'War is hell'
- Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defence 
War has the strange habit of changing names. Truth being its first casualty is an old truism. But more than this, war involves a substitution of names. Deception comes after reality, whereas substitution precedes it. The fact that My Lai was only code for a whole series of villages in Vietnam is a perfect example . First the name is altered for strategic purposes - on the map, designating an area - then it is altered in reality, in execution. Flanders, Dresden, My Lai, Granai, Fallujah, Haditha. These are all substitutions; elections in lieu of erasure. Above all, war substitutes names of places for names of people. Sometimes instead of places it makes use of dates, or it combines the two together. We talk about Palestine 1948 and Palestine 1967. Now we can add to that list the names Balandi and Alokzai (Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 11th 2012). We have finally learnt the name of the US soldier who carried out the massacre but the 17 people killed remain nameless. Our media (in the west) have named one of the survivors, Mohammed Zahir, whose testimony has added certain details missing from the first reports: that people were forced to watch their relatives being shot; that bodies were set on fire; that the soldier laughed; and perhaps most importantly, that allegedly there was more than one of him.
Two days later (March 13th) we learn that a British Soldier has murdered his girlfriend in Manchester. Reflecting on the work of the GIP ('Groupe Information Prison'), Gilles Deleuze talked about the existence of a 'prison in the prison': a whole system of arbitrary and additional punishment exercised inside of the prison itself, the classic example being solitary confinement. 'Everybody knew about [it] but nobody saw it' . The role of the GIP was to make visible this second-degree, interior prison; to reveal the full force of its intolerability by means of a kind of vision. In the same vein we can speak of a war within the war, one that goes beyond the conventional dimensions of missions, surges, fighting seasons, negotiations etc, by refracting, elaborating and over-reaching them.
So it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is a whole system of brutalisation at work in this war of the last 10 years. Examples would include the routine of night raids in Afghanistan (40 a night); the effects of uraniam from armour piercing ammunition in Iraq; opium and heroin addiction among the Afghan population (about 2.7% in 2009); the number of injuries suffered by NATO troops (as opposed to fatalities); the number of soldiers going AWOL (over 17,000 UK Soldiers since 2003); the number of soliders serving prison sentences (in 2009 about 10% of the prison population in the UK) ; as well as the more frequently noted phenomena of Islamophobia, heightened police powers and use of torture.
Route Irish, Ken Loach's last film, was powerful because it brought the war home. A car bombs goes off outside a conference centre; a rifle pokes out the window of a block of new appartments (all glass, pine and stainless steel); a Muslim man has his door broken down and is beaten up; a former mercenary is waterboarded in a bussiness park lockup. Respondng to questions after a screening, Loach spoke of how the war had coarsened society.
What is the image of this coarsening? Maybe it would look like the face of Ralph Fiennes in the posters advertising Coriolanus. The face is covered with blood and dust, dust caked into plaques of hard black mud. The head is shaven and the eyes are gleaming. Coriolanus' image is of a man without sympathy - unbending, unyielding, driven by a singular will. However this singular will is ultimately shown to be entirely arbitrary, that is entirely abstract. It doesn't matter whether he fights for the Romans or the Volsces, only that he continues to fight, to make war without pause for remorse or tactical adjustment. This will-to-war is like a metal pole that has been pulled out of the ground. It has no fixed place. It is not embedded in the field of other people's concerns and is completely detached from the context of the world. Coriolanus is a man who has taken on the name of a place, a place he has conquered. Therefore he is war incarnate, the war within the war or the essence of war.
But this essence has a curious form. Rather than an interior kernel it is an exterior shell, a kind of exoskeleton, an accretion or crystallisation. War covers over the world like a scab. It overdetermines life. We are reminded of a creature from William Burroughs: a body hard and dry like wood, a soul grey and spectral like an inaudible radio frequency. In Naked Lunch a junkie pierces a vein in her thigh with a saftey pin and inserts a glass dropper. If the dropper breaks, 'what does she care? She does not even bother to remove the splintered glass, looking down at her body with the cold blank eyes of a meat trader. What does she care for the atom bomb, the bedbugs, the cancer rent, Friendly Finance waiting to repossess her delinquent flesh...' 
Perhaps this is why all politicians turn grey. Look at Obama, a president waging war in 6 different countries, who has sent 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, and tried his very best to buy time on Bush's Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq. He is the very picture of the invisible man, another Burroughs character. Thin, grey, spectral; a man without committment, whose greatest skill is to generate a kind of discourse that peels itself away from ideology; pure discourse, pure indication, pure significance/ insignificance, pure politics. It's even there in his walk. Bobby Rush, the former Blank Panther and congressman, observed it when Obama stood against him for a place on the Democratic slate in Illinois: 'Barack's walk is an adaptation of a strut that comes from the street. There's a certain break at the knees as you walk and you get a certain roll going... And he's the first President to walk like that!'  Or look at Blair in recent months. For the last few years they were dying his skin orange but finally the greyness has caught up with him. The most extraordinary thing is the way his hair has turned white - white like some ageless sorcerer. Meanwhile Cameron's artificial colouration is still holding up. But the effort of maintaining this complexion - perfectly smooth and plump, tinted a bizarre pink - is not without side effects. Steve Bell has captured it best in his cartoons, where Cameron's head is stuck inside a transparent contraceptive sheath.
The name of this war of the last 10 years, the war on terror, is convenient in this sense. It is another substitution: Terror = Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran etc. Of course we know that having a war on terror is tautological because war is terror. This is what Peter Sloterdijk shows in his book Terror from the Air. All modern warfare is a kind of terrorism, because with the advent of industrialised weaponry one moves from the principle of taking aim at the body of the enemy to the practice of poisoning, burning or razing his environment . One enters the age of total war, where civilians and soldiers cannot properly be distinguished, because every soldier is merely a part of a war-machine assembled out of factories, harbours, TV stations etc.
The limit-point of this development is total militarisation. Lenin foresaw this in 1917, when he wrote that the people of Europe had become almost invisible under the bristling mass of rifles and artillery that their rulers had managed to accumulate . In other words, modern war threatens to turn the world into one big weapons system. In this sense it is a kind of abstraction, which is nonetheless absolutely concrete; it is a fetish, a crystallisation that grows out of an interior essence, but which then comes to cover over its host.
A city 'calling itself Rome' is starving. Coriolanus, dressed in US army camouflage, addresses a crowd of protesters at the gates of the grain silos:
They are dissolved: hang 'em!
They said they were an-hungry; sigh'd forth proverbs,
That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not
Corn for the rich men only: with these shreds
They vented their complainings; which being answer'd,
And a petition granted them, a strange one -
To break the heart of generosity,
And make bold power look pale - they threw their caps
As they would hang them on the horns o' the moon,
Shouting their emulation.
Go, get you home, you fragments! 
The world of Coriolanus is a world where qualities such as sweetness, softness and tenderness no longer exist. People in this world have substituted vengeance for justice, base cunning for righteous anger, and honour for love.
 Leon Panetta cited in 'Death Penalty possible punishment for Afghan killings', The Guardian, 13 March 2012
 Tony Godfrey, Conceptual Art (London: Phaidon, 1998), p. 243. The real name of the village where the My Lai massacre took place was Tu Cung.
 Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, trans. Anne Hodges & Mike Taormina, ed. David Lapoujade (New York: Semiotext(e), 2007), p. 280. The GIP was an organisation initiated by Michel Foucault and Michel Defert in 1971 to research, lobby and protest on the issue of prisoners rights.
 On night raids in Afghanistan see Mark Benjamin, 'US staging 40 Night Raids in Afghanistan Every Night', Battleland, 19 September 2011
On depleted Uranium see CADU (Campaign Against Depleted Uranium)
On opium and heroin addiction in Afghanistan see 'Drug Use in Afghanistan: 2009 Survey', United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
On UK injuries see 'Operations in Afghanistan: British Casualties', Ministry of Defence
On AWOL soldiers see Michael Savage, 'More than 17,000 episodes of troops going Awol since 2003', Independent, 20 February 2010
On veterans in prison see Alan Travis, 'Revealed: the hidden army in UK prisons', Guardian, 24 September 2009
 William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (London: Fourth Estate, 2009), p.10
 Bobby Rush, cited in Tariq Ali, The Obama Syndrome (London: Verson, 2010), p. 27-8.
 Peter Sloterdijk, Terror from the Air (New York: Semiotext(e), 2009).
 'The predatroy war of 1914-17 [...] has brought all the forces of society to the brink of
complete catastrophe as they are "devoured" by the rapacious state power". V.I. Lenin, State and Revolution, trans. Robert Service (London: Penguin 1992), p. 12.
 Shakespeare, Coriolanus, Act 1 Scene 1.