Thinking how I am now thinking, looking back over what I have already thought and written in The Original Baghdadskies
, I re-visited this link to an Asian Times article by Mark LeVine, "The chaos theory in action", April 6, 2004 , written in the Speaking Freely
Man people must conclude the same: that the U.S. must have designed the Chaos into the "algorithm". They could not have allowed Iraq to descend into this mess by mistake or incompetence - could they ?
Part of the answer comes from the understanding that in reality the Americans - as in American government and large sections of its population - don't care about Iraq or the Iraqis: don't now, didn't before the war, didn't when they fought them to Baghdad and died in the process - any more than they do about the Afghanis or Afghanistan, the Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, Iranians, Palestinians. Or maybe even the Israelis, if push came to shove.
N.B. Afghanistan hasn't had the investment that Iraq has, which reflects this indifference at the governmental level. Outta pubic sight, outta government mind..
The current American perception of the U.S. place in the world, other countries and people in the world, is based on having being attacked for what they see is no good reason. Therefore everyone, of course,- think of "indigenous" Japanese after Pearl Harbour - has become the enemy till they can prove otherwise. Psychologically, though not intellectually, this very understandable. We, as individuals, have experienced or know someone who has experienced similar feelings / perceptions in their everyday life. But this Iraqi type of don't care leads, again quite naturally, to a strain of objectification which is beyond casual prejudice. It is the real thing.
" Thursday, May 06, 2004
What were they thinking of when they took those photos? There is a particular film image from World War II that will stay in my mind until I die. Yet, unlike many more famous segments of film, it does not show anything you could describe as an atrocity. Not exactly an atrocity. It was taken by a German soldier with his personal ciné camera; this wasn't as rare an occurence as one might think, as home cinema had been a popular hobby in Germany throughout the thirties. Also, surprisingly, German soldiers wishing to take their own cameras or ciné cameras with them were subject to fewer restrictions than their British counterparts. I'm not sure but I think cameras may have been forbidden to British troops entirely.
Anyway, the image I am thinking of shows a great crowd of Russian prisoners. The man filming them was obviously standing on a hill looking down at them. As was common practice of the German army on the Eastern Front, except for being penned in by a fence of some sort, their Russian prisoners were left to themselves to live or die. Here were no Stalags with ordered rows of huts, no shelter of any kind, no doctors - and no food. They ate leaves or grass or their boots or each other.
Then the viewer sees some object describe a trajectory down from the ridge where the camera is. Down, down it curves - the filmmaker doing a nice job of panning the camera to match the object's trajectory. It lands among the crowd. It is a lump of food. The Russians scramble for it, like - undeniably like - animals converging on a lump of food thrown by a man.
One can quite see why one German soldier of that era would think it amusing to do that and another to film him doing it. It suited the Nazi idea of Germanic masters and Slavic subhumans perfectly. One can also see (and this is a separate issue) why the soldier filming it had no worries about doing so. He thought the Nazis would win. He thought that no one would ever see the film who would possibly object to seeing Russians humiliated, or if some weakling did object, he would have no power to make that objection count. (I don't know by what chain of events the film eventually ended up on a British documentary, and whether the man who shot it was ever asked "what do you think now?" after the war. Nor do I know if any of the Russians shown ever came forward.)
You have probably guessed the question that is in my mind. When the prison guards at Abu Ghraib took humiliating pictures of Iraqi detainees, why did they think that those pictures would not come back to haunt them? I don't ask why did they do it - the reason they humiliated prisoners is the same as the reason for uncounted similar acts throughout history. Cruelty will ever be with us, as will the notion of adding to the victim's humiliation by recording it in permanent form; which is why the duty to make sure cruelty doesn't pay is so pressing. But the modern US isn't Nazi Germany - the pronouncements of idiots like Ted Rall notwithstanding. (Nor is modern Germany Nazi Germany, for all that prisoners are beaten and terrified there, too. The difference is that abuses in modern democracies are seen as abuses.) Getting back to the snap-happy guards at Abu Ghraib: why didn't they figure out that eventually someone would see who would object and would have power to make that objection count?
As you know, I've been out of it for a while. I may have simply missed the news story where the people who took those pictures were asked that question and gave their answer. In the absence of such an answer this is just my guess. I wonder if the sheer ubiquity and disposability of digital cameras has degraded the idea that photographs count. They are now seen as more like speech than writing. Adding to this effect may be the fact that everyone knows that pictures can be changed in minutes, as the multiple versions of the picture of the Iraqi boy holding a sign demonstrate.
And what of the future? We now have a situation where images flow like speech and are as mutable as memory. I am quite sure that legions of journalists are hard at work searching for similar true images, and legions of photoshoppers are hard at work making similar fake images. The jury is still out on whether the Mirror's photos showing British soldiers kicking a hooded Iraqi are fakes - most people I know do think they are fakes on the grounds that the equipment is wrong and the whole thing too clean and sharp, but no one can say "it cannot happen.
Will all this be a brake on the next person who wants to photograph their victim while comitting a crime - or an encouragement?
Keywords: Abu Ghraib / Abu Graib / Abu Ghuraib / Lynddie England & her boyfriend :
(a) just what boisterous, bored, aggrieved ("I didn't join the Army to my head blown off..") soldiers do,
(b) for the potential victims to see and fear. Vide NATALIE SOLENT
Certainly it was meant to be amongst themselves. But technology always gets the better of people. "Because it is there" seems to be the maxim of the Information and Communications Technology revolution. It appear to short-cut the consequences module in the cortex, wherever it is. Why esle would people would could find a lote better things with their time spend disproportionately lagre amounts of time posting to weblogs which no one reads ?
A Radio 4 BBC Radio programme - a book read in installments - In Praise of Slow
by Carl Honore, " An exploration of a lobbying group that seeks to reduce the pace of modern life", mentions eigenziet
, roughly translated as proper time, or everything has its time, temp justo
. Ours is full-speed, in everything. But Honore says, Germans speed down autobahns at top speed. When asked why they do not know.
Many years ago, I was mocked for taking photographs with my non-digital SLR of everything I was being shown on a fascinating Saxon archaeolgical site consisting of acrss of burial urns. At the time I felt it was the best way to keep a record. Learning from this minor humiliation, I forever developed the habit of asking myself whether I really needed to take a picture of each item I got the urge to. It helped my photography. Sometimes I simply frame the image, appreciate it, but don't press the button. I have achieved my object: proved my ability to frame a section of reality in a pleasing aethetic way. No need to fix in silver oxide.
The digital camera allows us to preview already taken photographs and delete the ones we are not happy with.
Photo sites such as yafro.com
alow both photo album and commentary. Yafro is full of U.S. miltary personnel's albums.
Although the story has been superceded by events (the U.S. Marines have withdrawn from Fallujah)it is an interesting story; one which writers will use. This time not gleaned from dusty shoeboxes, years later, but straight from the bitstream in almost real time!
These war stories are reminiscent of the letters and diaries of the First and Second World War. In the former, many more records were kept because literacy had improved (U.K.) since the Education Acts of the late 19 Century. Despite the ubiquity and ease of use of digital cameras, computers and the web, the modern soldier has the same impulse to record his story. He explains everything about a particular JPEG.
As an aside and partial adjunct to the above : how awful, what drivel, so many of the of personal weblogs are.. verbal diarrhoea slung about left and right by the bucket load (if you will pardon the image). Much of it the sort of thing you would soon stop thinking about and remember in seconds - let alone write or tell anyone else about - if there wasn't the technology to preserve it. Let's face it all this stuff wouldn't be said if the technology wasn't available to make it public! It's "picking your nose at the traffic lights syndrome" gone mad.
Finally, because I can
Abu Graib: The Movie
keywords: Abu Ghuyraib Abu Ghraib Abu Graib
Directer : Olivyo Styrone
Producer: Moshe Al Fatah
Distributor : Mindblown
BLACK SERIES III BMW GLIDES SLOWLY THROUGH SMALLTOWN, USA.
DRIVER ANSWERS MOBILE PHONE USING EAR PIECE
BLUE SCREEN. MUSIC JOAN ARMATRADING, "GIVE ME LOVE" BACKGROUND
Hi, how are ya?
Did you get the contract?
..sure everything is o.k. down there?
Yeh, good. Bin trying out the car.....
OFFICE IN HOLLYWOOD STUDIO. NOISY
".....It happened in Vietnam: we read and see it in the documentaries. In the paranoid climate, everyone is the enemy (understandably) and therefore you were "allowed" to blow away some granny in a village because she looked as if she might be a Vietcong sympathiser."
No one was going to know. But then again, despite the soldier doing this being inside a military structure which should have prevented this, remember he was almost certainly a conscript.
I know Ollie, but this script...
If this granny killer (high on drugs and alcohol to hold down the fear and panic) had instead dodged the draft or refused to join up, he was dead meat back home.
ollie we must decide on the final script....
The soldier in Iraq was a professional. His perception of his role and how he carries it out must be different from a draftee. By implication the draftee, unlike the professional soldier, had engaged in the political process because he had had, at one point, a choice of join up or conscientiously object. I know I. I was there...
NEITHER NOTICE LAST SENTANCE
Olie, he's right. Unless we get this damn script finished....Can we do the seminar some other time?
...professional is doing a job. Lynndie was doing a job in Abu Graib: as a clerk processing prisoners. The tour of duty for her was, in a sense, like all other tours of duty. She's signed up, she goes where she is sent. But if the place she has been sent turns out to a hell hole in her eyes, where she might get her brains blown out, she takes a very different view of the people she comes into contact with.... [SUCKS ON CIGAR]...in the prison she worked in or in the streets of Iraq she might pass through....than those in the town near her base in the States.
P. + E.
LOOK OLLIE..we're TELLING
y'.If you don't..
...getting everything in Iraq that she'd getting in the States, pay, pension contributions, educational opportunities, holiday entitlement. Though she's in a professional Army, she didn't actually join it to fight and die. She joined because there were no other jobs in her home town. She is young, uneducated, has no knowledge of the world outside her home town and its normative attitudes and values.
Suddenly she is sent 5-6000 miles away and plonked into a culture, a coutnry she has never heard of. She is given a few short talks on how to behave. She ignores what she is told, all that stuff is plain boring. [PUFFS ON CIGAR]..... She's only a kid, out to maximise her pleasure above all else, like all kids everywhere.
Jack I'm going to the meeting...
Me too. I can't sit here any..
Because of the confused set - up she finds herself (a mixture of Army and freelance operatives, a set of overlapping hierarchies which she does not really understand) she and her friends get cynical. They say to themselves, this is a complete FU. Why should we care, let's have a much fun as we can. It's a bad job. Your pay is low and your being made to work harder than you think the pay merits. You become de-motivated.
D. NOW STANDING AT THE PICTURE WINDOW LOOKING INTO THE LOT. HE IS ALONE
Someone calls you in from the office where you are running through the spreadsheets and says," Come and have a look at this!". You walk down the corridor to see what the world has now seen: prisoners being "softened up" and ritually humiliated. You know nothing about these men, women and children or their way of life, their aspirations, culture or beliefs. They are just people you and your Army and country have absolute power over.
D. CONTINUES TO LOOK OUT OF WINDOW. CROPPED PROFILE
...You see something that your instincts or parenting or education tell you (ought to tell you)
D. JERKS ROUND TO SEE EMPTY ROOM
... are wrong, but you are in system that protects you (a bit like the U.N.) because it is a bureacracy, so you can say to yourslef, "Hey, it's not my responsibility."
D. GOES INTO CORRIDOR. RAISES VOICE
You see the picture on the wall of the humilation so far.
D. LOOKS LEFT. RIGHT. WALKS LEFT
They tell you this is the "Top 100". Wanna take one too? Nah you say. Go on they say. Alright you say. Snap. You look in the backscreen. " Hey that's quite good". They say, "Yeh, Lynndie, that is good, lets go print it."
Look. No one is getting killed. Well there were a couple they say. I didn't see it.
D. WALKS DOWN CORRIDOR LOOKING FOR OTHER TWO
Over chow in the canteen they are all saying:" Hey guys, Lynddie took a PEG!" "Nah! they say." "Yeah!", they say. "Didn' y' Lyn'?". "Yup."
D. STANDS IN OPEN DOOR OFFICE 2 WHERE MEETING IS BEING HELD. OTHERS STOP, LOOK UP
Next day they come into the noffice ...tap tap...I hate these A-rab names..can't spell right...Hey Lyn' what ya doing? ..Come see this....
P. COMES TO DOOR, PULLS D. INTO OFFICE BY SLEEVE OF JACKET
A week or two later they come into your office..
D. LOOKS AROUND AS IF UNAWARE IN OFFICE 2
"Hey gal! Guess what ..they been posting the PEGs back home! "Noooooo.....back home where?" "On a site!" "Whaaaat?!!" "Yeah they'r all up there." "Shiiiiiiii.....
ALL IN OFFICE SITTING SILENTLY WAITING FOR D [STANDING] TO FINISH HIS SPEECH
...One month later you are arrested.
Six months later you get your pictures in world press holding an naked Iraqi man by a dog leash. You don't undertand it. Why me...There were thousands of them.. thye say some guy took video.... You ring your mum, say...
BMW MOVING SLOWLY ALONE MAIN STREET
Ma, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Its O.K. Gal, you dun' no wrong. I told you than hundred 'sof times. You know I understand.....
. Andy Reid
. 9 May 2004