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asymmetries of terror Arrow vol 5 no 1 contents
About borderlands volume 5 number 1, 2006


Asymmetries of Terror: Visual Regimes of Racial Profiling and the
Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the Context of the War in Iraq

Joseph Pugliese
Macquarie University



'I awoke in your eyes
And cried with the sound of the dead'

—Bijan Rohani (2005: 65)

1. On the 23 July 2005, The Sydney Morning Herald carried the banner headline 'Bomb suspect shot dead on Tube.' The so-called bomb suspect was a Brazilian electrician working in London, Jean Charles de Menezes. The opening paragraphs of the report described the shooting in the following manner: "London police have shot dead a man suspected of being a would-be suicide bomber at an Underground station in the city's south. Witnesses said they saw officers shoot the man, described as South Asian, five times at close range after chasing him onto a platform at Stockwell Station yesterday" (Button, 2005a: 1). Soon after this initial report, the headlines changed to: "A bomb suspect? In the end it was a police fantasy" (Crabb, 2005: 12). As a series of leaked documents revealed, the "facts" that had been fed to the media and the public about this shooting were nothing but lies. It transpired that the block of flats in which de Menezes lived was under surveillance, as police believed a suspect tied to the London bombings lived there. The officer charged with filming the suspect was urinating in the bushes when de Menezes left the building and thus he failed to operate his video camera.

As a result, no reliable visual identification was made. The officer reported to colleagues that a male of the appropriate age had left the building, but advised that it would be worth someone else looking to obtain a positive identification. Scotland Yard nevertheless declared a code red, placing heavily armed officers on high alert.... Officers trailed Mr de Menezes as he boarded a bus, and travelled towards the Stockwell Tube station. Contrary to subsequent reports, he was not wearing a bulky coat or carrying a bag. In keeping with London's spell of warm summer weather, he wore a light denim jacket. Nor did he, upon arrival at the station, vault the ticket barriers - as claimed - in an attempt to evade his plain-clothes pursuers. The documents say he used his season ticket to get through the barrier, collected a free newspaper and proceeded calmly down the escalators, breaking into a run only when he saw that a train was preparing to depart. Upon boarding the train, however, he was approached by a group of police officers. One seized him while a second discharged 11 shots from a pistol at point-blank range (Crabb, 2005: 12).

2. It soon transpired that "Britain's top police officer, Ian Blair...tried to stop an independent inquiry into the shooting of a Brazilian man mistaken for a suicide bomber" (Button and Phillips, 2005: 9). Moreover, in an unfolding saga of institutional cover-ups, staff at Stockwell Tube station, where de Menezes was shot dead, challenged police reports that "they had no footage from inside the carriage or the platform as all five cameras were not working," and told investigators "that three of the four cameras covering the platform were definitely working on the morning of July 22. Staff say they do not know why the camera inside the carriage would not have filmed the moments when the Brazilian was shot by police" (SMHa, 2005: 10).

3. A journalist, in an article titled "Collateral Damage," recounts de Menezes' last moments through the words of an eye-witness: "Mark Whitby was a passenger on the train when de Menezes burst into the carriage. 'He looked from left to right...he looked like a cornered rabbit, absolutely terrified,' Whitby said. Plain-clothes officers were 'hotly pursuing him...he half tripped and was half-pushed to the floor. The policemen nearest to me had this black, automatic pistol in his left hand. He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him.' Whitby said de Menezes was wearing a thick coat, but he also described the Brazilian as 'Asian'" (Button, 2005c: 28). Later reports amplify this execution-style shooting: "A witness statement from one of the officers on the train claims he grabbed Mr de Menezes around the body, pinioning his arms, while another officer fired at the man at a distance of about 30 centimetres" (Crabb, 2005: 12). Whilst de Menezes was pinned to the floor of the train carriage, one officer "fired seven bullets into his mouth and jaw and another into his shoulder" (Button, 2005c: 28).

4. In this section of the essay, I want to focus on the "police fantasy" that was disseminated and reproduced as "fact." Contrary to sneering and facile dismissals levelled against scholars working in cultural studies that they are mired in relativistic swamps that render them incapable of distinguishing between fact and fiction, I want to focus precisely on this distinction. In particular, I want to focus on how fantasy and fiction are transmuted into factual reality by the violent exercise of power. Let me add that this theoretical view on the nexus between power and facticity is no longer merely the purview of cultural studies scholars. For example, the American journalist Ron Suskind cites a recent exchange he had with a presidential aide working for the Bush administration. In this exchange, the presidential aide admonishes the journalist for his "failure to understand the functioning of presidential power post 9/11":

The aide said that guys like me were in what we call the reality-based community, which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world works any more," he told Suskind. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." (McGeough, 2005b: 8-9).

5. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our reality" - the Foucauldian thesis on how regimes of truth and facticity are fundamentally constituted by imperial relations of power could not be more succinctly illustrated than by the words of this presidential aide. This exercise of power in the construction of facticity has been transposed beyond the safe confines of the White House to the ongoing military debacle unfolding in Iraq: "Since early this year [2005], the [US] military's 'information operations taskforce' in Baghdad has used Lincoln Group [a Washington-based firm that specialises in 'strategic communications' in combat zones] to plant stories in the Iraqi media that trumpet such things as the successes of US and Iraqi troops against insurgents, US-led efforts to rebuild Iraq, and rising anti-insurgent sentiment among the Iraqi people" (Mazzetti, 2005: 13). In defending accusations of disseminating lies-as-truth, Major-General Rick Lynch replied that: "We don't lie. We don't need to lie. We do empower our operational commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public, but everything we do is based on fact, not based on fiction" (Mazzetti, 2005: 13).

6. The invocation of the war in Iraq, and the imperial exercise of power as instrumental in constructing facticity and reality, is not tangential to the concerns of this essay. As I discuss below, the London bombings are inextricably tied to the ongoing war in Iraq. Left to the modest practice of studying how "history's actors" function to constitute both our fantasies and our realities, I want to turn my attention to the manner in which the lies and fantasies disseminated by the London police, after the shooting of de Menezes, became unassailable reality - with incontrovertible reality effects (see for example, David Mery's harrowing account of his arrest by London police soon after the shooting of de Menezes [Mery, 2005]). The police versions of the events that led to the shooting of de Menezes generated their own material momentum in the context of the British capital. For example, circulating on the net a few days after the shooting of de Menezes was a photo of a cautionary warning penned on a whiteboard, under the rubric "Service Information," at Notting Hill Tube station: "NOTICE TO ALL PASSENGERS: Please do not run on the platforms or concourses. Especially if you are carrying a rucksack, wearing a big coat or look a bit foreign. This notice is for your own safety. Thank you" (see figure 1).

Figure 1: "Service Information," Notting Hill Tube station, 26 July 2005.

The Persistence of Vision: An Anatomy of Visual Regimes of Racial Profiling

7. I now want to examine in close detail the events that led to the killing of de Menezes in order to bring into focus the forces at work in transmuting police fantasy into violent facticity. Let me replay the scene of Jean Charles de Menezes' flight and shooting in order to flesh out the complex discursive relations that were instrumental in the killing of de Menezes. As de Menezes steps outside his flat and proceeds to walk down the street, a regime of visuality activates the stereotypical iconography of racial profiling as it resignifies his ethnic identity from Brazilian to (South) Asian: in advance of any offence he is racially suspect. I draw attention to the regime of visuality that is set in train in the course of his walk to the station in order to interrogate the idea that his death was just an "unlucky accident." The concept of his death as an "unlucky accident" founders on the invisibilised systematicity that constitutes the modes of operation that underpin racial profiling. The term visuality materialises the discursive relations of power that effectively constitute, regulate and determine what it is we see. On the part of the police officers surveilling and pursuing him, there was nothing purely physiological in the seeing of de Menezes in the final hours of his life; on the contrary, the physiology of seeing was mediated at every level by a racialised regime of visuality that proceeded to resignify virtually every aspect of de Menezes' person. A post-mortem anatomy of this regime of visuality would disclose the following raciliased parts:

•  racialised phenotypology: de Menezes' phenotypical features - his olive skin, his black hair and bushy eyebrows - are transmuted into the stereotypical signifiers of the Orientalist figure of the terrorist: a Brazilian thereby morphs, fatally, into an Asian.

•  racialised kinesiology: de Menezes kinetic repertoire - his ambulatory movements and his gestures - are scripted in terms of the suspicious movements of the figure of the Orientalist terrorist: the kinesiology of breaking into flight in order to catch a train preparing to depart only serves to confirm his latent criminal intentions.

•  racialised vestiture: de Menezes' clothing - his jacket - is invested with a terroristic charge as it is semiotically padded out with a loaded presence that is in fact founded on a marked absence: there is no bomb under that jacket, yet he is visually resignified in terms of an ambulatory ticking bomb that is set to explode.

8. What I am drawing attention to here is the visual regime predicated on racial profiling that was active in the actual perception of de Menezes by both the police and the public. In terms of the eye-witness accounts of de Menezes' final moments, one member of the public described him as "Asian," another described him as "South Asian," whilst another said that he "appeared to be wearing a belt with wires strapped to it" (Button, 2005c: 6). Operative in the racialised regime of visuality that was constitutive in the perception of de Menezes is a type of persistence of vision or retina lag. In film theory, persistence of vision or retina lag is a phenomenon that refers to the "inability of the retina to follow the signal stimulation in rapid fluctuations. The process of image stimulation continues beyond the initial stimulation for a fraction of a second, merging separate images with one another, thus creating an illusion of a continuous and organic procession of moving images" (Metallinos, 1996: 49). Racial profiling, I would argue, can be viewed as a type of persistence of vision: a racially inflected regime of visuality fundamentally inscribes the physiology of perception so that what one sees is in fact determined by the hallucinatory merging of stereotypical images that are superimposed on the object of perception. Visual perception is here inscribed with its double, that is, with a disquieting superimposition and a barely perceptible asynchrony. In this context, as de Menezes runs down the station platform and enters the train carriage, he is in a sense running ahead of himself: a Brazilian electrician is running to catch a train to work; following directly in his wake, in the space of a barely quantifiable retina lag that renders the one and the other the same, is the hallucinogenic figure of an "Asian terrorist," outfitted with "a belt with wires strapped to it."

9. Operative in this persistence of racially inflected vision is an asynchrony between one's self-perception and how one is perceived: a retina lag opens a spatio-temporal quantum moment in which what is envisioned is not equivalent to one's self-envisioning, in which one's self is neither self-identical nor correlative to the visual thematisation of either the police or the eye-witnesses. This phenomenology of visual asynchrony, however, is fatally fused in the moment of the shooting of de Menezes; in this violent moment, Orientalist spectre, terrorist phantom, suicide bomber, and Brazilian electrician - all synchronise in an instant of undephasable simultaneity. Contrary to the police report, an eye-witness in the train who was sitting opposite de Menezes reports that he was not shot whilst running from police: "Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me. He pointed the gun at the right hand side of the man's head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man's head when the first shot was fired" (Crabb, 2005: 12).

10. The systematicity of this regime of racial profiling needs to be juxtaposed against the scripting of his death in the police reports in terms of a reactive automaticity - that is, as a type of "automatic" or "inevitable" reaction in a time of high stress and pressure (see, for example, Button, 2005c: 28). This police scripting of the shooting as an example of reactive automaticity in the face of stress is fundamentally undone by the systemic nature of the racial profiling deployed by police in their dealings with de Menezes prior to the shooting. De Menezes' friend, Gesio de Avila, who also lives in London, recounts how "The police stopped him [de Menezes] sometimes because he used the Underground every day. They would ask him some things and then say 'sorry' for stopping him. There was no reason for police to stop him. There was nothing suspicious about him" (Harrison, 2005: 6). If there were any automaticity inscribed in the police's actions, then I would argue it is to be found in their deployment of racial profiling in the case of de Menezes. The deployment of the sort of ethnic descriptors instrumental in racial profiling automatically disables the basic legal requirement of "show cause," that presumes that a subject is innocent until proven otherwise. From the moment that de Menezes was compelled, against his own knowledge, to embody the criminalising ethnic descriptor of "(South) Asian," he was precluded from inhabiting the legal category of "person"; rather, the legal category of person was replaced by the alegal category of "prey" who, surveilled and pursued by the police, became fully exposed to the discretionary powers of officers armed with the license to shoot-to-kill.

"Collateral Damage": The Electronic Morgue of the Iraqi Dead

11. The effacement of the systemic role that racial profiling played in de Menezes' death is exemplified by media reports that situate his death, in the words of one journalist, in terms of "collateral damage in the 'war on terror'" (Button, 2005: 28). Collateral damage is what happens in the margins of war. Represented as an indirect result of the major events that unfold in the larger theatre of war, collateral damage is minoritised through such euphemisms as "accident" and "bad luck." As a ruse, then, collateral damage effectively obscures the discursive - and not accidental or incidental - relations of force and violence that are instrumental in its production and to which it is inextricably tied. To begin to situate the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the contexts of the death of the other civilians who died in the July 7 London bombings and the tens of thousands of civilians who have died during the course of the ongoing war in Iraq is to begin the labour of identifying and naming these structural relations of force and violence that bind seemingly unrelated subjects and events to larger geopolitical networks of violence and power. Les Roberts, author of a study published in the Lancet on civilian mortality in Iraq since the outbreak of war concluded that: "This past February [2006], before the outbreak of open civil war...200,000 or more Iraqi civilians have died violent deaths. In the initial study, he said 80% had died from coalition air strikes. So we have 80,000 Iraqi civilians by this study's estimates dying from coalition air strikes in the first 18 months in the war" (Gupta, 2006).

12. The database at Iraq Body Count, that maintains a daily record of the civilian casualties that have resulted from the continuing war in Iraq, lists the total civilian dead as between 38 355 and 42 747 (Iraq Body Count 2006). Even as this website serves the critical role of documenting the ongoing death toll of Iraqi civilians as a result of this war, at the same time this website evidences the violent asymmetries that operate in the differential valuation of human lives. Where the 9/11 New York dead will be individuated at Ground Zero through the inscription of all their names on a memorial wall, the Iraqi civilian dead are dispatched to this electronic morgue as so many anonymous numerals. At this electronic morgue, flesh and blood bodies are decorporealised into so many algorithmic digits. As electronic morgue, this necrological tabulating machine has an infinite capacity to absorb its digitised corpses. Once processed in this electronic morgue, the Iraqi dead are deposited in a cyber columbarium constituted by two boxes:

Iraq Body Count

Civilians reported killed by military intervention in Iraq



38 355

42 747

13. What occurs in that spectral cyberspace marked by the bar between the Minimum and Maximum? What flickers and wavers between this discrepancy of numbers? Who inhabits this macabre space marked by the suspensive hiatus of the dead and the undead? In this indeterminate space are to be found the Iraqi dead who are also undead, lost souls denied even the most minimal conditions of signification.

The Legislated Terror of Ius Terrendi : The Violence of Racial Profiling
as a Practice of Everyday Life

14. In attempting to articulate seemingly disparate connections between geopolitical networks of violence and power, I want to transpose the shoot-to-kill policy that enabled the killing of de Menezes and the power of visual regimes of racial profiling to the Australian context, with a particular focus on the recently passed Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005. Soon after the London bombings, Michael Roach, former ASIO Assistant Director, publicly advocated that "the public" deploy their mobile phone cameras in order to photograph figures "of Middle Eastern appearance acting suspiciously": "They [the public] need to be given a criteria as to what they should be looking for and there is a criteria. What the public needs to be looking for, what trained officials need to be looking for, is somebody standing in a corner, somebody who is holding onto their backpack, somebody who looks really concerned and anxious...And [of] Middle Eastern appearance" (AAP 2005 and Lateline 2005). As I have argued elsewhere, the ethnic descriptor "of Middle Eastern appearance" is a fundamentally flawed and untenable category, as the racialised entity it attempts to represent exceeds the geopolitical and ethnic bounds of any identifiable figure, precisely because it encompasses an impossible heterogeneity of nationalities and bodies that fall outside of the Orientalist construct of the "Middle East"; as such, the figure "of Middle Eastern appearance" is compelled to inhabit the paradoxical "locus of the non": non-legal subject inhabiting no geography as such (see Pugliese, 2003).

15. What Roach's exhortation underscores is an implicit racialised caesura between "the public" - as the representative, normative white corpus of the nation - and that racialised target of hyper-surveillance - the figure of "Middle Eastern appearance" - who, by definition, occupies an other space located outside the corpus of the nation (see Abood, 2001). Even as they live and work within the civic spaces of the nation, Arab and/or Muslim Australians and figures "of Middle Eastern appearance" are simultaneously positioned as interlopers who must be kept under constant surveillance and who are now at risk, under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005, of being detained without charge for two weeks under the law of "preventative detention." The law of "preventative detention" will ensure, in the words of Joseph Wakim, Australian Arab Council of Victoria, that Australia's Arab and/or Muslim citizens "will be treated as guilty until proven innocent" (1999). This law, in other words, will function to criminalise a subject before the fact of having committed any criminal offence: in advance of the fact, the subject is not only presupposed to be guilty, they may also risk being detained without being told why they are being held. The Bill enables a new regime of hyper-surveillance: it empowers the police with stronger "stop, question and search powers" and it states that a person served with a "control order" be "require[d] to wear a tracking device" ( ). Most disturbing of all, the Bill allows for a "shoot-to-kill" policy with regard to persons who attempt to resist being taken into custody or who, detained under a "preventative detention" order, attempt to escape.

16. There is little doubt that the proposed Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 , with its rule of "preventative detention"/criminalizing subjects before the fact, is predicated on racial profiling directed at Muslim-, Arab-Australians and figures "of Middle Eastern appearance." This has been evidenced by the fact that Mark Burgess, chief executive of the Police Federation of Australia, has argued that many of the new powers inscribed in the Bill will lead to the racial profiling of Australia's Arab and/or Muslim communities:

Australia's 50,000 police want the federal Government to indemnify them against civil lawsuits accusing officers of "racial profiling" of Muslims under the new anti-terror laws. Despite John Howard assuring the Muslim community yesterday that they would not be singled out under the new laws...the Police Federation of Australia said it was "inevitable" that police would focus on Muslims. "Everyone's skirting around this but no one is saying it," said the federation chief executive Mark Burgess, who represents federal, state and territory police officers. "If the intelligence suggested that the likely terrorist will be a young male of Middle Eastern appearance, then they are the people that will be searched," Mr Burgess wrote in a report to be submitted to the Government (Kearny, 2005: 1).

17. In the face of this claim, the Prime Minister has "denied that the laws were designed to target a particular group. 'There is nothing in these laws which is aimed specifically at the Muslim community or indeed any other communities,' Mr Howard said" (Kearny, 2005: 1). I want to unpack the double logic at work here. On the one hand, the government disingenuously asserts that the new counter-terrorism laws will not target Australia's Arab and/or Muslim communities, maintaining that any racial profiling of these communities will be a type of unintended system effect. On the other hand, those charged with practically applying these new counter-terrorism laws, the police, disclose the very systematicity of this system effect - that is, racial profiling is shown be an "inevitable" result of these laws as it is both encoded and enabled within the very discursive practice of these laws. Situated within this seemingly contradictory schema, I would argue that the Bill simultaneously disavows and generates racial profiling and, as a consequence, furthers the criminalisation of Australian Arab and/or Muslim subjects (see also Nasser-Eddine, 2002 and Poynting et al., 2004).

18. In order to illustrate the everyday, lived effects of this racialised caesura (whereby Arab- and/or Muslim-Australians are legislatively precluded from inhabiting the civic spaces of the nation) and its racial profiling regime of hyper-surveillance, I draw attention to a number of documented incidents that occurred after the Australian government's distribution of its counter-terrorism booklet, Let's Look Out for Australia:

Several participants described how, following distribution of the booklet, their neighbours reported even routine domestic activities and family gatherings. One woman was reported to her real estate agent by a neighbour for washing her balcony with soapy water.

My neighbour called the agent and said, 'She's putting chemicals on the property!' The agent came immediately - it was the first time he had ever come.

A close friend was walking on the beach with her son and his wife and grandson...the police came within 20 minutes of them being on the beach because someone rang and said 'We have to report to you something suspicious' only because she was wearing a scarf...Suspicious circumstances are a woman wearing a hijab walking in a public space, and a young man that might be wearing Islamic dress in a public space (HREOC, 2004: 68-9).

19. The quintessential Australian spaces of the suburban yard and the beach here become dangerous, no-go zones for Australian Arabs and/or Muslims and suspect figures "of Middle Eastern appearance." These iconic spaces, wherein the Australian "way of life" is played out, become locations where racially profiled subjects risk being criminalised merely because they are conducting the practices of everyday life: washing a balcony, walking on the beach. The exclusionary effects of these legislated regimes of racial profiling have been graphically underscored by the race riots at Cronulla beach, in which random figures "of Middle Eastern appearance" were chased and violently bashed by white supremacist vigilantes ensuring their turf was not trespassed by racially marked subjects. Suvendrini Perera, in her analysis of these race riots, has disclosed how the beach was inscribed with the charged rhetoric of "the homeland": "On this ground of the homeland culture war becomes race war becomes war on terror" (Perera, 2005). Situating the figure of "the homeland" in a complex mesh of geopolitical and racially charged corporeal formations, Perera demonstrates precisely how "The homeland as such is a construct that generates racial terror" - with all of its attendant violent effects (Perera, 2005).

20. Critically reflecting on the manner in which the law of a nation is equivalent to text-as-country, Peter Goodrich, invoking Pierre Legendre, describes the manner in which law is "something inhabited, something that surrounds us and that we live through. In its name we live and die; it is inescapable, it is reason, it is the symbol of life, it institutes us" (1990: 278). The exorbitance of this power of law is fully disclosed when Goodrich describes it as "a space containing all civilised people, a text, a country to which the subject either belongs or is expunged through the law of territory, of terreo - a terror arbitrated by means of ius terrendi or ius submovendi , which can be translated loosely as the power to erase from the map" (1990: 278). The domestic circulation of the counter-terrorism booklet, Let's Look Out for Australia , inaugurated the move to quarantine Australia's Arab and/or Muslim citizens from the corpus of the nation. The circulation of fridge magnets, that were included with this booklet and that carried a counter-terrorism hotline number, ensured the entry of the spectre of terror into the very hearth of the Australian home. These counter-terrorism fridge magnets must be seen as "domesticating" the rhetoric of terror, that is, these fridge magnets function to script terror as part of the very domestic fabric of everyday life. This domestic rhetoric of terror is predicated on a regime of suspicion and fear of the Arab and/or Muslim: they are the figures that must always be watched, even as they stroll on the beach or wash their balcony. The consequent passing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005 must be seen as formally translating into law this inaugural attempt to expunge Australian Arab and/or Muslims from the map of the nation. And I refer here specifically to the law of criminalising racially profiled subjects before the fact of any criminal offence through "preventative detention" without charge. Inscribed in the powers of "preventative detention," and coupled with new powers of "control orders," "stop, question and search" and "shoot-to-kill," this Bill effectively establishes an enhanced regime of surveillance of Australia's Arab and/or Muslim citizens and residents. Indeed, as underscored by the Cronulla race riots, subjects "of Middle Eastern appearance" are already, within the current politically charged climate, figures who are tropically off the map: interlopers within the civic spaces of the nation, they have already been dispatched to the locus of the non-: non-Australian Australian, non-citizen citizen, non-resident resident, non-criminal criminal...; the seriality of these legislated paradoxes is testimony to the inventive power of a legislated terror arbitrated by means of ius terrendi (see Pugliese, 2005).

"Service Information": Infrastructural Whiteness and The Spatio-Temporal Dimensions of Race

21. I want to return to the image of that cautionary warning penned on a whiteboard, under the rubric "Service Information," in a London Tube station soon after the shooting of de Menezes:

NOTICE TO ALL PASSENGERS: Please do not run on the platforms or concourses. Especially if you are carrying a rucksack, wearing a big coat or look a bit foreign. This notice is for your own safety. Thank you.

"A bit foreign" is polite, white British code for people of colour. Situating this racialised warning under the rubric of "Service Information" discloses, in a rare moment of unavoidable naming, the institutional nature of the governing racial schemas that organise the everyday life of a nation's subjects. What would otherwise operate at the level of implicit racialised knowledge is here serviceably broached: the articulation of the discursivity of race - in terms of its epidermal schemas and phenotypical hierarchies - as precisely something embedded within the networks of "service information" that effectively orient the practices of everyday life. The myth of a liberal, colour-blind society is momentarily ruptured here through the naming of the coloured subject marked as a "bit foreign" in contradistinction to the normative white corpus of the English nation. In other words, what is exposed here is the presupposed whiteness of the British subject. This presupposed whiteness must be seen as operating in terms of an infrastructural whiteness that inflects, inscribes and structures - institutionally and otherwise - the very epistemological and ontological infrastructures of a society.

22. Within the civic spaces of the London metropolis, a regime of racialised visuality inscribes its transient subjects as either obviously "foreign" or self-evidently "native." What is operative here is the spacing of race, its literal and metaphorical spatialisation in terms of an ontology of the visible; this ontology of the visible is predicated on a range of phenotypical indices (colour of skin, hair and so on) that self-evidently signify a subject's "foreign" or "native" status. On another level, the spatialisation of race works in marking the very spaces, sites and locations that a subject may traverse in the course of their everyday lives. In this context, the spaces of the everyday must be seen as operating, simultaneously, along two disjunctive axes: the self-evidently "native" (that is, white) subject traverses these civic spaces without needing to take heed of the cautionary warning supplied by "Service Information"; in contradistinction, for the self-evidently "foreign" subject, everything is at stake in their movement across these same civic spaces.

23. This spatialisation of race must also be seen as inscribed by a temporal dimension. One of the categories that organises the display of information on this Tube notice is "Time." Under the category of "Time," as that category which informs passengers of the time-span for which the notice is valid, the information supplied is "all day." Here the spatialisation of race is shown to be temporally marked: within the public, exposed and scopically monitored (CCTV) spaces of the city, the spatialisation of race operates in terms of an unrelieved duration: "all day." The message encoded here for the "foreign" subject is that a regime of racialised visuality is always vigilant and watching. Even when it is momentarily distracted, as it was in the case of de Menezes (pissing in the bushes as it were, instead of keeping its eye on its target subject), it persists in seeing what it is already programmatically (pre-)determined to see: for example, a terrorist figure of "Asian" appearance in the face of a Brazilian electrician. That a Brazilian is effectively interchangeable with an Asian signifies that the category of the "foreign" is already visually predetermined and precomprehended - serviceably so, precisely when the "foreigner" fails, in a fatal manner, to represent his identity ("Brazilian") as non-identical to the ethnic descriptor ("Asian") that has been superimposed upon him.

24. In the face of this racialised visual regime of surveillance and monitoring that is of an unrelieved duration, any subject who fits the ethnic descriptor ("Asian" or "of Middle Eastern appearance") that is being targeted is compelled to experience the civic spaces of the nation in an altogether radically different manner to the self-evidently "native." The civic spaces of the city become spaces of uncivil danger, fraught with racialised taunts, repeated security checks and harassment, and the possibility of both symbolic and physical violence. It is at this level that the spatial narratives of race unfold: what detours, points of occlusion, safe interstices and circumnavigations are available for the racially targeted subject who has no choice but to traverse certain spaces and sites of the city and who must plan in advance their itinerary in order to short-circuit personal risk and possible violence? As always with questions of race, issues of equity and access are here thrown into crisis; and, in this context, these issues of equity and access are simultaneously marked by the inscription of gender. And I refer here to the recent report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Isma Î : Listen , that documents the symbolic and physical violence experienced by Australia's Arab and/or Muslim citizens and residents: "Physical attacks, threats of physical violence and attempted assaults were widely reported during the consultations. Muslim women were particular targets of physical violence carried out by strangers. Consultation participants reported numerous incidents of women in hijab being spat at, of objects being thrown at them from passing cars and of their hijabs being pulled off" (2004: 47).

25. Who is able both to traverse and occupy the civic spaces of the nation in an untrammelled manner? In order to answer this question, I want to invoke the testimonies of some of the consultation participants quoted in Isma Î:

Myself and my husband since September [11] have been abused in the city square several times and in one instance a man threw rocks at us and cut my niece's face.


My aunty was walking on the street in Granville and this guy drives past in his car and threw stones at her and she fell to the ground and was lying on the ground and after a while a stranger came by and then she was taken to hospital.... and till this day she is afraid of leaving the house.


Just yesterday for example [26 May 2003] my mum and brother were walking on the street and someone threw eggs out of the car at them.


I was picking up my children from the local Islamic school at Broadmeadows and on the way home a lady tried to run me off the road.... The woman kept yelling things like "We'll fix you, you nappy heads" and "Get the f... out of our country you terrorists." (HREOC, 2004: 48)

26. These testimonies of racialised violence articulate the manner in which the civic spaces of the nation are becoming off-limits to particular target subjects. At work here is a systemic movement of foreclosure that ensures that select subjects will literally fail to appear within the civic spaces of the nation. This movement of foreclosure must also be seen, as I argued above, as one of erasure, in which the institutional nature of racial discrimination will effectively wipe the face of the Arab and/or Muslim from the face of the nation. I refer here to the testimony of a Muslim school student and the fact that "The school had blacked out the young woman's hijab in the class photo in an effort to make her blend in with the other non-Muslim girls": "I spoke to the photographer and he blamed the principal, and I spoke to the principal and he blamed the photographer. The principal in end said 'Well, she stood out too much'" (HREOC, 2004: 86). The virulence of ongoing assimilationist demands, underpinned by a violent Islamophobia, that inflects the practices of Australian civic life is encapsulated in this student's testimony, where the marker of religio-cultural difference, the hijab, must be literally erased within the context of the annual school photo. What are the consequences of this physical and symbolic erasure of the Arab and/or Muslim from the civic spaces of the nation? That the Arab and/or Muslim are not civic subjects as such: they can only appear within the spaces of the civic in the context of mediatised-theatricalised police raids on suburban homes and streets, and in the politically charged contexts of prison cells, courtrooms and riots.

Exit Wounds and Unconditioned Suffering:
"Democracy Assassinated the Family that Was Here"

27. I want to stage a final return to the shooting of de Menezes in order to examine the larger system of relations within which his death is situated. From the site of his shooting at Stockwell Tube station, the London railway grid can be read as metaphorising an expansive movement of invisible yet tangible lines of connection. In a tropic movement, these grid lines fan out from the imperial centre in order to encompass seemingly disparate geopolitical locations all marked by the imprimatur of empire: UK, USA, Iraq, Pakistan, Africa, Brazil - locations that must be thematised in terms of their disavowed relations. A bungalow in the Brazilian town of Gonzaga, where a Third World family ekes out a subsistence existence supplemented by de Menezes' remittances from a First World city, is, within this topological grid, indissociably tied to the imperial operations of the "axis of the willing" in the Iraqi theatre of war. One of the captured London bombers, Osman Hussain, an Ethiopian-born British citizen, declared he and the other bombers "were motivated by anger over the Iraq war, not by religion": "The men, all immigrants to Britain from East African states [and from Pakistan], watched films - 'especially those in which you saw women and children killed and exterminated by the English and American soldiers, or widows, mothers and daughters who were crying'" (Button, 2005b: 6; and Button, 2005d: 6). These are the disposable and invisibilised Third World deaths and woundings that did not figure within representations of the London bombings. As the obverse of the metropolitan dead, these deaths, generated by the imperial search for security and its war of terror, are what must remain unthought within the City's commemorative one-minute of silence - even as these other deaths continue to generate the very conditions of possibility for the ongoing reproduction of terror.

28. The concept of "terrorism" must be wrenched from its eurocentric range of signification in order to be situated within a larger geopolitical range of contexts and meanings. Terrorism must be understood in terms of that which is unfolding in the context of the coalition's war in Iraq. The magnitude of the terror unleashed by the "axis of the willing's" war in Iraq largely fails to register in the west. Viewed purely in terms of body-count statistics, the numbers are overwhelming. I refer here to a recently released report that failed to make headlines in the west:

In the first public disclosure that the US military is keeping track of some of the deaths of Iraqi civilians and security forces, it has released rough figures for Iraqis who have been killed or wounded by insurgents since January 2004. The estimate, though incomplete, was significant because the US military had previously avoided virtually all public discussion of the issue. According to the information, contained in a single bar graph, Iraqi civilians and members of the security forces were killed and wounded by insurgents at a rate of about 26 a day in early 2004, and at a rate of about 40 a day later that year. The rate increased in 2005 to about 51 a day, and by end of August [2005] had jumped to about 63 a day (SMHb, 2005: 10).

29. 63 Iraqi deaths a day: these are deaths that fail to figure in the west - anonymous deaths without identities or subjects, detritus of bodies, uncivil deaths that do not perturb "our" peace, precisely as they are effectively "contained" within the circumscribed parameters of "a single bar graph." The rituals of mourning and the pain of loss can only be enacted in the civic spaces of the western metropolis, New York or London: in these spaces, every death is experienced and mourned as a first death. Elsewhere, each death is reduced to the seriality of a body count or to the economical enumeration of a single bar graph.

30. Terrorism is what was perpetrated, and consequently covered up, by US marines in Haditha, Anbar province, Iraq, 19 November 2005. John Murtha, a US House of Representatives Democrat describes the massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians by US marines:

The killings were unprovoked. They included girls from 14 to a one-year-old baby. One woman, as I understand it...was bending over her child, pleading for mercy and they shot her in cold blood." Mr Murtha said that after the roadside bombing of a military convoy passing through Haditha, marines killed a family of five in a nearby taxi before entering two houses where they shot 19 people. The US ABC network has carried an interview with a 12-year-old girl who said that her father was killed as the marines entered her house and they then killed her mother and her sisters, who were cowering in a bedroom. She was huddled with them and pretended to have been shot. (Gawenda, 2006: 8).

31. The girls killed by marines "were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates" (Knickmeyer, 2006). One of the victims, Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, "took nine rounds in the chest and abdomen, leaving his intestines spilling out the exit wounds in his back, according his death certificate" (Knickmeyer, 2006). The viscerality of pools of blood, entrails and other signs of fatal traumata were largely obliterated by setting fire to the houses. After the massacre, the marines unceremoniously dumped the "bodies of the victims in the gardens of the hospital and left without explanation, said Mohammed al-Hadithi, one of the hospital officials who helped carry the bodies inside. By some accounts, some of the corpses were burnt" (Knickmeyer, 2006). No explanation needed; no military-masked terror here, only the execution and dumping of a truck-load of Iraqi civilian carcasses. "Most of the shots...were fired at such close range that they went through the bodies of the family members and plowed into the walls or the floors, the physicians at Haditha's hospital said" (Knickmeyer, 2006). As so many secondary wounds, the pockmarked holes of the walls and floors, left by the bullets after they tore through the bodies of these civilians, bear silent testimony to this massacre. The graffiti scrawled on the wall of one of the houses in which these executions took place names what continues to remain unsaid in this war of terror: "Democracy assassinated the family that was here" (Knickmeyer, 2006).

32. The Australian journalist Paul McGeough has been trying to draw attention to the terror lived on a daily basis by the children who live in the Iraqi city of Basra, where the US-led coalition, during the 1991 Gulf War, dumped "an estimated 300 tonnes of depleted uranium munitions in the region" and a further "2000 tonnes were used over a significantly wider area in the 2003 invasion of Iraq":

Dr Janan, who heads Mother and Child's department of paediatric oncology, rattles off the figures - before the 1991 war there were 3.2 cancers for every 100,000 in the population. That figure has jumped to 22.4, and birth defects are up in similar proportions. Most of the cancer cases are leukaemia in children aged four months to 15 years. The real situation is probably worse. "Some cases don't get to hospital and others go direct to Baghdad," she says. "In 2003 we had 190 new child cancer cases; last year we had 200." (McGeough, 2005a: 11).

Words of Blood: The Violent Solicitation of Ethics

33. In the context of the violence, death and suffering experienced by the civilian population in the wake of the coalition's war in Iraq, the words of Mohammad Khan, one of the London suicide bombers, resound in my ears: "Our words have no impact upon you. Therefore I'm going to talk to you in language that you will understand. Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood" (quoted in La Guardia and Tweedle, 2005: 1). The words of blood that Khan articulates must be read in terms of his attempt to name the subjects of violence that continue to remain invisibilised and unnamed within the mediascapes of the west: "This is how our ethical stances are dictated. Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people and your support of them makes you directly responsible.... Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we will not stop this fight" (quoted in Govan, Tweedle and Stokes, 2005: 7).

34. I quote these words in my to attempt to make those that the west brands as "terrorists" the subjects, and not the objects, of their own histories.[1] In the narratives of the west, these "terrorists" abruptly emerge from their mysterious haunts in order, irrationally, to unleash violence. As ahistorical demon figures, they are dislocated from situated and complex socio-historical contexts. Thus the repeated shock and surprise, after the police investigations are released, that these "terrorists" were actually born in our country, inhabited our suburbs and even worked in our workplaces. I am referring here, for example, to the shock that rippled across the UK when it was revealed that one of the London suicide bombers, Mohammad Khan, was born in Leeds, "worked as a mentor in primary schools and helped immigrant children settle into education when they arrived in Britain" (Govan, Tweedie and Stokes, 2005: 7). I was in London soon after the July bombings and was struck by the banner headlines that repeatedly focused on that fact that, in the video testament that Khan left before his suicide bombing, he spoke "in a measured Yorkshire accent" (see, for example, Govan, Tweedie and Stokes, 2005: 7). This fact was repeatedly scripted as "chilling." In other words, Khan, as "terrorist," failed to live up to the west's stereotype of an irrational, Middle Eastern-born demon figure, speaking with the identifiable accent of a foreigner. In his carefully managed video self-representation, Khan refused to perform the Orientalist figure of a gun-toting, rapid-fire ranting, wildly gesticulating Muslim fanaticist. Encoded in the chilling shock that Khan spoke in "a measured Yorkshire accent" is the disavowal that a British-born subject might also be the rational perpetrator of violence. Effectively, this shock underscores the manner in which violence against the other person must, within these anglocentric media scripts, always be seen as coming from outside the nation.

35. What must be underscored in Khan's testimony ("This is how our ethical stance is dictated...") is his use of the term "ethical" in his attempt to clarify the violence of his actions in relation to the violence perpetrated by the coalition's war in Iraq. On first reading the word "ethical" in Khan's testimony my immediate reaction was to refuse the possibility that his violent actions could possibly encompass any understanding of the term "ethics." I simply could not recognise his violence as a form of ethics. Yet, a faint Levinasian voice haunted and provoked me in this very denial of the ethical to Khan. This Levinasian voice performed a compelling "solicitation" (understood precisely in the Levinasian sense of "to disturb absolutely" [1987: 65]) of my assured and proprietorial understanding of the term "ethics." This solicitation of ethics found its lucid, yet still unsettling, articulation in one of Jacques Derrida's profoundly Levinasian meditations:

That pure ethics, if there is any, begins with the respectable dignity of the other as the absolute unlike, recognized as nonrecognizable, indeed as unrecognizable, beyond all knowledge, all cognition and all recognition: far from being the beginning of pure ethics, the neighbour as like or resembling, as looking like, spells the end or ruin of such an ethics, if there is any (Derrida, 2005: 60).

36. On the other side of the border of pure ethics, if there is any, is what Derrida terms "the political": the domain of "the like, knowledge, cognition and recognition, technique and calculating law, all of which require knowing and recognizing the like and the same as units of measure" (2005: 60). As always, it is precisely the political that moves in to assimilate and transmute the other into the same, thereby instantiating the ruin of ethics. Yet, in my very marking of Khan's "ethical stance" as nonrecognisable (as ethics) lies the possibility of an other ethics that interrogates and overturns a politics that simulates ethics whilst effectively destroying the animating spirit of ethicity as such. I mark this problematic not in order to plunge ethics into a quagmire of relativism but, on the contrary, to call for a rigorous marking of the disingenuous position adopted by the coalition forces whereby they arrogate the ethical position in relation to "terrorists" even as they reproduce ongoing epistemic and physical violence through the waging of imperial wars - in Iraq, for instance. In effect, the west (the USA, UK and Australia) decries the violence of the "terrorists" whilst effectively occluding and disavowing, through its self-righteous and proprietorial "ownership" of ethics, the enormity of its own state-sponsored violence. Situated in this context, Khan's "ethical stance" solicits the very foundations of western ethics, with all their doxic knowledges and proprietorial categories, in order to disclose the disavowed violence that these same "ethics" enable. In other words, I am here attempting to identify what is too shocking to contemplate and what must necessarily be occluded: that there is indeed an "unrecognisable ethics" underpinning Khan's "ethical stance" (Pugliese, 2006).

37. In the context of Khan's condemnation of the atrocities being perpetrated in Iraq by the coalition of US, British and Australian forces - "Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we will not stop this fight" - I want to raise this question: In what way may the Iraqi citizens killed by coalition forces and insurgents not be seen as so much "collateral damage" but as murder victims of an imperial war that lacks the legitimating imprimatur of the international community? In order to begin to answer this question, I want to argue for the temporary suspension of the charged epithet "suicide" in the sensationalist term "suicide bomber." I argue for this suspension in order to begin to articulate a series of double standards that are effectively effaced by the deployment of the epithet "suicide."

38. The suspension of this epithet allows for the so-called "terrorists" to no longer merely signify in terms of mad, fanatical, religious extremists. The suspension of the self-referential qualifier "suicide" means the London bombers can no longer be viewed in terms of purely individual agents solely connected to clandestine terror cells; rather, they become implicated within larger violent relations of power. This is not to deny the significance of the term "suicide" for the actual bombers in the context of their political and/or religious beliefs. Nor do I wish to deny the material significance of their self-destruction as also an act of suicide. Rather, this tactic of temporary suspension, whereby the London suicide bombers simply become bombers, enables the violent actions of the London bombers to be viewed as coextensive - in a specular and asymmetrical manner - with the military actions of the western military forces bombing Iraq. Moreover, the coextensiveness of this relation discloses the manner in which the London bombers have in fact been internally produced (internal, that is, to the British nation) by the very exercise of violent military power that they oppose. Understood in the context of this larger schema of violence, as what has been internally generated and enabled, the term "suicide" begins to lose that sensational sense of self-referentiality that has been so effectively mobilised by western media and governments in their condemnations of the bombers (on the problematics of the self-referentiality of suicide, see Derrida, 2005: 45).

39. The political valency of continuing to script the London bombers in terms of "suicide bombers" hinges on the strategic manner in which it dislocates them from the implicating and compromising relations of power that connect their actions directly back to the violence exercised by western powers in the Middle East. As "suicide bombers" they can only be understood as autotelic agents. In suspending the self-referential epithet "suicide," the London bombers emerge as paramilitary agents operating within larger western economies of violence. Viewed as bombers who kill civilians in the context of war, the apparently indivisible line between murder and suicide becomes blurred (see Derrida, 2005: 35).

40. This unsettling of seemingly distinct categories - inside/outside, murder/suicide - must also be examined in the context of national sovereignty and borders. If the war in Iraq has illustrated anything, it is that the integrity of national sovereignty is only selectively respected and that national borders become flexible and moveable according to the politico-economic-military power that the aggressor nation can exercise. I am referring here to the US administration's imperial doctrine that the borders of the US begin wherever its national interest is at stake. The US Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, articulates the violent dynamics of this double logic of security through the exercise of war: "Outlining a series of initiatives implemented to make the country more secure...Ridge said the reason terrorists have lashed out in Iraq and elsewhere is not because the United States is failing in its efforts to defeat terrorism, but because it is succeeding. 'These successes remind us why we fight,' he said, 'because every single victory in a faraway land makes us safer here at home'"' (Simple, 2003). The attenuating fable of the "faraway land" serves to relegate the lived reality of the lands in the violent grip of US imperial war, Iraq and Afghanistan, to the status of innocuous myth. The imperial scope of this search for security manifests itself in the colonising outward sweep of the US military: "'That's why,'" explains Ridge, "'we work so hard to extend our zone of security outward. So that our borders are the last line of defense, not our first line of defense. And that's why we built security measures that begin thousands of miles away'" (Simple, 2003). Viewed in this context, the London bombers' public declarations that they are fighting against the war in Iraq on British soil graphically reproduces the west's own doctrine. The London bombers' insurgent violation of national borders, and their transposition of the war in Iraq to Britain, must be seen as a specular, if dramatically asymmetrical, reproduction of this violent double logic that so insistently cuts both ways.

Proscriptive Whiteness and The Entry of the Alien Wedge

41. I want to return to the British media's obsessive focus on the fact that Khan spoke, in his video testimony, in a "measured Yorkshire accent" in order to unpack in some detail the sort of racialised postcoloniality that continues to script the way in which Asian-British subjects are represented in contemporary Britain. The repetition of the "surprising" fact that Khan spoke in a "measured Yorkshire accent" marks, I would argue, the limits of British national belonging for Asian subjects, as it materialises essentialist constructions of national-identity predicated on proscriptive notions of whiteness. This symptomatic repetition discloses a tacit understanding that an Asian-British subject speaking in this way must be viewed as a type of anomaly or aberration. Furthermore, the repetition of this fact serves to signal that there is a misalignment or mismatch between the Asian body speaking and the white-encoded accent in which she or he is speaking. This repeated focus on Khan's Yorkshire accent must be seen as yet another example of proscriptive whiteness, that is, there is encoded here a sense of racialised propriety over Englishness: despite the fact that he was born in Leeds, Khan's Yorkshire accent violates the racialised code of the "proper," in terms of what types of bodies may speak in an accent that is, tautologically, the rightful property of white English subjects. The British politician Enoch Powell brings this point into sharp focus: "the West Indian does not by being born in England, become an Englishman. In law, he becomes a United Kingdom citizen by birth; in fact he is a West Indian or an Asian still" (Gilroy, 1993: 46).

42. This misalignment between how one looks (Asian) and how one sounds (English) establishes the conditions of possibility for what Paul Gilroy graphically terms the "entry of the alien wedge": "legality, the ultimate symbol of [English] national culture, is transformed by the entry of the alien wedge" (1993: 85). The entry of the alien wedge is what functions to disturb the legal order of the land. This structural misalignment that I have been drawing attention to functions to equate Englishness with the rule of law and "criminality with un-English qualities" (Gilroy, 1993: 77). Gilroy has traced the genealogy of this equation back to the formation of the British nation-state in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and "anxiety about the criminal predisposition and activities of the immigrant population" (1993: 77). It is precisely the hegemonic hold that this equation possesses that serves to occlude the long history of violence perpetrated under the laws of British imperial-colonial rule as another form of terrorism. In the contemporary context, it is this equation that serves to legitimate the violent colonial occupation of Iraq as the bringing of the rule of law to another lawless land, rather than another instance of the exercise of imperial violence.

43. The structurality of this misalignment between the Asian subject and the signifier "Yorkshire" must be seen as being played out at a higher level of cultural signification. In Khan's case, the Asian-British subject has moved beyond his proper locus, the cosmopolitan metropolis and its racially polyglot urbis , and he has now interpenetrated into the very regional heartlands of Britain. "Yorkshire" must be understood a metonym for white Englishness: its metonymic range of signification encompasses both the iconic English landscape of the Yorkshire moors and the white working-class ethnoscape represented in E. P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class . In the context of Thompson's representation of this white ethnoscape in his landmark history, the non-white subject, as Gilroy reminds his readers, can only signify as a type of satanic interloper. Gilroy quotes this passage from Thompson: "I dreamed I was in Yorkshire," says John Nelson, a stone-mason, "going from Gomersal Hill-Top to Cleckheton; and about the middle of the lane I thought I saw Satan coming to meet me in the shape of a tall, black man, and the hair of his head like snakes" (1993: 11).

44. Post the London bombings, this satanic figure has legitimated a number of violent raids on the homes of British Muslims. On June 2 2006, Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot in the chest in a night raid at his home in Newham. He was arrested and held for more than a week under the Terrorism Act , before finally being released without charge. "I believe," he said three days after his release, "the only crime I have committed is being Asian and having a long-length beard" (Muir, 2006: 9). "All my life I just wanted to work and feed my family and support my mum and dad. I work over 50 to 60 hours a week, and for them to come into my house like that, to shoot me in my chest and to say I am a terrorist - that really hurts" (Muir, 2006: 9). After Kahar's public testimony of the violence he endured, Scotland Yard finally apologised for this bungled raid.

45. As objects of the west's histories, "terrorists" can only signify as demonised figures wholly devoid of either reason or ethics. From the heights of a dubious moral ground, the west continues to wage its imperial wars and to wreak violence and suffering on women, men and children - whilst simultaneously disavowing the enormity of this violence. Let me add that precisely what I am not trying to do in this unfolding of multiple violences, in which the victims are largely civilian, is to establish an either/or scenario: either one mourns the victims of the London bombings or the victims of Iraq; either one condemns the military occupation of Iraq by the west or the violence of the London bombers. The divisive imperialism of this violent logic is what was perfectly captured in president Bush's crusading slogan: "Either you're with us or against us." Rather, I am attempting to situate words saturated with the blood of civilians within complex geopolitical relations in order to disclose implicating lines of connection that refuse to absolve the west of its own disavowed barbarism and violence, of its own state-sponsored terrorism. What I am asking is that we think these two different violences at the same time - that we analyse these two forms of violence as inextricably conjoined and marked by asymmetrical relations of power.

46. These asymmetrical relations fundamentally divide along fault-lines of techno-economic-military power. In Iraq these violent relations of power reach into the everyday lives of the people of Basra contaminated by the depleted uranium dumped by coalition forces. Dr Amar Abdul Al-Muhsun, who works at one of the chronically under-resourced hospitals of Basra, explains the lived effects of these asymmetries of techno-economic power in the context of his civilian patients:

We don't have drugs to treat tumours. I have a patient with tumours who is unconscious and I don't have drugs or a bed in which to treat him. I have two women with advanced ovarian cancer - but I can give them only minimum doses of the drugs they need. Two or three days ago we had to cancel all surgery because we had no gauze and no anaesthetics. Our wards are like stables for horses - not humans.... If you are sick don't come to this hospital for treatment. It is collapsing around us...we're going down in a heap. (quoted in McGeough, 2005a: 11).

47. From the collapsing heap of this Basra hospital, with its lack of basic medical resources and its unmedicated patients, an unconditioned suffering emanates. From outside of the Iraqi nation, an implacable, hegemonic, state-sponsored violence descends and unfolds: it grips the lives of Iraqi civilians and only releases them in death. From this space, as from innumerable other places in Iraq where civilian deaths continue to mount in the wake of what goes by the name of "liberation," a fragile line of connection holds. It establishes points of relation between what must otherwise remain unthought: that the bombings in London did not erupt out of a vacuum; that the language of the bombers was a language of despair articulated in the measured tones of a Yorkshire accent; that a terrifying form of ethics informed an explosive cry for justice; that, in this time of terror, it is only words of blood that are invested with enough power to be heard.

48. It is only in this context that I can comprehend the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. In this context, to reduce his death to the mere "collateral damage" of the war on/of terror is to violate his memory and to efface the thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths with whom his death is indissociably tied. With this thought in mind, I want to end this essay with a meditation provoked by that cautionary warning penned in a London Tube station a few days after the killing of de Menezes:

Service Information: pinned to the floor of a railway carriage, a young Brazilian morphs into the figure of an Asian, phantom figure of terror singularly marked by the seriality of an ethnic descriptor that encompasses an impossible heterogeneity of non-white bodies. In the quantum moment of a retina lag, the ethnic descriptor superimposed on his face becomes his death mask. Yet his public execution resonates beyond the confines of a western metropolitan space as it momentarily brings into focus the violence exercised daily on the lives of civilians in other spaces by this war of terror. A metonymy of dead bodies establishes lines of connection, spilt-blood-lines, between disparate nations: Brazil, Iraq, Pakistan, Africa, Britain... The obscene compilation of a body count - that ticks away on a website keeping tally of the daily deaths in Iraq - becomes an economical reminder of what would otherwise go unmarked: so many Iraqi bodies reduced to the status of cadaveric numerals, they achieve this minimal status of intelligibility only on condition of being rendered anonymous/numbers.

Service Information: the look of the other is always a bit foreign.

Unassimilable to your gaze, the other emerges in a moment of misalignment between your sameness and their difference. Along this axis, this fraught margin of alterity, everything is at stake. It is along this border that killings and woundings are perpetrated. In the context of state-sponsored terrorism, this fissure opens the possibility for the execution of civilians, precisely as it delineates the contours of so many serviceable deaths.


Associate Professor Joseph Pugliese is a cultural theorist in the Department of Critical and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney. Email:


[1] I am grateful to Himani Banerjee, whose words I am here paraphrasing, for this insight. Himani Bannerjee, "Roundtable on Critical Race," Critical Legal Conference, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, September 2005.


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Wakim Joseph (1999) "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" at: Accessed 14 October 2005.


Abood, Paula (2001) Of Middle Eastern Appearance . Sydney: Metro Screen.

© borderlands ejournal 2006



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ISSN 1447-0810