The air war in Afghanistan has escalated to about 20 attacks per day, called ‘weapons sorties’. (3620 sorties/six months). This escalation in Afghanistan replicates the increase in air attacks during the Surge in Iraq under the guidance of General Petraeus. These air attacks create civilian casualties. Killing civilians works as a direct counterforce against the peaceful strategies of developing community resources and of stabilizing local governance. Air attacks create more enemies to fight as family members are killed and lives are broken and community cohesion is fragmented. You cannot win the peace with violence.
One of the ways by which art effectively conveys meaning is by reattaching lost motives to actions. Watching a bomb explode can be experienced as watching fireworks if stripped of the intentions of who is doing the targetting, their motives and the results. Censorship undoes meanings by stripping out the meanings of events or by removing the reality that the events occurred at all in space and time. Where’s the close-up of what bullets and bombs really do?
In the video attached to the referenced article (see bottom of article), the viewer sees a series of explosions which by themselves have no meaning. But there is a ‘revenge’ voiceover. It is barely intelligible but it conveys all of the meaning. The difference between manslaughter and murder charges is the intent to kill.
The attitude of the person in the video speaks volumes. As the horizon before him is destroyed by bombs, the person who designated the target or called in the strike, shouts out with euphoria: “I fuckin’ tol you nothin’ but bacteria will live!” In the same moment in which people are dying in the bomb blasts, you hear his voice over the flashes of the bombs. He intended for everyone to die.
Why would the Pentagon allow these images of explosions onto the internet and not allow the images of the ripped-to-shreds bodies of human beings? Because it works. All of the excitement of bombs bursting in air, none of the gore, just like watching a sports event on TV. The events are stripped of all of their shock value. Censorship creates an artificial reality in which Americans never saw war happen, never experienced its horror, never shared in its shame. And, if someone is able to figure out that these explosions mean people were killed, the voiceover spins ‘revenge’. In a totally cleaned-up, censored war, it is just he said/she said about what happened with Generals denying blame for killing civilians and civilians impotently demanding that the armies go away.
Art attempts to reconnect the air sorties with the wounded or killed civilians caught in the crossfire of war. Art attempts to push back by reasserting the meanings and true consequences of events. In the painting, The Siege of Sadr City, we see a three-year old boy killed while playing outside. It is a close-up of what the bullets do. Where the painting fails is its inability to show you a large jet (like an F-16) strafing a metropolitan area within Baghdad, a city full of millions of people. Only later, do we hear soldiers anecdotes about the use of planes in Sadr City, which fill the gaps in our understanding of what happened to this three year old boy.