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Disposable Wars, Disappearing Acts: Theatrical Responses to the 1991 Gulf War Author(s): Jeanne Colleran Reviewed work(s):

Source: Theatre Journal, Vol. 55, No. 4, Theatre and Activism (Dec., 2003), pp. 613-632 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/04/2012 11:45
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Wars, Disposable Theatrical Responses

For we are off seduction, but we

Acts: Disappearing to the 1991 Gulf War





in fascination. ?lean Baudrillard, Seduction1

Drama psyches

is not have

a substitute access

and does for politics to the drama-of-the-boundary,



our But unless away with weapons. goes mad. politics ?Edward The Dramatic Child2 Bond,

It is too early to contrast fully the various strategies, to from military planning tomedia coverage, at work in the first (1991) and second (2003) political maneuvering Persian Gulf Wars. Certainly, similarities abound: both wars were waged by presidents named George Bush in response to the actions of a brutal dictator named Saddam lasted about six weeks, Hussein; they each officially support in the enjoyed wide United States and Great Britain, were conducted with an overwhelming display of and military superiority, and incurred relatively few Allied casualties. At technological it remains uncertain whether this writing, the dictator is dead or alive, and how many Iraqi soldiers and civilians have lost their lives. The hunt for the weapons destruction, whose existence was one of the official reasons cited for initiating has so far yielded none. There of mass the war,

are of course important differences between the two wars; the forty-first led the first war in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and with significant president international the second war with no support; the forty-third president undertook and very limited international such immediate provocation indeed with support, strong resistance from some of America's most durable allies. The first Gulf War did
not remove Hussein from power; the second war effected a "regime change." George


on 1 May 2003, but the announced the end of major military operations of Iraq has proven dangerous and difficult.3 Far from being subsequent reconstruction Bush


Colleran is Professor she co-edited Spencer, Staging South African literature and

of English Resistance: contemporary

at John Essays theatre.

Carroll on

in Cleveland, Ohio. With Jenny University Political Theatre. She has written widely about

Sincere thanks toMaryciaire Marcia and Phil Metres who Acknowledgements: Moroney, Blumberg, read drafts of this essay and to Richard, for assistance its composition. James, and Julia Weaver during 1 trans. Brian Singer Seduction, Jean Baudrillard, Press, (New York: Saint Martin's 1979), 157. 2 Edward in Tuesday "The Dramatic Bond, Child," Press, (London: Methuen 1993), 49. reprinted 3 Thomas "When Frontier The New York Times, 13 July Powers, Justice Becomes Foreign Policy," 2003, Sec. 4,14.



55 (2003)


2003 by The

Johns Hopkins




Colleran Jeanne

soldiers were attacked, as were like World War II liberators, American and collaborators. The instability in Iraq portends a long, expensive, Iraqi suspected in the region at a cost of some 3.9 billion dollars per American presence unpopular month.4 Americans have grown weary of the economic and human toll the conflict has and the ambivalence taken, and as the reasons given for justifying it are assailed, with which is a key this war is viewed has increased. This ambivalence anxiety welcomed the two conflicts; though George H. Bush ultimately harvested of the 1991 war, the majority of Americans from his handling capital sanctioned it, some disappointed only that Hussein was left to rule. The second Gulf War was waged amid more outspoken opposition and organized resistance,5 but even difference between little electoral the credibility of supporters of the war have been disturbed by accounts questioning reasons for attacking Iraq. Despite dismissals and demurrals by both the government's of mass destruction, the George Bush and Tony Blair, the failure to discover weapons information about Iraq's nuclear program, and the lack of clear links unsubstantiated between Iraq and Al Queda operatives are all factors that sustain suspicions about the to assess American citizens struggle war's and timing. Consequently, legitimacy whether the war was just or even effective: will it bring about any measure of security if any, is the What, against terrorism or will it inspire even more anti-Americanism? and Osama bin Laden or other perpetrators of between Saddam Hussein relationship 11th attacks? Does the war on Iraq verify allegations of American the September Has it initiated a new era of American-led techno wars? empire-building? to reach answers to these questions?questions with serious economic as well ethical and political ones?is arduous in large part because the implications to make is not readily accessible. To use a word information needed judgments in a mediatized in the 2003 Gulf War, information is embedded reality; popularized in which is inseparable it is delivered. When that is, information from the manner inHeart of Darkness decided that the "meaning of an episode Joseph Conrad's Marlow was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only The effort
as a glow brings out the haze,"6 he did not stop to wonder if the inside even existed.

the bottle-green As Americans watched images of nighttime battles instantaneously televised, itwas difficult to see much more than the "glow" and "haze" of the "shock The surfeit of images produced and awe" bombardments. coverage through media or insight. William Leiss has like a surfeit of understanding generated nothing in the "The Myth of the Information Society," where he this phenomena addressed claims that the "paradox of the so-called information society is this: on the great issues in the composition of informed judgment of society and politics, the role of knowledge to the increase of available information."7 In this well may decline in proportion very

4 David 2002,1. 5 Numerous York: Seven


and Thorn web

Shank, sites


Iraq Costs



The Plain

Dealer and War as a

11 July (New

anti-war Stories

can be identifies



Howard located; however, the absence of a "national

in Terrorism Zinn, antiwar movement"


actions there are numerous decentralized for organized dissent, (29). though he concedes 6 in Modern and John British ed. Frank Kermode Heart Literature, of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, Hollander Press, 1973), 112. (London: Oxford University 7 in Ian Angus and Sut Jhally, Cultural Politics of the Information William Leiss, "The Myth Society," in Contemporary America (New York: Routledge, 1989), 297.



like to offer some analysis of the nature of the media coverage of the essay, Iwould in the reportage, in order to 1991 Gulf War, especially the narrative devices employed reflect on how this coverage resulted in a virtual collapse of critical judgment and The 1991 media model solidified into regular practice during the ethical assessment.
2003 war, and, arguably, it was extended in ways that offer even more subjective or

that the model of analysts have predicted partial kinds of reportage. Some media embedded reportage, initiated in the second Gulf War to replace the controlled pool the new norm for coverage. Armando system of the first war, is likely to become in The Guardian, suggests that while embedded for example, writing Iannucci, into the heart of the horrific action," it was notably took viewers reporting "right inaccurate and non-objective.8 Hence, the challenge for citizens to gather sufficient to become more daunting, to inform judgment promises factual evidence with which
not less.

My purpose in this essay is, therefore, two-fold: first, to evaluate the extent towhich the coverage of the 1991 Gulf War exemplified Pierre Bourdieu's claim that "the media are overall a factor of depoliticization"9; the second, to provide a reading of one play in protest of the 1991 war, Trevor Griffiths's The Gulf Between Us, and suggest produced offers an alternative for evaluating how this theatrical intervention framework the enable political and ethical assessment. This war, and how it can, in some measure, I will is fragile. But it is not negligible; framework, readily concede, plays like
Griffiths's and others realize Bourdieu's explanation of "movements or moments of

is the greater the "appearance of unanimity which discourse."11 Theatrical performances of the symbolic force of the dominant part to help bring information dissemination thereby join with other modes of alternative a more civic discussion that underlies about the kind of broad-ranging, vigorous realized democratic culture. The next section of this essay therefore reflects on deeply the powerful ubiquity of media images that situate spectators before they even enter a resistance"10 which to be, in Brecht's term, literarisiert,12 they must become theatre. For audience members more fully cognizant of the signifying practices of mass media. The following section examines a play that demonstrates both an awareness of media ploys and a resistance to them. The final section suggests some possibilities for activist political theatre. remarks ought to be made before I begin the analysis of the media Two preliminary of the 1991 war. The first ismeant to describe a particularly coverage striking incident on the part of the media. The second is a caveat against the very of moral shallowness claims I am hoping tomake. The striking incident: inApril 2003, a young Iraqi boy lay in a hospital bed, both arms amputated wounded after he sustained wounds from a bomb dropped by the American military. All of his immediate family had died in the from the Today show to the nightly news coverage, bombing. The American media,

at least break

8 Armando








29 April


http://www 1998), 73.,3604,944705,00.html. 9 trans. Richard Nice Acts of Resistance, Pierre Bourdieu, Press, (New York: The New 10 Ibid., vii. 11 Ibid., viii. 12 as Mueller "literarisiert" Roswitha with the necessary defines "equipped background scenes at hand," in Bertolt Brecht and the Theory of Media for the theatrical (Lincoln: Nebraska Press, 1989), 137.

information University of


Colleran Jeanne
be transported to Kuwait attention. Featuring the
with no reference to what

reported this story of the brave and injured child who would receive internationally where he would sponsored medical
child's loss and desperate courage as a human interest story,

had caused his wounds, and focusing on the sophisticated medical attention this child would receive while countless others would not, though they too were part of the
war's "collateral damage," is one definition, for me, of the obscene. Harold Evans,

author of Pictures on a Page, reminds us that "the distinction with war photography is that we have willed that person dead."13 To omit this crucial acknowledgment from the story from reportage is one failing; to capitalize on its omission by transforming one of a war casualty to a three-minute is a different order of fantasy feel-good unethical choice. It is an anecdote that surely illustrates Ihab Hassan's of description to "de-realize history into happening."14 the postmodern ability though I hope, through my reading of Trevor Griffiths's play, to the special capacity of theatre to energize critical response and to activate highlight I realize that this capacity is overwhelmed political assessment, by the power of media to fill first our television screens and then our imaginations with images of its own The If Bourdieu is right that the depoliticization tends to affect the by media choosing. . . . the less educated more than the more sections of the public "most depoliticized
educated, . . . the poor more than the rich,"15 making a claim for the influence or


or locally that may be economically interventionary potential products sections" is a fraught assertion. But given the inaccessible to these same "depoliticized fact that these "technowars" are short-lived in real time and in television time, perhaps the critique offered in alternative venues, theatre among them, can last at least as long as the fallout of suffering left in the wake of a war we no longer watch. of cultural
Being a spectator of calamities taking place in another country is a quintessentially ?Susan modern

experience. Sontag16

The 1991 Gulf War was the first war in which images of the war were relayed live of this totally screened war from the battlefront.17 The round-the-clock coverage to a phenomena that George Gerbner has called the first "global introduced viewers to speak of a mediatized In this term lies a difference: crisis orchestration."18 media events into of public is to speak of the transformation reality through media
commodities. But to speak of an event as "totally screened" or as a "global media crisis

orchestration" every public mediatization.

that it has enveloped presence so pervasive suggests act or gesture, ensuring that nothing can take place outside As Guy Debord has noted:


virtually the act of

is quoted in David Carr, "Telling War's Deadly York Times, 7 April 2003: B 13. 14 The Postmodern Turn: Essays in Postmodern Ihab Hassan, Press, 1987), 93. University 15 Acts, 73. Bourdieu, 16 in Carr, B13. Susan Sontag, quoted 17 to Jean Baudrillard, "Introduction" Paul Patton, Indiana University Press, 1995), 3. 18 in Patton, is quoted Gerbner introduction, George

13 Evans

Story Theory

at Just Enough and Culture


The New Ohio State


The Gulf War 3.

Did Not

Take Place


spectacle, of production. heart of the propaganda, model present The grasped It is not unrealism of socially in its totality, a supplement of the real dominant is both to the the result real world, In all its and the project an additional forms,


mode of the existing It is the decoration. as the information spectacle or is the

as advertisement

society. or direct entertainment life.19



of journalist Tom Englehardt, the first Persian Gulf War initiated a new one he termed "total television" kind of media to describe the collusion, coverage, and co-option of media and government. According to Englehardt, the competition, one Persian Gulf War was the "ur-production" of a "new media conglomerate," In the view and competing forces of government composed of the simultaneously collaborating was captured by photographs and television.20 This interdependence of George Bush and his aids monitoring the progress of the war by watching CNN; for Engelhardt, the and media had to do with economic need, on the part collusion between government of the media, and spin control, on the part of the government. In his view, the Bush
administration served as an "outside production company able to organize a well

subsidized total event."21 It was a war where its military produced, resonated with cinematic overtones: "Operation Desert Storm."

code name

war may seem Englehardt's yet another analysis of the 1991 overly provocative; in the 2003 war to assign about the Pentagon's decision journalist, this time writing them into the fighting force, suggests journalists to live with the troops, "embedding" to "weaponize the new practice is an "effort by the Pentagon the press" and to "manage the news and restore the sympathy between reporter and soldier."22 Both of these analyses point to a different kind of alliance between the realms of political, economic, and cultural operations, realms that usually operated less interdependently as Lyotard has observed, This alliance produces the kind of circumstances where, ceases to be an end in itself and instead assumes the form "already taken knowledge to the commodities by the relationship of commodity producers and consumers they and consume."23 During the 1991 Gulf War, the images of multiple headquar produce ters of conflict planning?the the Desert Storm outposts, and the news Pentagon, in a Baghdad hotel?underline the commodification of informa agencies encamped the question of whether the media was the war or tion, prompting televising it. For Jean Baudrillard, any objective analysis of social crises cannot be producing
made, since "the social itself [...], in contemporary discourse, is organized according

or simplistic charges of direct collusion to a script for a disaster film."24 Conspiratorial the military, between the government, and the entertainment industry are more the movie like Wag theDog than of responsible social analyses; what plot of a Hollywood is pursued here is how some features of postmodernity?the speed of technology, new uses of virtual technology inwarfare, the ubiquity of media with an increased capacity

19 (Great Britain: Rebel Press, 1987), 6. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle 20 as Total Television," Tom Englehardt, "The Gulf War The Nation 11 May 1992: 630. 21 Ibid. 22 "New Tools for Reporters Make War No Simpler," The Julie Salamon, Images Instant but Coverage New York Times, 6 April 2003: B13. 23 Francois The Postmodern trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi Condition, (Minne Lyotard, of Minnesota Press, 1984), 4. apolis: University 24 trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, (New York: Semiotexte, 1983), 176.


Jeanne Coller an
and continuous to an altered status of





about how wars From

both are waged the United anchors

and understood. action States began military the war into a nightly against Iraq, television (or in the case of CNN, of this fictionalization appeared in the onslaught of subsumed

the moment journalists and news


However obvious the markers constant) miniseries. the miniseries, throughout they were, nonetheless, coverage that exerted the nearly unassailable pull of live experi minute-by-minute ence. Hence, the "instantaneity of sight"25 which characterized coverage of the Gulf in and of itself provides War tacitly suggested that spectacularity sufficient and comprehensive insight that needs no further critical analysis. Indeed, distanced critical in this model of communication in favor of a "pure transmission analysis is displaced
performing present."26 Conspicuous narrative devices, such as the frequent chrono

the use of captions or other titles ("The logical markers ("Day One; Day Thirteen"), War from the Gulf: Operation Desert Storm"), and the presence of reliable narrators the (then, Peter Arnett of CNN; Dan Rather of CBS), were employed.27 Though was readily on display and ought to have called attention to how what is fictionality is also being being transmitted ismade possible by the veracity instantaneity of sight and all of to visual attention microscopic
tension between tedium and

that instantaneous the presupposition was never dislodged. The "pure performing present" sense of immediacy, the its attendant apparatus?the the bizarre detail, the repetition of key incidents, constructed,
that accrues as the coverage wears on?


the fallout from this relentless the illusion of mimesis. For Baudrillard, supported ... of what no is an "obscenity of the visible, of the ail-too-visible longer has visibility
any secret, of what dissolves completely in information and communication."28

for it is this analysis is surely that of dissolution, idea that underlies the three provocative before, essays he published immediately during, and after the 1991 Gulf War.29 The thesis of the first and third essays?one that it did not take the Gulf War will not take place and one concluding announcing as actually the same: that is, the Gulf War is not a war ifwar is understood place?is The crucial notion in Baudrillard's
"antagonistic Baudrillard deems an and the destructive conflict an confrontation "ultra-modern between process of adversaries."30 electrocution" Rather, and con


that no amount
to authenticate

of "direct
a war."31

His intentionally

by CNN

of real time information

claims counter what


ed. Jonathan Arac and Politics, You See," Postmodernism "Above All Else to Make Polan, of Minnesota Press, 1986), 56. University (Minneapolis: 26 to Theories of the Contemporary Postmodernist Steven Connor, Culture: An Introduction (London: Basil Blackwell, 1989), 170. 27 came across "as the in the 2003 war Alessandra that the network anchors writes Stanley The New narrators and Foibles," of a daily novel" in "Lengthy Hours Magnify omniscient Strengths of that exemplifies the higher incident York Times, 26 March illustrative 2003: B 14. An degree in the 2003 war is the story of the reporter, Peter Arnett. Arnett was praised during patriotism required fired from to report on the war. In 2003, Arnett was to remain in Baghdad the 1991 war for his decision on Al Jazeera television in an interview with when he appeared and the National MSNBC Geographic Iraqi reporters. 28 1988), 131. Jean Baudrillard, (Paris: Semiotexte, Ecstasy of Communication 29 The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (Bloomington: Indiana University Jean Baudrillard, 30 17. "Introduction," Patton, 31 Baudrillard, Gulf, 61.

25 Dana



sees as equally war."32 that outrageous Calling the "media with lies: the war that this war is for example, and promotes a "clean

or a

war" Baudrillard media,

"surgical concludes advertising


"promotional, the war,

speculative, the war

virtual," the


competes extreme

the war."33 rhetoric may alienate readers for a number of reasons. Some,


stance.34 like Christopher Norris, may think it undermines any effective oppositional second essay, "The Gulf War: Is Yet, the rhetoric of at least one section of Baudrillard's It Really Taking Place," seems prescient in light of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon:
Thanks infecting in order before to this war, the West?just to exercise the in the Arab confusion extraordinary In return, we try desperately It is an historic arm-wrestle: world unify who will to is in the process of and stabilize them stabilize the other

revenge. control. better

Confronted and ungraspable themselves? instabil being destabilized by the virulent is in the process and of Islam of demonstrating that its values [...] the West ity of the Arabs can no to any universality other than that (extremely of the U.N.35 fragile) longer lay claim

at the time. For the global insights were, of course, largely unheeded of the first Gulf War visibility and live coverage worked largely to justify the Allied military presence. Baudrillard's audience to the persuasion the way inwhich the exerted by this illusory mimesis, to do with the large the war on television also had something watched public simply in the United States about the appropriateness of consensus of American degree to action. The customary habits of millions of television viewers contributed military the high degree of support the war rallied. Raymond Williams, Bourdieu's anticipating comments about depoliticization, has observed that the "central television experience" is one of "flow" where is the viewer's of any particular program understanding and news bulletins which do not interrupt the by the commercials as much as they constitute the entire viewing process.36 The "flow" watched programs of television reportage with that of fictionalized documentaries circulates between and back upon each other, with distinctions between them becoming increasingly hard to some scenes of mass destruction make. Thus, despite the immediate visibility of aired during the Gulf War, these reports competed not with casualties incurred during other on conflicts, but with those fictional deaths that viewers would otherwise be watching con television. Howard the president of CBS Broadcasting, Stringer, unwittingly firmed this depoliticization when he commented: "there are more people routinely killed across the spectrum of American television in a given night than you saw in any of this war."37 In Frank Rich's analysis, the coverage of the 2003 Gulf War, coverage influenced
would be the "ultimate reality show .... Its life-and-death perils are airbrushed

In addition

32 33

Ibid., Ibid.,

62. 30-31.

34 Norris advances in his book, Uncritical this view Intellectuals Christopher Theory: Postmodernism, and the Gulf War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992). 35 Baudrillard, Gulf, 36. 36 in Studies "Interview with in Entertainment: Critical Williams, Williams," Raymond Raymond toMass Culture, ed. Tania Modleski Indiana University Press, 1986), 15. Approaches (Bloomington: 37 Mouth Clark, The Fire This Time (New York: Thunder's Press, 1992), 130. Ramsay


Colleran Jeanne

in the same soothing style of the artificial perils of 'Survivor.'"38 whenever possible Two other factors that affect the viewing experience are the high degree of censorship in each war and the phenomena?affected and music videos?of the through movies aestheticization of violence. Thus, on the one hand, viewers did not see such infamous scenes as the "highway of death" that occurred during the 1991 war, where Iraqi soldiers and their vehicles lay strewn and charred along a long stretch of road. On the other hand, to the extent that such brutal images are shown, they enter the imaginary of films such as Reservoir Dogs or Natural Born Killers or Blackhawk Down, where violence and brutality are contained in aesthetic frames. in the Gulf Wars did not, however, The newness of media technology employed the enemy. Each war was figured as the timeworn practice of mythologizing dislodge an epic battle of versus evil. In the first Gulf War, the language of a latter-day good all Muslims crusade was used; by the second, the strategic need to avoid designating as extremists/terrorists incorrect. It is interesting to made such comparisons politically enemies became less linked to national the language identifying America's Arabs, Iraqis) or religious affiliation (Muslim, Islamic extremists) until origin (Saudis, it finally became the broad designation of "terrorist" or "barbarian," both of which or Osama were designations attached specifically to the followers of Saddam Hussein bin Laden. After the September 11th attacks, Bush stated that a "new kind of war" that would be "a struggle against barbarians."39 In a speech given in would be waged China on 20 October 2002, Bush declared the September 11th attack as an "attack on all and culture and progress" and civilized countries" by those who "hate civilization in "cannot be appeased."40 The ambiguity here is strategic and purposeful; who to reinforcing binary distinctions, into civilized addition the world dichotomizing democracies and barbaric states, it allows the economic and political biases underlying In Samuel Huntington's these distinctions known. influential subtly to become analysis, expansion
expansion the IMF, and

trace how

"The Clash of capitalism

and the World

of Civilizations," and the those who support globalization are the "civilized"; those who are aggrieved American by
of international Baudrillard Bank, are not.41 agencies, offers such as the United claim: Nations, "Our wars," a similar

its domination

he writes,
of the


less to do with
forces on the

the confrontation
planet."42 Moreover,

of warriors
the ambiguity

than the domestication

of the terms allows


for an ever-widening identification and theWar in Iraq are Afghanistan Bush's re-mapping of the world?a and North Korea?conceiving of the strategically effective.

If the suspicion that the War in of the enemy in George W. the first of several wars envisioned sustained by his remarks about Syria suspicion enemy in the vaguest but most extreme terms is

If the reference to the first Gulf War as a latter day Crusade or Holy War faded, references to other conflicts took its place; the 1991 Gulf War was fought under the

38 The New York Times, 13 April 2003: 15. Frank Rich, "The Spoils of War Coverage," 39 versus Barbarism" and Ross in Collateral Language, ed. John Collins Marina "Civilization Ll?rente, York University Glover Press, 2002), 40. (New York: New 40 Ibid., 42. 41 versus 47 "Civilization article in her essay, Marina Ll?rente discusses Barbarism," Huntington's 50. See note 39. 42 Baudrillard, Gulf, 86.



of the Vietnam War, and one mission of the war was the end of the "Vietnam This accomplished, administration the of George Bush fils could cast its syndrome."43 role backward, as the reincarnation of the "greatest generation" of George Bush pere, the liberating armies of the Second World War.44 The point here is that this practice of a in by the media, and the military wove the government, myth-making, indulged was folded into the practices of instant narrativization thread that strong nationalistic that marked and instantaneous the media coverage/production of the Gulf visibility that the expansion of CNN's format during wars.45 One media analyst has suggested an expansion the Gulf War of "uninterrupted since) is primarily (and continued of . . . the United States' government dissemination perspective."46 For Christopher toward relativism and indeterminism the tendency of postmodernism has Norris, redefined history "in the liveliest terms as a realm of purely discursive operations."47 This alteration to the status of history has been further affected by the excesses of media coverage that are "designed to overload our receptive and cognitive faculties to the line between to the point where fact and fiction [...] seems well-nigh impossible draw."48 Baudrillard, too, reminded us that the simulation needs a "visible past, a a visible myth visible continuum, of origin to reassure us as to our ends."49 A to the Great War or earlier epic struggles is one such "myth of origin." comparison As a case study, the 1991 War in the Persian Gulf, which initiated a new kind of media in the phenomena and eventuated of "total television," is a pre coverage eminent example of the implications media saturation for political of postmodern the birth of a new kind of military critique. For Paul Patton, the Gulf War "witnessed which the power to control the production and circulation of apparatus incorporates as well as the power to direct the actions of bodies and machines. It involved images a new kind of event and a new kind of power which is at once both real and simulacral."50

The desert


is exemplary
coverage was

in its contradictory
constant, images were


as a war



and managed,

but where,


critical judgment

collapsed. As one of the most

43 At the end of the 1991 conflict, President Bush declared kicked this Vietnam "By God we've in Michelle "The Never forever." Quoted of Kendrick, Again Narratives: syndrome Representations First and Third World Countries in the Persian Gulf War," Cultural Critique 28 (1994): 129. 44 in the 1991 conflict when H. Bush compared The use of WWII rhetoric was also used George to Hitler, and George Will the "dynamism declared of the regime is Hitlerism." See Clark, as WWII soldiers liberators. Tire, 131. The 2003 operation, however, positioned invading American 45 can be For example, that "no reporter Newsweek's asserted to resolve Jonathan Alter expected whether he is a journalist first or an American" could not hold back (52), and news anchor Dan Rather Hussein tears when General Walt Boomer interviewing 11 March 1991: 52. War," Newsweek, 46 and Paolo Carpignano, See Robin Anderson the Gulf War," at a report filed on 18 March 2003 entitled similar officials conclusions who are reached. as news This sources organizations. are cited on television. See Alter, "Clippings from the Media

or Promoters: CNN Covers "Iraqi Dupes Pentagon on the 1991 media for comments In of the Gulf War. coverage Networks the number percent), are for Official Views," Megaphones of current or former governmental with almost no contact

"In Iraq Crisis, story (some analyzes sixty-six

in comparison

with of anti-war spokesmen 47 23. Uncritical, Norris, 48 Ibid. 49 Simulations, Baudrillard, 50 Patton, "Introduction,"

19. 6.


Colleran Jeanne

in recent history, with transmitted round-the-clock, spectacular struggles globally the Gulf War's visibility made it a drama with an international audience. Yet coverage, this very visibility seems also to have ensured that no audience was left for critical re a or historical assessment In the aftermath of the first Gulf War, where judgment. of a million died in barely more than a month, there has been quarter Iraqi people interest in the war we watched virtually no sustained hourly. In retrospect, the 1991 Gulf War may be judged the first of a series of disposable wars. In 1992, Ramsay Clark noted that a "year after Iraq was left bloody and broken, the U.S. media referred to the war as ancient history"51 The 1998 attack on Baghdad lasted just three days. With their brevity, lack of Allied casualties, popular support, and most of all, quick disappearance
from popular consciousness, these technowars of events are short, expensive, of what and is struggled Blau, forgotten. over in the

In the age of media, world.

the signification

is a good



To All Appearances52 age as technological to humanize the


reason of

for theatre's alternative results level



is that system

a kind denatured

information public of our vaunted and of outrage and


it operates is able

in our partially

sophisticated you permits be encouraged

to be a spectator, but some of to accept

a more to restore Is it possible costly objectivity. to the history of our own lifetimes? Television empathy we In the process, theatre makes you a participant. might the responsibility and these for this history lifetimes? ?Peter Sellars, The Persians53

As Jochen and Linda Schulte-Sasse have pointed out, the "reality of politics is being shaped, from the outset, by the imaginary of media images and language."54 What then remains for the imaginary of theatre images and theatre languages? Stubbornly, to use theatre to enact and theatre artists continue idealistically, perhaps naively, encourage critiques of crises that seem, like the Gulf Wars, to be beyond protest. My in response to the Gulf War55 suggests that theatre can, reading of plays produced offer itself as a critical alternative, issues and addressing against media hegemony,
enacting perspectives that are otherwise unavailable. Specifically, political theatre can

and speculations the false-objectivity of minutia-driven reportage in favor of a its own biases and attempts to introduce the historical that acknowledges presentation eschew
context and the of the present conflict; it can make at work in its connections prosecution; between it can the also, conflict as Erika over there domestic pressures Fischer

Lichte has observed, resist the "particular conditions of our media culture" by serving as a "place of mediation between the past and the present."56 It can honor a to the actual suffering behind each to the presentation of otherness, responsibility
theatrical representation. Further, theatre can expose the constructedness of media

51 Clark, Fire, 145. 52 Herbert Press, Blau, To All Appearances Johns Hopkins 1990), 68. (Baltimore: University 53 to The Persians, Aeschylus/Robert Auletta Sun and Moon Introduction Peter Sellars, (Los Angeles: Press, 1993), 5. 54 with and Illusory and Linda Schulte-Sasse, Identifications "War, Otherness, Jochen Schulte-Sasse the State," Cultural Critique (Fall 1991): 71. 55 Sam Shepard's to the Gulf War include States of Shock, Edward Bond's in response Plays written Back toNormal, Troupe's Tuesday, The San Francisco Mime and Naomi Wallace's In the Heart of America. The Persians, 56 The Show and the Gaze of Theatre Erika Fischer-Lichte, Peter Sellars/Robert Auletta adaptation 1997), 22. of

(Iowa: University

of Iowa Press,



images, and in Brechtian fashion, lay bare the devices that underlie the illusory realism of the hyper-visible. Finally, it can enunciate a coherent ethical position, one that is tribal alliances or economic that Trevor supra-national, loyalties. I believe beyond all of these ends, and that it offers to Griffiths's play, The Gulf Between Us, accomplishes
viewers not only a counter-history of the engagement, but also an understanding of

the processes of specularity itself and of the competing, duplicitous, and complicitous a it offers audiences roles that were played out during the war. Most importantly, moment of pure, unallied, ethical judgment. In 1991, Trevor Griffiths was at work with actors Dave Hill and Paul Slack on a theatre piece that would involve actually building awall on stage during the course of the play. The events of the 1991 Gulf War interrupted their planning, and Griffiths became convinced that the deadline set for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait had not in earnest. He concluded been proffered that the "Western Alliance had decided it needed this war of retribution."57 As Griffiths watched the bombing of Baghdad from a Beverly Hills hotel room, he felt himself in rage and pity and the awful "drowning sense of impotence."58 His response, The Gulf Between Us, premiered at the West in Leeds, England on 16 January 1992, the one-year anniversary Yorkshire Playhouse of the attack on Iraq. The Gulf Between Us opens against the outline of a large Bedouin the tent, where is charmed into visibility by a protean figure of Rafael Finbar O'Toole mysterious, golden spotlight. His opening words are an incantatory reminder that the ground he stands upon?the and the land of the Arabian nights?is cradle of civilization the finishes his monologue with "God is "heritage of antiquity."59 The minute O'Toole good," there is a blackout, and the visual is replaced with the aural. In the darkness that may plunged

also be a response into a cacophony

from souk, bazaar,

to the overload of unfamiliar


of technological spectacle, the audience accents. These are ordinary exchanges,

and mosque. From these, according

is in


threads of English appear, first as a lexicon of English stage directions, words with Arabic roots, then as the voices of First World leaders, identifiable as Bush and Norman the "punitive use of force against George Schwarzkopf, justifying Third World into a muezzin intransigents."60 The voice coil transforms calling the to Griffiths's
faithful sound to prayer, a moment frozen?grave of an air raid siren. the stage Then, and directions pure?until call for it becomes a moment the wailing of deep silence,

after which


The effect




on bridges,
the paralyzing





sounds and images





the action

is heard before both

57 Trevor Griffiths, The Gulf Between Us (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), v. 58 Ibid., v. 59 Ibid., 1. 60 Ibid., 2. 61 Ibid., 2. 62 Review Benedict of The Gulf Between Us in The Guardian, Nightingale, in Theatre Record, 15-28 January 1992: 106. reproduced






Colleran Jeanne

These opening moments of The Gulf Between Us are worth reflection, since their in the form of effect is to reverse the relationship between media and theatre. Media, it pulls all visual signs into itself as it total television, annexes any image itwishes; assembles dissembles its great pastiche it of the pure performing present. Simultaneously its own constructive practices. Griffiths's play does the opposite, folding into the frame of theatrical presentation. As one reviewer noted, the technology minutes with which the play opens try to "reclaim the bombing of "electrifying" of television warfare

and make of it something human."63 to First from daily bits of Arabic conversation changing World political discourse?foregrounds the act of medial The audi transformation. ence is subjected to a technological the of elements, but unlike transformation use of the techno version that marked television coverage, Griffiths's homogenized Baghdad from the archives The aural element?voices difference and disconnectedness: the sounds of strife, logical recording emphasizes imminent danger, and irreconcilable visions. The final sounds of the recorded coil (the muezzin call to prayer, the siren, the sounds of the raid) reproduce the cacophony of terror and assault no doubt heard in each of the Gulf Wars?though not in most were noticeably absent in the televised televised reports. Since the aural elements version of the wars, Griffiths's choice to begin with the sound of terror as well as the and ancient civilizations in the between modern sound of the implicit connections shared heritage of the alphabet are significant ways of rebutting amedia presentation of the vexed relationship between that largely filtered out complex representations Middle viewers voices Eastern may speak cultures. It tacitly demonstrates what over-saturated in the coverage, holes where human that there are absences neglect: in sounds both strange and familiar. and Western

the sound fades, the mute cockpit videos of strikes on important landmarks When are projected. These cockpit videos remind the audience that "technological simulacra neither displace nor deter the violent reality of war, they have become an integral part of its operational procedures."64 While again Griffiths's play draws media images into
the frame of the theatre, the difference between watching these strikes in silence,


the is a second significant way of re-defining the running news commentary, to the images and to the claims exerted by media coverage. relationship spectator's of identifiable The cockpit-videos targets are stripped of their false technological case against the use neutrality. In this opening tableau, the play also begins to build the a claims of waging the falsity of American of overwhelming force, and it exposes on or clean war. In fact, Baudrillard's of the duplicity description surgically precise both sides is an apt summary of the plot of Griffiths's play: "The Iraqis blow up in order to give the impression of a dirty war. The Americans civilian buildings

to give the impression of a clean war."65 In Griffiths's satellite information disguise installation and a cr?che. The the Iraqis will use a holy site as both a military play, their surgically precise will bomb the infants inside, with Americans it, killing

26 January 1992 and of "The Gulf Between Review Us," Milne, Telegraph, Sunday 1992: 105. The set for the play was designed in Theatre Record, 15-28 January by Hayden reproduced the sound by Mic Pool, and the lighting by Rory Dempster. Griffin, 64 4. Patton, "Introduction," 65 Baudrillard, Gulf, 62. 63Kirsty


the war

These are the very elements

speculative, and


spoke of when

he described



When daylight. Ismael, members front of phone,

is "abruptly plunged" the media show ends, the audience into harsh Arab Ancients comb through rubble for personal effects, and a teenage boy, area. Armed is charged with supervising the damaged already conscripted, of the People's Militia arrive, pushing a terrified and weeping bus driver in them. Ismael reads the document he is handed, listens to something on the and summarily executes the driver, shooting him in the back of the head. into the theatrical images and the use of technology then radically shifting to a scene that is both realistic and a demonstration Us begins its analysis with of the derived from media is This insufficiency coverage.

insistent recognition of the effects of neutral play's and on whole civilizations (the boy, Ismael) (the Arab moments the Arab infants and mothers). The opening, of the Ancients, spectacular the noise and confusion well be termed assaultive: of languages and play might referents overwhelm, and the audience finds itself confused and displaced, unable to sort out Arabic from English from gibberish. Yet the silence of the projected videos disturbs as well. Here, the silence stands in contrast to the sensory overload of media a brief meditative a place for inconclusiveness It provides and moment, coverage. emotions effectively brushed aside by the relentless chatter of media bewilderment, It is a beginning that announces the interpretive work ahead for presentation.
audience members.

the media By drawing of spectators and experience ordinary, The Gulf Between of information insufficiency linked to the immediately on individuals technology

In form, The Gulf Between Us is a postmodern pastiche that blends the fabular and in tone, it unrelentingly the naturalistic; ethical questions pits against nationalist rhetoric. To the extent that media of the 1991 Gulf War emphasized coverage immediacy, brevity, technology, and knowability, Griffiths's play offers the long view of history, stretching back to the Ancients, figures that open and close the play In the middle are the dead Iraqi children: exhumed from the carnage, embraced, named. The presence of the teenager armed with cell phone, gun, and soccer ball introduces the a visual recognition, perhaps, of the co-existence discordant note of modernity, of elements of religious secularism that the West tradition and contemporary finds indecipherable. The beginning of the play, then, is appropriately complex: the audience must make sense of the mysterious the voice coil, the attack, the execution, the juxtapo O'Toole, sition of empty desert and cell phone modernity In his notes to the play, Griffiths does not name the country where these events are set as Iraq, but he did express his hope that the production would tour in Syria, Iraq, and Palestine. He cast Palestinians as actors in the Leeds production because the play "demands politicized people, people who would, by dint of their own experience" understand the play's issues.66 Though the larger share of the play's criticism will be directed against theWestern Alliance for . . . the "murder of a quarter of a million another one or two people consigning]

66 Griffiths,



in order

Colleran Jeanne
to death

in the aftermath
a new world

and bomb[ing]
order,"67 the

the country back five thousand

play's opening scene of




the internal oppression acknowledges imposed on the Iraqi people as well. Ismael, the armed teenage soccer player, is a figure familiar from South Africa to Belfast of youth into movements Further, the brutality of the conscripted they do not understand. use of a shrine that they knew doubled as a nursery as cover for a unnamed regime's air is laid bare and criticized along with the Western Alliance installation military a capacity to stage complex moments attack. Griffiths has been praised for of history, of the range of power dynamics that come together in a moment understanding of The Gulf Between Us signal important political crisis, and the introductory moments that such understanding is at work in this play as well. When O'Toole reappears and resumes his recitation, he tells the audience that his and the "Gulf tale will be a triangular one, of the "Builder, the Gilder, the Minder" them." Actually, between these characters, Billy Ryder (the Builder), Chatterjee (the are joined by a fourth character: Dr. Aziz, the only Gilder), and Ismael (the Minder), woman character and the moral center of the play. By the end of the play, she will offer the most direct and damning indictment of the Western Alliance; she is able to voice such a clear and unequivocal because she is the only character in the play judgment are uttered, however, not compromised Before her denunciations by self-interest. Griffiths


the audience
and dupes.

to the comic

characters who

are at once

the war's

If a character could be invented as a single-handed refutation of the supposed and accessibility that character would of the media be Rafael coverage, objectivity or transnationality, and Finbar O'Toole. His name invokes a kind of rootlessness of view, he stands in because he is not associated with a fixed nationalist point to both government and nightly news anchor. Like the news opposition spokesperson anchor, O'Toole is the narrator of the events of them. But there similarities stop; O'Toole
narrator "doomed called to live the Gukha in Arabic who in his forever," Fallible is "anarchic, specific

as they unfold, and he is also the shaper is, Griffiths tells us, the equivalent of the
he is a fabular creature, devious, nonetheless someone and an anti-authoritarian, O'Toole cynical, manifests




and unaligned for the good; as a transnational figure, he hovers over the for action, and chorus-like, points out instances of heroism and identifies occasions Because he is cunning, O'Toole exploits the stereotypes of the stage Irishman: he pity. not wholly reliable. In is lazy, voluble, often drunk, given to rhetorical flourishes, Brechtian fashion, however, he always stands aside the qualities he exhibits, and in so as doing, reminds the audience of former (current?) English imperial prejudices. Even instinct he bedevils nationalist Pausing character

the stolid, working class Englishman, affiliation as prejudice.

Billy Ryder, O'Toole


over the odd identity of Rafael Finbar O'Toole is worthwhile since his is the one who has elicited the most vexed reaction from critics,70 one

Ibid., vii. 68 385. Garner, "Politics," 69 in Garner, 386. "Politics," Griffiths, quoted 70 in his review for The Independent Paul Taylor, (on 23 January his brilliant subject, but one around which Griffiths, abandoning



for example, and his

has written: customary

"a grim naturalis



to a largely negative appraisal of the play's combination of the historical real and the mythic fabular. The incident which the play draws upon?the bombing of on the viewers' memory of media the Al Amirya shelter?relies coverage, but the to sort out self-serving narrator O'Toole requires a different sensibility, one willing
rationalizations from ethically astute observations. Griffiths, whose reputation as a

his decision to realism, explained political writer was built on plays of dialogic with a kind of "third world magic realism"71 in The Gulf Between lis in this experiment in the same way way: "I don't think you can construct a political play in the Nineties as in the Seventies. It's very difficult to make political art, to make art of politics, at a time when people aren't making politics out of politics."72 In the play, O'Toole pivots between different realms, realms that can be seen as the realm of the media's relation to the Real and the under-valued realm over-privileged of the empathie imagination. Griffiths bathes O'Toole in a golden beam of light when the character serves his oracular function, but he just as quickly returns him to the company of the ordinary. O'Toole thus has a split identity, forcing audience members to reflect adjusting
has also

on the different positions is interesting he is inhabiting; what is how to a dynamic the audience to O'Toole's is a process analogous split identity
commonly experienced, that of a split-belief response to media stories.

defines this split-belief as the capacity "to believe and not believe at Margaret the same time," and she contends that such a tempered response is offered in response Morse
to news accounts.73 Morse suggests that while news remains a "privileged discourse"



an "indispensable
are so aware of

instances of


that is a "staple of democ

falsity, or inaccuracy in

to the viewing that they bring a "mixed state of mind" process. The reportage of this mixed attitude in turn requires viewers to adopt states of "artificial discomfiture is the underlying innocence" or "disavowal." What is disavowed and deeply disturb to them. that objectivity, truth, or real knowledge is largely unavailable ing suspicion on the other hand, wishes to capitalize on this discomfiture: Griffiths's the play, unreliable narrator and the very structure of the play itself force viewers to confront as historical accounts of what is presented their skepticism, acknowledge discrepant and judgment. for assessment Indeed, Griffiths reality, and find a new grounding to persist beyond seems to want the audience's discomfort the play's ending: what
to be disavowed is an uncritical acceptance of government explanation or media



If O'Toole's origins are unknowable, Ryder's are completely exposed. He is in the an entrepreneurial East because of Middle opportunity. Passing himself off as an expert construction supervisor, Ryder is actually a union brickie, attired inArmani and to make a financial killing Rolex from his recently acquired cash flow. Ryder wants war and then whisk himself back to early retirement in England. His name during the

a strange, raw in which tic mode, has chosen to weave off-beat comedy magical reality and mythic in Theatre Record, 15-28 January 1992:107. into uneasy alliance." Reproduced realism are brought 71 in the Nineties," in Stanton Garner, the Gulf: Trevor Griffiths is quoted "Politics Over Griffiths Modern Drama 39 (1996): 384. 72 383. "Politics," Garner, 73 "The Television News and Credibility," Morse, Personality Margaret Indiana University ed. Tania Modleski Press, 1986), 65. (Bloomington:

in Studies

in Entertainment,


Colleran Jeanne

but the parasitic economy of which he is a part. Inarticulate, uneducated, with colonial prejudices. He is, to he is a bred-in-the-bone neo-capitalist suddenly rich, 1993 play, one of Thatcher's Children. Unfortunately, borrow the title from Griffiths's his political obtuseness, interferes with his mercenary lack of sophistication, Ryder's economic desires. His bald self-interest, greed, and jingoism cause him to underesti mate his Arab employers, and he fails to pull off his great swindle and great escape. suggests Trevor Griffiths has written: "even though the Brits are at the heart of this play, not the moral centre of it."74Ryder's interactions with O'Toole and Chatterjee, they're whom he calls the "Paddy 'n' a Paki," and the animosity that grows between the three men during the course of the play draws attention to the fissures in British society at Ireland. Ryder's character further suggests that the New World home and inNorthern Order

is just Armani-clad
rectitude. In

H. Bush's view,

the new

world order

of the guises
was a phrase




to signal an alliance based on the shared belief in the supremacy of Western further, a respect for the "rules of rationality, corporate efficiency, and profit. Itmeant, law" rather than the "laws of the jungle."75 Bush's phrase was replaced by the more under Clinton and the more menacing benevolent language of "peacekeeping" under his son. Ryder is the trickle-down version of the idea coinage, "regime change," in profit and corporate efficiency, of the New World Order: he believes enthusiastically his own labor roots and his fellowship with other laborers. He is ambitious, ignoring
anxious to appear part of corporate management.

a rug has described the Gulf War as a competition between Jean Baudrillard salesman and an arms salesman, and something of this spirit is evident in the play76 of self-interest, each The first act of The Gulf Between Us is a comic competition reasons for re-building the bombed shrine/cr?che. character linked to self-serving The con game, played out not by the strategists, but by their action is a kind of geo-political a fast buck, and get out of the dupes. Billy Ryder wants to re-build the shrine, make Middle East. Ismael wants to look important, avoid the wrath of his violent superiors, the shrine rebuilt before the and play soccer. The invisible Iraqi leadership wants for Iraqi infants and that they are world discovers that it is really a crematorium complicit in the deaths of their own people. The leaders of the Western Alliance will site. that the holy shrine was anything but a disguised military disavow knowledge O'Toole wants to use the re-building of the shrine as a way of negotiating Chatterjee's
release from jail. In one of the play's many comic twists, O'Toole reveals that, ever the

trickster, he had added a gold tooth to the statue of the state leader, but let Chatterjee take the blame. O'Toole's actions are comic but also revelatory of the trivial reasons must Because all of these motivations Iraqis were imprisoned during the dictatorship. of various moments the first act is comprised hidden, and deception. Some of the action is both vaudevillian trickery, when O'Toole slams Ryder's hand with a brick. Other parts, like the the bus driver, are simply brutal. Dupes dupes, duping in their own powers of self-preservation confident supremely remain larger forces controlling
74 Griffiths, Gulf vii. 75 in Kendrick, Bush quoted 76 Baudrillard, Gulf 65.

of bullying, lying, and violent, such as Ismael's execution of characters are each and ignorant of the

their actions.







In stark contrast to the self-interest and the twisted complicities of the male characters is the figure of the woman doctor, Dr. Aziz. IfO'Toole can manipulate and out-talk the others, he is silenced by the stern and straightforward Dr. Aziz. She has come to investigate the whereabouts of the infants and to assure the Iraqi mothers, the play, that they are safe. Dr. Aziz refuses to be deterred, whose wailing punctuates and when searing. she sees the ashes of the children in the shrine, her response is swift and the longest in the play, offer the most direct political speeches, Her first condemnation is for George Bush: commentary These
And I have seen you, Mr. screen_And that yours President, I had is a country with your sensitive what and and sorrowing eyes expression but what you will not acknowledge in brutal shaped genocide.77 on the

television my world knows,

forgotten, forged



to the Western Alliance of the United States, Great second speech is addressed and the United Nations, them for hiding their brutality behind excoriating commensu like collateral damage. There is, for Dr. Aziz, no explanation euphemisms rate with the disproportionate and indiscriminate violence the West has committed

She looks down upon the charcoal figure of the immo against civilian populations. lated child, as the audience hears the soft tones of women repeating the names of their children, and she says: This will not be justified by invoking the evil of my rulers or the unavoidability

of your

or bribed or bullied This world is full of evil, look at those you bought damage." to give you houseroom restore to their thrones, and tell me look at those you would here, are worse. As how we for the unavoidable, how how think very you must stupid stupid, a decent human told us us, to imagine you for one second, when you have being believing and you hundred to tell the time on a child's from one wristwatch your ability a woman a on a man's the stubble face. We have parts her hair, a cameras of worship, tell us everyday is filled with children, holy place, place place your not a to burn it up.78 and you send a missile, bomb, wayward have shown the us miles, a side


does Dr. Aziz

spare Ismael: his good



and irresponsible.


Whatever Ismael's role is in the death of the children, by the end of the play he is a man. The blame for the execution of the bus driver will be passed along to how he has been used by the regime he serves, a him, but just as he comprehends of a cluster bomb rips into him. O'Toole eulogizes him as a fallen hero, and fragment like Dr. Aziz places blame on the regime for one kind of brutality, but on the Western Alliance for a greater one. His last speech explains the serpentine events of the play and lodges its final accusation. to cover-up the Ismael, acting on orders, helped failed to return bombing of the nursery. But he had been duped when his commander from the brothel and missed the call saying the bus driver had not re-located the children. He has executed the driver to protect his commander while the children were the "simply left there, forgotten."79 There is no doubt that the military had designated children as human enemy guided-fire shields; they had built a "control gear in the roof, a known target of since Day One."80 These events, that appeared inWestern news

77 Griffiths, Gulf, 78 Ibid., 49. 79 Ibid., 57. 80 Ibid.




Colleran Jeanne
the atrocious use of human shields, are described by O'Toole as a "pickle,"

What ismost clear is that may well object to such an understatement. like Dr. Aziz, has saved his anger for the Western Alliance. He poses the O'Toole, led by the U.S.: ethical question most pertinent to the new technowars and audiences
[W]hatever even yours, overlook?or know exactly happened could to proportion, see it was are doesn't being itwas this used used sort of thing for military as a nursery, stretch purposes oh come a touch, the credulity to but managed on Lord, these men

they at least overcome?that what they


Which aiming

is worse, a missile

asks O'Toole, at it?


a shrine and nursery


or knowingly

to the narrative The Gulf Between Us enacts a counter-history and perplexing, 1991 Gulf War. Difficult its offered through the coverage of the on the spot. created of narratives stands against the false transparency obscurity of the events of the targeted shrine; he, O'Toole offers no easy access to the meaning and the audience, with the assistance of Dr. Aziz, must labor to unpeel the layers of Trevor Griffiths's deception and cynicism, West's disproportionate of media images into achievements of a rich sight of the results of the narrator, its incorporation the theatrical frame, and its insistent reminders about the a and ancient Arab culture, The Gulf Between Us provides mainstream the war that is largely unavailable for assessing framework through stories such as those offered by the media to explain the war are the coverage. While of visibility which tap no historical under products of technologies quickly-devised or cultural empathy, Griffiths's such a simplistic Manichean standing play rejects into the civilized and the barbaric. It acknowl world view which divides humanity its unreliable edges that there is evil in the world, evil at work in the regimes that make puppets of their young and ashes of their children. Corruption, play greed, and incompetence economic of trickle-down their part. And there is evil in the mindless acceptance
theories that keep working-class citizens?the Ryders of the world?wedded to

to come, finally, upon use of violence. With

the irreducible


that will never

of proportionate


them. But, above all, the play asserts,

there is the

stories that do In The Gulf Between Us, a long view of history is set against media of a the complications of the political past or the achievements little to investigate
particular culture. Griffiths's play brings the enemy on stage, and the enemies' culture

to In Baudrillard's terms, the enemy is de-hysterisized. Refusing for all Arabs as servile or fanatical and thereby excuse the responsibility represent the play places on stage a reasonable, intelligent, and sympathetic patient diplomacy, character that reviles both the corruption of her country's leaders even as she rebukes Western hypocrisy. The play refuses the racist interpretation of Arab people as pre It also shows the Allied Forces and modern nomads or as irrational fundamentalists. is made familiar. as equivalent regimes when they make pawns of their young. And Iraqi governments the it refuses to allow the dead to be unnamed or made invisible. Griffiths personalizes of their names deaths of the innocent through the mothers' grief and the recounting
against the reluctance, in the Western media, to offer any extensive coverage of the

81 Ibid.

inflicted on the Iraqi people

or on the environment.



Most importantly, the play denounces the scale of Western retaliation. Through the ethical presence, The Gulf Between Us blasts speeches of Dr. Aziz and her unambiguous the false moralism of a nation that uses technological to evade moral superiority In the course of the six-week 1991 war, 250,000 Iraqis were killed. In the responsibility. course of the six-week 2003 war, the number of Iraqi dead is still not known. In between, economic sanctions contributed to the deaths of thousands more. Griffiths, the moral imperative of Dr. Aziz, restores the question of the scale of human through suffering to a conflict portrayed in the media as inevitable clash of the just war and the jihad. The question
or any other

that remains?the


upset, or at

rightly phrased?is
least unbalance,

the persuasive



is sufficient

ness and pervasiveness of media dominance and government censorship. Can itmake a tear in the fabricated that empowers the "symbolic force "appearance of unanimity" of the dominant discourse"? I believe two positive responses can be offered. the proliferation of media is the proliferation of alternative coverage channels devised by citizens trying to construct and disseminate informa tion: poetry readings, new journals, alternative presses, web "blogs," media watch organizations, organized opposition by noted intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn, publications by religious and political groups concerned with global and internet links to a crowded network of information sites. While no isolated justice, act of criticism can fell the Goliath of media domination, that the there is evidence network of engaged political critique and activism gathers strength from its variety and multiplicity. these alternative Socially relevant theatre can play its part alongside Alongside information
information venues, and it can capitalize on its particular strengths. More than other

forms of critique, politically engaged theatre, like The Gulf Between Us, can employ its own of what Keir Elam has called the "spectacle text"82?the composite understanding of meaning-making to the call attention signs that constitutes theatricality?to constructedness It can expose the incompleteness, of media presentations. subjectivity or partiality of news reportage; it can illuminate the limits of and it can spectacularity critique especially

the forms of narrativization demanding

be read


that underlie instantaneous coverage. Theatre, like Griffiths's, is an exercise in reading: such theatre
of the media images that precede them. Yet, they


succeed most when of how knowl they enable a more sophisticated understanding is constructed and transmitted media Walter Benjamin's edge through practices. is the mark of exploitation was extended by Brecht's insight that passive consumption that the spectator's position can be "ambivalently recognition split into exploiter and when the spectator plays a role in maintaining the circle of consumer exploited"
driven production.83 Theatre with an awareness of the prevailing media culture can


this closed

circle of passive


and enabling


Theatre might also address the contradictory desire of the new media both to place its spectators in a very specific milieu?embedded a particular military unit, within with thrilling immediacy?but also liberate them from space and time.84 The realization

82 Keir Elam, The Semiotics (London: of Theatre and Drama 83 Bertolt Brecht and the Theory ofMedia, 24. Mueller, 84 The Show and the Gaze of Theater, 19. Fischer-Lichte,






Colleran Jeanne

that viewers are to be both there and nowhere simultaneously perhaps explains the mix of estrangement and anxiety felt by the spectator. Instantaneous transmission both time and space boundaries, and round-the-clock coverage brings every collapses event into the private world, even as it filters out portions of information or context.
Theatre, conversely, demands that "production and reception are concurrent pro

cesses"85 which happen within a community, relying on the material and corporeal not It requires community, and it insists on context. It has been the just the visible. of intercultural its theatre?of which Griffiths's provenance particular play with is a part?to ensemble international seek links across historical and cultural acting In all of the following ways, theatre can summon forth both amore empathie divides.
and a more comprehensive assessment of events whose consequences last longer than

television lives: from its ability to interrogate signs and call attention their short-lived to the performative to its insistent concern for connections the between process, moment in stark opposition to and its anterior cause; for its sheer materiality present the virtual realities offered in the media; and perhaps most of all, for the live, situated, it depends. communal experience on which The second and final point to be made in defense of theatre's efforts to engage and in to produce perception is simply the reminder that the progressive social revolutions to the end of apartheid, began the twentieth century, from the Civil Rights Movement as minority efforts. These efforts grew by the hard work of grassroots organization, in the ranks, but they also grew in and perseverance self-sacrificing leadership, moments the image of amarch, or a funeral, or of high symbolic exchange, where?in an entrance through a university door?a break in the appearance of unanimity was is the greater part of the equation, the appearance of unanimity force of the dominant discourse; while the gradual erosion of the public role symbolic it is not beyond the of the arts against the preponderance of mass media is undeniable, of writers and activists to unsettle the appearance of unanimity. Arguably, imagination effected. the deepest urge of the performative
this "blooded

In Bourdieu's

is to try out all manner

thought"86 continues to be

of elusive,



provisional thought: and bloodless?times.

in our


Ibid., 20. 86 The phrase York:

is Herbert

Blau's 1982).


for theatre

in Blooded



of Theater


PAJ Publications,