Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Part 1 Through an embedded journalist’s camera lens we see the violence of war. It’s a close enough facsimile to actual experience that when the camera shakes from the impact of a shell, we feel the ground buckle. We smell the desiccation of the desert, tinged with three different kinds of smoke. We duck instinctively. We squint at the intense Iraqi sun. And when the camera passes over the bodies of refugees or the dead, our minds reject the information except on the most superficial level. These can’t be the bodies of people—of Salem Pax, whom we’ve developed a relationship with, for example—but just the collateral damage of war.
Which is why, as I watched the war, my experience was wholly visceral—and as I wrote, mostly transmuted to anger. So 36 hours away from the war was a nice breather. Of course, even when I wasn’t watching the news, I was thinking about the war. Instead of focusing on its immediate horrors, though, getting away caused me to think about the war in a larger context, and consider what long-term problems it may create.
What will the war mean? What have we witnessed as precedent-setting by its start, and what will we be left with in its wake? The questions came to me as ones of ethics and law—although the war itself will pose questions about safety, strategy, and politics, the long-term effects will be changing international standards of conflict. Amid the blood and violence of the fog of war, these questions seem remote and inconsequential, but the lives of other people in distant circumstances depend on how we view the actions taken in this war.