Bioethics Blogs

“He didn’t blow us up”—routine violence and non-event as case by Ken MacLeish

This case is a story that a soldier told me. I call her Kelly, and she said it was “the craziest story I was gonna get” from her. So for her it was an extreme, a worst case, but also a kind of telos of conditions she lived with and feelings she felt every day in occupied Iraq. It was a case of something not happening. As is fitting for those tensions of normalcy and emergency and rule and suspension that characterize state violence, it was both exceptional and part of a pattern: the pattern of soldiers’ embodied terror and vulnerability (even as they surely inspired terror in vulnerable others) and the pattern of the mechanisms that shaped their thought and action. It was a case of something that might have happened to Kelly but didn’t, that she might have done but didn’t do, and of things that were treated as if they were real even when they turned out not to be. It was a case of a potentiality or hypothetical attaining a curious afterlife of actuality.

Kelly was a junior enlisted engineer in her early twenties who spent a tour in far western Iraq building bridges to replace ones that had been destroyed by the US counterinsurgency campaign. Kelly was in her unit’s headquarters section and so spent a lot of time convoying around with the company commander, making thrice-weekly visits to the bridge construction site. She was the driver for their high-riding utility truck, called an LMTV, in the middle of a small convoy of similar vehicles and Humvees.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.