Many have wondered what happened to the anti-war movement since President Bush left office. We think we found it, at the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Ten people attended the MLA session on “War, Scar: Representations of US Torture and Imperial Violence since Vietnam.” Philip Metres III of John Carroll College called U.S. government officials “armchair conquerors” because of their War on Terror in places such as Pakistan. As a professor, he recalled how one “sensitive student” wrote a poem on his tender childhood memory of his teddy bear as well as a reflective look at his bloodlust after playing violent, first-shooter video games. In the pieces written by this student, Metres said he “sees a picture of Western imperialism.” With the growing drone campaign in foreign countries such as Pakistan, non-Westerners and artists are looking at Obama’s “virtual war on terror” and “imaginative imperialism.” Metres criticized the “Obama policy of targeting suspected terrorists by drones,” which replaced America’s detainment policy.
He saw the Obama strategy of “double taps,” where one missile hits a target and a second soon afterward, as “terrorism.” As a result of Obama’s drone strikes, it “reduces the human impact to talking point and statistics” and Metres lamented that “we also need a human cost, a narrative” that is missing from the drone war. He termed the drone war “imperial surveillance” and “drone surveillance.” He praised an Internet project by a man named Wafa Bilal, whose brother was killed by drone strikes, and who created a virtual jihad game online called “Domestic Tension.” It involved loading a paintball machine and programming it to be used by webcast viewers. To Metres, this project “laid bare the imperial psyches” and these simulations led to a “war scar” for Bilal.