VISUAL WAR ON TERRORISM
“U.S. INTERNATIONALISM” AND
WENDY KOZOL AND REBECCA DECOLA
In the spring of 2004, photographs of torture by U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, dominated news coverage in the United States and elsewhere. As other commentators have noted, photographing these atrocities was not simply about documenting an event but was itself a form of torture.1 Many people assume that rather than furthering such acts, publishing these “shocking” pictures was instrumental in exposing human rights violations by the U.S. military. The lack of impact on subsequent U.S. policies, however, foregrounds the limitations of the power such claims invest in photography. The appropriate response, however, should not be to turn away in revulsion from the images. Rather, pictures of abuse foreground the need for what Judith Butler terms the “double path,” that is, working with and being skeptical of the available means of representing “the local conceptions of what is human,” including acts of warfare and torture.
The local conceptions of what is human or, indeed, of what the basic
conditions and needs of human life are, must be subjected to rein-
terpretation … We have to follow a double path in politics; we must
use this language to assert an entitlement to conditions of life in ways
that affirm the constitutive role of sexuality and gender in political
life, and we must also subject our very categories to critical scrutiny.