In a new chapter on sleep and sleeplessness in Ford Madox Ford and Siegfried Sassoon, Sarah Kingston offers some extremely suggestive observations on sleep, war and the disciplined body: "[I]n wartime especially, sleep is not a matter of individual comfort, but of national import. As such, sleep becomes not only a behaviour essential to productivity, but also one that is subject to discipline, therefore within the realm of disciplinary mechanisms. In essence, control over sleep becomes a point of threshold between public and private behaviour, and, as [Parade's End and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer] show, a point of resistance to the subjection of the body for public interest." Entitled "The Work of Sleep: Insomnia and Discipline in Ford and Sassoon," Kingston's chapter is part of War and the Mind: Ford Madox Ford's "Parade's End", Modernism, and Psychology, eds Ashley Chantler and Rob Hawkes (Edinburgh University Press, 2015).
Al Jazeera has just published a striking collection of photographs of the current war in Gaza - all scenes of Israeli soldiers and displaced Palestinians sleeping when and where they can.
A recent hearing (23 April 2013) of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which was devoted to discussion of the issue of 'drones and targeted killing', contained the following exchange between Senator Lindsey Graham and General James Cartwright, United States Marine Corps (retd):
Sen. Lindsey Graham: Gen. Cartwright, you're in Afghanistan. You walk up on a bunch of Taliban guys that are asleep. Do you have to wake them up before you shoot them?
Gen. Cartwright: No.
Sen. Graham: Why?
Gen. Cartwright: Because it's an area of hostility and he's a legitimate target or they are.
Sen. Graham: Mr Bergen [Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation, also testifying as an expert witness at the hearing], that's the point. Once you're designated an enemy, we don't have to make it a fair fight. We don't have to wake you up if we're going to shoot you.
For footage of this exchange, see 3.07-3.44 of the following clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF-w83crGA4
'We don't have to wake you up if we're going to shoot you'. There is a certain brutal unanswerability to the Senator's logic. Why bother extending the sleeper the courtesy of waking him up if he is going to be instantly dispatched back into the permanent sleep of death? Underpinning this exchange between the Senator and the General is the assumption that Taliban members are a species of what Giorgio Agamben calls 'bare life' -- that is, they have no political selfhood, no entitlement to the machinery of representation and justice, and are automatically 'killable' in the eyes of a regime that enjoys sovereign power over life and death. Also underpinning this exchange is the assumption that there is an absolute continuity between waking and sleeping selfhood. A Taliban is still a Taliban in his sleep -- provided that he is found sleeping in 'an area of hostility'. Or, to put it another way, sleeping in the wrong place is enough to qualify a person for membership of the Taliban.
What parts of ourselves do we set aside, and what parts do we retain, when we fall asleep? And to what extent does the location of our sleep influence these continuities and discontinuities? It is unlikely that a Senate Hearing will be the place where such questions are answered, but it is rare to see them raised with such chilling finality.