road, incinerate half of them from beyond the horizon; if Saddam might be in a restaurant, obliterate the whole place; and if a disabled Bradley's heavy machine gun might fall into insurgent hands, ripple the whole damned street. That way, there'll be fewer body-bags in today's C130.

There might be more in tomorrow's, though. Hopefully that'll be after the electorate has accepted the media's invitation to forget the causes of the images that then assail them. 'Trouble is, there's always more we need to forget. For example, we'd need to forget this:

Col. David Hogg, in an off-the-cuff remark, noted that U.S. forces routinely take hostages: “...his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: ‘If you want your family released, turn yourself in.’” (Washington Post, July 28, ‘03). Article
34 of the Geneva Convention is specific: "The taking of hostages is prohibited."


And this:

[F]ormer Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, a veteran of the invasion of Iraq, report[ed] that he and his troops were ordered to, and did, fire on unarmed protestors, killing most of them.

And it'd be good if we could forget the way in which the post-S11 'real politik' perpetrated in Washington (or London, or Canberra) manifests on the ground. What starts with this sort of thing ...

After the World Trade Center attack, the U.S. essentially declared itself exempt from international norms. The military is following the civilian leadership: “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." (White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Memorandum to the President, 25 January 2002)

... can end with a couple of thousand unfortunate photographs and a million malignant memories, for instance.

So much for Alberto's judgment, then.

Me, I go with the judgment of Jim Lobe:

"At a time when the United States is unifying the Islamic world against it, the Bush administration has demoralised and divided the West."

I've seen poor Mazin Tumaisi die a dozen deaths already today, and I'm thoroughly demoralised. And I don't doubt many of the people watching al Jazeera and al Arabiya are feeling that bit more unified.

Now what?
 
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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