chapter  4
17 Pages

Torturefest and the passage to pedagogy of tortured pasts


If there were no photographs, there would be no Abu Ghraib … It would have been, “OK, whatever, everybody go home.”

Sergeant Javal Davis1

Questions about how wars are fought soon turn into questions about how wars will be taught. But “teaching” a war also occurs in everyday media, before wars come to an end. Critic A. O. Scott recently commented that a spate of new fi lms dealing with the Iraqi confl ict embrace “confusion, complexity and ambiguity” but lack the “sweet relief,” “bitter catharsis,” or “moral certainty” we have come to expect from fi lms that followed other wars.2 They also fail to give us a sense of collective grief, as did the Vietnam War fi lms. It may be too early for Iraq War fi lms, since, as Scott asks, “how can you bring an individual story to a satisfying conclusion when nobody has any idea what the end of the larger story will look like?”3 As another critic added, the war is just “so close and so raw” that people lack “perspective” to make assessments about collective ideas regarding who we were “then.”4