I don’t mean this in the Baudrillardian sense; although Iraq post-2003 exemplifies Baudrillard’s ideas more even than the first Gulf War did. Where that war presented us with a mediated war in the sense that the war as it was constructed for Westerners (missile cameras on “smart bombs,” “eyewitness” reports from journalists in neighboring countries) wasn’t what was really happening, in Iraq right now what is really happening is already mediated, whether that be embedded journalists following soldiers through the streets, or the filming of torture in Abu Ghraib.
But, as I say, I mean this in a simpler sense: there is no Iraq war, because what is happening in Iraq isn’t a war. Orin Hatch was on C-SPAN the other day, telling us that if American troops left Iraq, “the enemy” would “win.” But who exactly is the enemy at this point? And what would it mean for them to be defeated, for America to win? America is not fighting against some discrete entity that could be defeated, its target is the entire population of Iraq, and it is fighting not to achieve anything but simply to remain where it is. What’s happening in Iraq is an occupation of a curiously pure sort: not a war of conquest, like Vietnam, or a conventional sort of imperialism, because there’s no ability, and as far as I can tell, no desire, to produce a stable puppet regime. What the ideologues tell us is that we must “stay the course”: a course to a destination now so perpetually deferred as to be no destination at all, just a course that stretches onwards forever.
And here, I suppose, the Baudrillardian point returns. If this is not a war at all, but something incessantly presented as one, an image-war producing image-corpses that are no less dead than real ones, how do we oppose it?