Friday, June 09, 2006

War as Simulacrum

On point as ever, Lenin nails it on Zarqawi: seems to me that they couldn't have done a better job: news reports need a hook on which to hang their stories, and complex discussions of a vast, geographically diffuse, organisationally decentralised and acephalous movement won't do. Zarqawi's Myth provided that hook. For that reason, the news of his death is almost a negative version of Diana's death - no one will weep, but a proportion of cranks and obsessives, egged on by an hysterical media, really think it matters. All of the observations, questions and caveats being supplied by the media rest on a supposition of Zarqawi's centrality, rely on the narrative eagerly and skilfully supplied by the US military. And of course, everyone will be familiar with the script provided by the propagandists: its all foreign fighters causing the trouble, they're ruining the infrastructure, they're disrupting the 'transfer of sovereignty' that a benign and disinterested army of occupation is readying.


What we experience as 'the war in Iraq' is a simulacrum, mediated by military-vetted imagery and embedded reporters. The sheer dependency of Western reporters in Iraq on official sources is compounded by the fact that most reporters can't get about in Iraq, can't move far beyond the Green Zone. There is, even among the better journalists, a willingness therefore to accept enabling narratives, plot devices, decoys and so on. Racist assumptions about Iraqis and a total failure to understand the extremities to which the imperatives of US policy will take the occupiers has been a useful alibi in cementing the grip of these stories. Iraq's legitimate rejection of the occupation, with its armed and unarmed wings, has been studiously reduced to Zarqawi and his group, whose actions have been so contrary to the interests of the resistance that they have alienated local populations and nationalist resistance organisations everywhere they went, often ending up in bloody battle against them.

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