Breaking Through the Fog of War

<p>Four years after the US invaded Iraq, a group of the war’s
veterans invaded the streets of New York. In a Memorial Day
exercise, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) donned
their gear and reenacted military scenarios commonplace in the
streets of Iraq. Using their hands as rifles, they shouted commands
and crept around corners. Some scoured the streets for ‘Iraqi
citizens,’ forcing them to the ground, cuffing, and hooding
<p>The performance, captured in a video posted on the
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Nation</a>
</em>, was meant to penetrate the
detached and filtered haze that defines how most Americans view the
war. Aaron Hughes, an Iraq war veteran and participant in the
street performance, explained: ‘When I was over there it was a real
space, and nothing was mediated. And then when I came back here
everything was mediated, and the war wasn’t here… Everyone’s
formed an opinion about what the war is and what it means, and they
have no understanding what’s actually going on. And that is what
Iraq Veterans Against the War is trying to do today.'</p>
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<p>A similar objective was driving Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal when he
created his performance piece, ‘Domestic Tension.’ Inspired by the
deaths of his father and brother, Bilal holed himself up in a
Chicago gallery for 30 days. Visitors to
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>his website</a>
were able to see live video of the sequestered artist and then
remotely aim and fire a paintball gun at him. Bilal, a professor at
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, explained the idea of
the performance to
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>In These Times</a>
</em>: ‘To the Western media
it’s a virtual war going on in Iraq — we’re far removed in the
comfort zone. We’re allowed to disengage from the consequences
of war. We don’t see mutilated bodies, we don’t see the toll on
human beings.'</p>
<p>Bilal hoped his performance would be an engaging, even playful,
attempt at encouraging dialogue about the technical and often
impersonal face of modern warfare. But after the first few days,
the sympathetic comments left on the website’s message board
began?degrading into incendiary jargon. As Bilal told <em>In These
Times</em>: ‘I learned all these new things about myself. I learned
I was a nigger, and a sand nigger. That I was gay. Part of it is
demonization, then you can justify trying to shoot me.’ Hackers
even broke into the system and programmed the gun to shoot almost
constantly. By the twentieth day, more than 40,000 shots had been
fired. After a month of seclusion and a constant barrage of fire,
Bilal finally ended his project on June 4.</p>
<p>Go there >>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Bringing The War Home</a>
<p>Go there, too >>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>In The Crosshairs</a>
<p>Related Links:</p>
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Bringing The
War Back Home: YouTube and Anti-War Street Theater</a>
<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>GIs Take Manhattan: Operation First
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Iraqi Artist Puts Himself In Line Of Fire</a>
<a href=”” target=”_blank”>Domestic
<p>Related Links from the <em>Utne Reader</em> Archive:</p>
<a href=””>Soldiers
For Peace</a>
<a href=””>A
Desperate Measure</a>
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