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WarWithoutBodies
ByAllanSekula

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Themotive[oftheatrocitystory]...isalwayseitheropenlyorsymbolicallysexualthebombingof
RotterdamorDsseldorfisnotanatrocity,whileasolitaryrapeis....
AlexComfort,ArtandSocialResponsibility,1943
Butthelinethenarratorpursuesisthatofmaleaction.Everdaylife,theworldofwomen,shinesthrough
onlyinthegapsbetweenthedescriptionsofbattle.
ChristaWolf,Cassandra,1983
[theiowa]
InApril1989,agunturretexplodedontheAmericanbattleshipUSSIowaduringpracticefiringinthe
Atlantic.Theentireguncrewwaskilled.Inthenavalinquestthatfollowed,suspicionfellon1ofthe47dead
sailors,agunner'smatenamedClaytonHartwig.ThelargelycircumstantialevidenceHartwighad
allegedlydisplayedaspare-timeobsessionwithexplosivesanddeathledtheNavy'sforensictechnicians
andtheFBItoastartlingbutperhapspredictableconclusion:Hartwigwasatroubledyoungmanwhose
sexualadvanceshadbeenrejectedbyothersailors.Theexplosionwasthereforeahystericallyclever
actofsuicideandmassmurder.Overtime,andunderpressurefromthefamilyandfriendsoftheaccused,
theNavy'sflimsycaseagainstHartwigcollapsed.ItbecameincreasinglyclearthattheIowa,arelicofthe
warwithJapan,wasaformidablebutrickety,accident-proneshipwithanundertrainedanddissaffected
crewandold,unpredictablepowderinitsmunitionsstores.Whathadbeenconvenientlyblamedon
individualpsychopathologynowprovedtobethedisastrousoutcomeoftheNavy'shypertrophied
technologicalpreparedness,anall-too-commonmilitary-industrialaccident.
IfweremembertheMaine,thatearlierbattleshipwhosemysteriousexplosioninHavanaharborin1898
providedthepretextforwarwithSpain,wewillrealizethattheopportunisticuseofexplosivesincidentsisa
longstandingtraditionintheAmericannavy.ButiftheMaineexplosionleddirectlytowar,theIowaaccident
canbesaidtohaveeffectedanopportunisticdiscursiveshiftonthewaytowar.Homosexualitywasnow
asithasbeenbeforebothaproblemofdecadentculturalelitesandaproblemofdangerousworkingclassdesire.Together,RobertMapplethorpeandHartwigmaybesaidtohaveprovidedaprovocative
roguesgalleryforconservativeworriersaboutnationaldiscipline.Thisis,ofcourse,aparanoidfantasyon
mypart,sincenoconservativecolumnist,noPatrickBuchananorHiltonKramer,botheredtomakethe
connectionbetweenthetwomen.ButiftheIowa'scrampedquarterscouldbefearedasadangerously
homosocialenvironment,soalsowithinalittleoverayearcouldtheSaudiArabiandesertbewelcomedas
avastlaboratoryofmassabstinence,asiteofdisciplinedandsoberasexuality.
Thenavy'sinitialargumentintheIowacasereadslikeacynicalremakeofSergeiEisenstein'sBattleship
Potemkin.Youmayrecallthesequenceofshotsinthatfilminwhichthedreadnought'sgunserectasthe
mutinouscrewpreparestofireontheczaristfleet,gunnersembrace,and,finally,fraternalsignalspass
fromoneshiptotheother.Eisenstein,agreatchampionofwhatmightbetermedthecollectivityofthe
polymorphousperverse,couldimagineaneroticsoftherevolutionarywarmachine,justashewasableto
detectundercurrentsofrevolutionaryandutopiandesireinWaltDisney'sfrolickingWaterBabies.
AsMichelFoucaulthasargued,disciplineisamatterofindividuation.Individuationoccurswithin
technologicalcontexts:theprison,thehospital,thefactory,theschool,and,Iwouldadd,theship.Leon
Trotskyunderstoodindividuationdialecticallyasapreconditionformodernmilitarymutiny,withthenaval
vesselasthemostconcentratedformofmilitarysocialrelations,inwhichunderczarismtwoalienand
tightshutworlds...live[d]inclosecontact...neveroutofeachother'ssight.
WhileincarceratedasanunwantedforeignradicalonEllisIslandinthe1950s,theWestIndianTrotskyite
C.L.R.JameswroteabookonMelvillethatunderstandstheshipastheliteralandfigurativemodelof
capitalistdominationoverlaborpowerandnature.WritinginacontextclosertothatofFoucault,Gilles

DeleuzehasarguedthattheMelvilleanshipconstitutesthemeetingpointoforderanddisorder,ofcontrol
andchaos.Viewedschematically,theshipisamodeloforder,ofcontainment.Viewed
phenomenologically,itisalabyrinth,threateningmadness,claustrophobia,blindness,drowning.Thefirst
vantagepointisthatofthecaptain,thesecondisthatofthecrew.Andyetthecaptainishuman,andprone,
likeAhab,todescendintochaos,justasthecrewiscapable,inthehopesofbothJamesandEisenstein
beforehim,ofrisingtothelevelofautonomouscollectivecommand.Theship,then,canbesaidtobeboth
aheterotopia,thatisaplacewithoutaplacethatis...closedinonitselfandatthesametimeisgiven
overtotheinfinityofthesea(Foucault),andagreatcontestedinstrumentofpower,theverymodelofthe
warmachine.
TheIowacasewasacounterrevolutionaryremakeofEisenstein.Theproblem,aswithsomuchelseinthe
imaginarylifeoftheAmericanmilitarysince1975,wastoexorcisetwoofthedemonspectersofVietnam.
Thefirstwasthespecterofmutiny,ofthewidespreadandlargelyunreporteddraftresistanceofthosewho
werealreadydrafted,themostviolentandindividuatedformofwhichwasfragging,theassassinationof
autocraticofficers.Thesecondspecterwasthatofmilitary-technologicalfailure,oftheinabilityofthemost
sophisticatedweaponssystemstodefeatpeople'swar.ThefirstnarrativeofferedbytheNavyin
explainingtheIowaexplosionwasastoryofmutinyofapeculiarsort:psychopathic,apolitical,nihilistic
homosexualterrorism,mutinyindividuated,gothicmutiny.AsakindofFBI-scriptedpulpfiction,thisstory
conformstothepathologizinghomophobiaoftheneo-noirnovelsofJamesEllroy,notablyL.A.Confidential.
Thesecondnarrative,theembarrassedconfessionthatthingswerenotshipshapeontheIowa,wasthe
honestrealistversionofanotherpopularformoffantasyliteratureformen,themilitarytechno-thrillersof
TomClancy,suchasTheHuntforRedOctober.

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EllroyandClancyrepresentthesoftandhardversionsofthecontemporaryAmericandiscourseon
masculinityandorganizedstateviolence.ForEllroy,thebodydestroysitselfbecauseitcannotbea
machine,andcopsinhabitaluridcartoonversionofanall-too-humanpsychicunderworld.ForClancy,the
onlybodies,apartfromthoseoftheproto-perestroikanSovietnavymutineer-defectorswholongforthe
Westandthecardboardfamily-man/CIA-manprotagonist,arethoseofthemilitarytechnicians,sonar
specialistswhocandiscernminutedifferencesinpitch,theconnoisseursofsubmarinewarfare.The
machine,thesubmarine,becomestheobjectofanalmosteroticfascination.Inkeepingwiththelogicof
coldwarparanoia,technologicalperfectionisalwayselusivelyother,andwemustvigilantlystrivetomatch
orcaptureit.Inacuriouswish-fulfillingbutalsopropheticreversalofclassicalMarxism,theunequal
developmentoftheforcesofproduction(brilliantSovietnavalarchitects)andtherelationsofproduction
(scleroticsocialistbureaucratism)leadinexorablytothemomentwhenthemachineitselfwishestofleeto
theWest.
ClancyandEllroyarethepulp-novelavatarsofreportingfromthePersianGulf.Clancy'sstoryisthegood
storythatcanbetold:historyaccordingtothevictors.IntheClancyversionoftheGulfWar,Scudswould
probablyliketobebettermissilestheywouldliketodefect,tosurrendertotheministrationsoftherocket
specialistsatRaytheon,tobecomePatriots.Ellroy'sstoryisthepornographicbackgroundmurmur,the
darkernarrativeofvictory,ofperversebodiesanddestroyedbodies.IntheEllroyversionoftheGulfWar,
wewoulddiscoveroursadistickinshipwiththemastercriminalandtyrantSaddamHussein.
[warstories]
Idon'thaveitquiteright.YoumayrecognizetheClancyversionoftheGulfWarintheendlessand
moronicallyrepetitivestoriesthatcirculatedinthepress,illustratedwithclean-cutdiagramsdetailing
payloads,speed,range,andthecosttotheU.S.taxpayerinthelittlepocket-biographiesoftheA-10
Warthog,thevenerablebutominouslynamelessB-52,theF-16Falcon,theF-117Stealth,theA-6Intruder,
theApache,theCobra,theentirenatural-historymuseumofmilitary-Keynesianexcess.Thisversionisthe
warwithoutbodies.
Thebodiesthatdon'texistinanyofficialversionofthewararethosemanyontheground,thoseforwhom
airwarisalwaysandalreadygroundwar.Inthisaccount,wewereconfrontedwithapeculiarshiftinscale.
Ononesidewerethosebodiestoomanyofthem,toomanytolookat,toomanytocountasifthe
refusaltocountwasthecrowningvirtueofahighermorality,ofahumanistrevulsionagainstthe
quantificationofdeath.Ontheotherside,ourside,werethesebodies,subjecttoanalmostmicroscopic
attention,deployedandarmoredandmonitored,expendablebutrelativelyexpensive.Innumerablethird
worldbodiespreciselyenumeratedfirstworldbodies.
Unfortunatelyforthetechnocratsoflate-modernwarfare,thebattlefieldcannotbecompletelyautomated,
transformedintoaconflictpittingartificiallyintelligentsoftwareandsteelagainststupid,whollyalienand
abstractedpeasantconscriptflesh,tobeattritted,inthelanguageofthePentagon,tothepointof
surrenderoroblivion.Evenifthebodiesofourenemiescanberedefinedasmerematterinspace,mere
occupiedvolume,distinguishablefrominorganicmatteronlybythequalityofbeingsoftratherthanhard,
andthusvulnerabletodifferentintensitiesanddistributionsofdestructiveforce,theproblemremainsofour
bodies:whattodowiththem,howtodirecttheirenergies,managetheirlaborpower,curbtheirtendencies
towardindolence,lethargy,inefficiency,enervatingself-gratification,fear,resistancetocommand,ethical
andbiologicalrevulsion,autonomousindividualandcollectiveactionmutiny?
Thismanagementproblemextendstothecivilianpopulationathome,althoughinthiscase,indolence,
lethargy,andenervatingself-gratificationcanbeturnedtogoodpoliticaluse.Information,suppliedin
massivedoses,canservetobluntthecapacityforresistance,forindependentmoraljudgment,formemory

fromonedaytothenext.Thespectatorcantherebybereducedtoanervousstateofnarrativeanticipation,
waitingforthenexthorrificortriumphalstory,thenexttellingbitofevidence,invitedvoyeuristicallyinto
mechanicalrehearsalsofmourninginadvanceofloss.Itisinterestingthatthetwopersistentvisualiconsof
humanactivityinthiswarwerecuriouslypassiveandanticipatory:thesoldierwaitingandthespectator
watching.(Oneunacknowledgedtruthoftheseiconsofwaitingisthattheytendtosurfaceinperiodsof
economicdepression,signifyingastagnationofproductiveenergies,animmobilityofcapital.)
Howthenwasthealltoohumanconstructedinthiswar?IftheEllroytextI'veimaginedistoounruly,too
perverse,tobeacknowledgedasthemodelfortheghoulishnarrativefragmentsthatsurfacedineventhe
mostrespectablereportsintheNewYorkTimes,arethereotherformsofnarrativethatmightserveasa
substituteforthebadstoryofthesoftbody?WhatnarrativesmightcomplementtheClancystory,the
goodstoryofthehardmachine?Isthereagood,orredemptivestorytobetoldaboutthebody?
Ibelievethereissuchastory,anditslanguageisthelanguageoftherapy.Thisis,inpart,aharsh
language,alanguageofabstinence,ofvicesovercomecoldturkeyandenmasse.Moreimportantly,ithas
co-optedandrechanneledmanyoftheconcernsofthefeministmovement.Withintheaustereandgritty
desertlaboratoryanapparentlynewandevenradicalandrogynywasinventedmenandwomenfighting
togetheronlytobesubmittedtoaremodeledandsensitivepaternalauthority.Agoodfatherhadto
appeartopresideoverthisvastmobilizationoftheforcesofdeath.
AfeministpoliticalcolumnistIusuallyadmire,EllenGoodman,hadthistosayintheLosAngelesTimesof
March15aboutGeneralNormanSchwarzkopf:We'veseenamanwhoisonspeakingtermswithhis
emotions,willingtoexpresshisfears,butnotparalyzedbythem.Someonewhoisn'tafraidofviolence,but
doesn'tlikeit.AnArmymanwhocallswar'aprofanething.'Sheconcludeswithapartisanpoliticalfantasy:
TorecognizeSchwarzkopfasrolemodelisn'ttoanointhimaspolitician,thoughitwouldbepoeticjusticeif
thisgeneralturnedouttobeaDemocrat.
WheredidGoodmangetthisenthusiasticnonsense?Specifically,fromtheMarch11issueofthat
conservativejournal,TheNewRepublic,fromwhenceitproliferatedwithamazingrapidity,abettedby
sensitiveandrevealinginterviewswithSchwarzkopfbysmittenanddeferentialpoolreportersinSaudi
Arabia.ThestoryinquestionwaswrittenbyC.D.B.Bryan,whofirstmetSchwarzkopfin1971while
researchingthebookFriendlyFire.Considerforamomentthecontrastbetweenthehomophobic
demonologyoftheIowacaseandtheopeningparagraphofBryan'sarticle:
IhavereadthestoriesaboutStormin'Norman,theterrible-temperedBearwhoisapussycattohis
family.Ihavereadhowthisgeneralwiththe170genius-levelIQlullshimselftosleepinhisRiyadhquarters
listeningtoPavarottiandWillieNelson.IhavereadofhisfluencyinFrenchandGermanhisloveforthe
balletandoperaandhismembershipintheInternationalBrotherhoodofMagicians.AndIamsure,as
reported,hehasstudiedT.E.Lawrence'sSevenPillarsofWisdomandthathehasTheKingdom,Robert
Lacey'sacclaimedhistoryofSaudiArabia,onhisnightstand.Iespeciallyenjoyedtheaccountofhow,athis
Kuwaitihosts'insistence,SchwarzkopfseveralyearsagodonnedArabrobesandlatersaidofthe
experience,ItwasjustlikethesceneinLawrenceofArabiawhentheBritishofficer'sclothesaretaken
awayandreplacedbyrobes,andhewaltzesintothedesert,intriguedbytheirfeelandgrace.Istoodin
frontofthemirroranddidthesamedance.Itwaswonderful.
WhatisatstakehereisaredefinitionofthecharacteroftheAmericanelite,orattheveryleastasignificant
cosmeticalterationofthegroupportraitoftheAmericanrulingclassanditslieutenants.Militarymenareno
longerill-letteredbrutes,iftheyeverwere.Noraretheyunreconstructedpatriarchalauthoritarians,asthey
oftenwere.Ineffect,militarymenarebeingoutfittedasthenewuniversalsubjectsofAmericanpoliticaland
culturallife.Thisoccursatatimewhenthemoralandculturalprestigeofartists,writers,andscholarshas
beenseverelydamagedbyattacksfromconservativepoliticiansandintellectuals.Whenintellectualsretreat
totheirbunkers,thegeneralscrawloutoftheirs.Schwarzkopfnowrepresentstheapprovedlistofbedtime
readingandtheacceptablelimitsofcross-dressing.Again(rememberingEllroy),thisnewfoundtolerance
hasitsobverse,itsimaginarywalkonthewildside:inarecentbroadcast,theradionoirnovelistJoeFrank
imaginedafictionaldictatorcoweringinhisbunkerduringabombardment,rememberingchildhood
transvestismandfantasizinghimselfachanteuse.AndSchwarzkopf'srecollectionsofLawrenceofArabia
haveadubiousBoyScoutinnocence.WhatofO'Toole'scharacterizationofthemajorasamantorturedby
theself-recognitionofhisowncapacityforbloodlustandbarbarism?WhatofthesceneinwhichLawrence
andhisArabcavalryslaughteraretreatingTurkishcolumn,fictionallypavingthewaytothecarnageonthe
highwayfromKuwaitCitytoBasra?
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Ofcourse,Bryan'sstoryonSchwarzkopfmaywellbethefamiliarsycophanticofferingdesignedtolauncha
politicalcareer.Whateverthestakes,itisclearthatonbotheliteandpopularlevels,theterrainofgenderis
beingreconfigured:thedivisionoflaborislessrigid,womencanbemanly,mencanbewomanly,aslong
asthedirtyjobgetsdone.ButdespitethefactthatH.NormanSchwarzkopfisabletoidentifyfleetinglywith
thegayorientalist,guerrillafighter,andBritishimperialistT.E.Lawrence,hecommandsinamilitarythatis
profoundlythreatenedbyhomosexualityandstillseekstorootoutandexpellesbiansandgaymen.
Furthermore,thismendaciousideologicalfeminizationofAmericanmilitarypoweroccursatatimewhen
Americanwomenhavebeenmoreskepticalthanmenofthewisdomofwar,andofthepoliciesofthe
RepublicanParty.Thisisalsoatimewhenthecontradictionsofthepovertydraftbecamemostappallingly
evidentinthecasesofyoungenlistedwomen,usuallyblackorLatina,oftensinglemotherstoboot,
desperatelyseekingchildcareastheypreparedtodepartforthePersianGulf.Thesestories,fairlycommon
inthelocalpressduringtheearlymonthsofmobilization,wouldhaveinspiredneitherClancynorEllroy.
Andthoughthetherapistsmayhavetriedtheirbesttoputagoodfaceonthesituation,psychologyonly
goessofarinexplainingoramelioratingthefeminizationofpoverty.
TheadulationofSchwarzkopfcanbebetterunderstoodasyetanotherinstanceofwhatSusanJeffordshas
termedtheremasculinizationofAmerica,thenarrativereinscriptionindiversefictionandnonfictiontexts
abouttheVietnamWarofamale-genderedpowerandauthority.Significantly,Bryan'snonfictionFriendly
Fire,publishedin1976,opposedanenragedCassandra-likefemalevoiceofdissent,thatofPegMullen,an
IowafarmwomanwholostheroldestsontoAmericanArtilleryfireinatheaterofoperationsunder
Schwarzkopf'scommand,tothehighertruthofacalm,rational,empatheticbutself-exoneratingvoiceof
maleauthority,thatofSchwarzkopfhimself.ConformingultimatelywithChristaWolf'sdescriptionofthe
Homericmodeofnarrative,Bryan'sstorybeginswithempathyfortheworldofwomenbutendsby
seekingandfollowingtheredthreadofmaleaction.Women'sdissentisacknowledgedforitsmoralforce
butdismissedintheendforitsinabilitytograsptheempiricaltruthofwar,whichBryanseesasmerelythe
truthofchance,ofaccident,atruthbeyondguilt,understoodonlybymen.WhatBryanplowsunderinhis
searchforthisfatalistictruthistheextraordinaryepistolarysolidarityconstructedbetweenamotherandher
deadson'senlistedcomrades,allofwhomregardedtheVietnamWarascriminalandevil.
[persiangulfsyndrome]
Inasocietylikeours,inwhichallsocialrelationsareexplainedintermsofpsychologicalcategories,
victimizationisahardmonkeytoshake.ThedifferencebetweenVietnamSyndrome,so-called,and
PersianGulfSyndromeisthis:V.S.sufferersareloserswhoseethemselvesasvictims,whileP.G.S.
sufferersarewinnerswhocontinuetoseethemselvesasvictims,evenasthatvictimizedfeelingisloudly
beingputtorest.
ThemythologyofSchwarzkopfasnationalredeemerrestsonhisownbackground:woundedinVietnam,
falselyaccusedofnegligencebythemotherofoneofhismen,resentfulofbeingsenttofightthe
government'swarinSoutheastAsia.Thejournalisticpreservationofthememoryofthisyounger,
victimizedSchwarzkopfhasallowedhimtoseemmorenobleinhispresentcapacitiesthanearliermilitary
menofequivalentauthority,suchasWilliamWestmoreland.WhatSchwarzkopfshareswithWestmoreland
istheindignationofthepowerfulvictim,unjustlyindictedwithcrimesagainstthewretchedoftheearth.If
evilhasoccurred,theaccusedadmitstonocomplicity,nokinshipwithguiltycomrades,underlings,
superiors.HereisSchwarzkopfspeakingtoBryanabouthisfeelingstowardthosewhochargedthe
Americanmilitarywithburn[ing]villagesandkill[ing]babiesinVietnam:Ihadn'tdoneanyofthat!(Italics
inoriginal.)Evenatthepinnaclesofcommand,aself-exoneratingindividualismreignssupreme.
Thispersistenceofthecategoryofthevictimexplainstheinordinatesymbolicimportanceinbothconflicts
oftheprisonerofwar.ThePOW,likethehostage,istheseculardesertsaintoftheneoimperialistreligion

knownastheNewWorldOrder.Whatevertheirmissions,POWsarerenderedinnocentbythefactof
captivity.ThewomanPOWconstitutesanewoverlappingandreunifyingcategory,embodyingboththe
abstractandtheincreasinglyanachronisticfemininityforwhichwarswereoncefought,andthenew
disengenderedoperationalismofthemilitaryspecialist.
Howdowelook,then,asspectatorsofthispeculiarembracethesoftmale,thesoftfemalefrozenin
twocolorfulslicesonthefrontandbackcoversoftheMarch18issueofLife?Whatarewetomakeofthe
titleComingHome,withitsperverseevocationofamore-or-lessfeministantiwarfilmfromthe'70s
starringJaneFonda?Oureyesareinvitedtoembracetobracketitandareenfolded,bracketedaswe
read.Onthebackcover,itisSchwarzkopfwhoseCheshireCatsmilepersists,suggestingthatthiscoverto-coverembracestructurallyreproducesthegreatnationalalibiofthepowerfulvictim,turnedinwardona
painrealandimaginary,empatheticbutalsooblivioustoallotherpains.SpecialistMelissaRathbun
Nealy,withhergirlishbraids,isSchwarzkopf'sprop,hisprodigaldaughter,andhisdouble.LikePegMullen
inIowa,shemayhavesomethingtosay,butnooneisreallylistening.
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