Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the wedding of two war zone/conflict photographers (an oversimplification of their work) by providing the roasting pigs for their wedding feast. As I have looked at their work on and off over the past couple of weeks, and as the Syria “intervention” has loomed, I have been thinking about violence and war, particularly genocide. About ten years ago, first in undergrad (yes, it took me 12 years to get my bachelors) and then in grad school, I proposed a reconfiguration of our understanding of genocide and its role — ever present, I argue — in war, which I redefine as “group directed violence.” The reconfiguration is simple: In every act of group-directed violence, there is always already an element of genocide, and in every act of group directed violence there is always already an element of Ir- or Hyper- rationality; full blown genocide requires no, nor represents any, break with traditionally conceived rationality, nor does it require a break from, nor representation of, a break with “ordinary,” “everyday” war.
Marking people for death by dint of their inclusion in a group called “Syrian,” and even if ostensibly only “enemy” soldiers (we generally very nonchalantly accept civilian deaths), is born, however slightly, of a genocidal impulse. That kernel of a genocidal impulse is there from the moment we even start to think about launching the first missile, firing the first bullet, or lobbing the first mortar round. War and genocide are two sides of the same coin.