Benedict Nightingale
Published: 05 May 2007

Jonathan Holmes’s powerful “verbatim play” begins and ends with Condoleezza Rice. Interviewed by al-Jazeera after 9/11, she declares that America is launched on a war against terrorism whose aim, like that of Islam itself, is “to protect the innocent”. Four years later she’s in a Presbyterian church, thanking God for looking after the American military as well as “those innocent Iraqis who suffer at the hands of these senseless killings by people who are trying to shake our will”.

But in between Holmes’s “verbatim play” – meaning a docudrama consisting of the private and public words of those Americans and those civilians – suggested that the events in Fallujah make My Lai in Vietnam look like an unruly clambake. The accusation is the one Tacitus made 1,900 years ago: they created a wilderness and called it peace.

It’s hard to review stuff like this. Indeed, it’s less a play than a sort of tribunal vivant whose evidence shocks and disturbs but hasn’t the authority of something that will never occur: an investigation by disinterested international figures into allegations of American atrocities in 2004 Fallujah. Just as you can’t indict Tony Blair for criminal warmongering on the basis of Called to Account, the hypothetical court case also playing in London, so you can’t be sure that the evidence assembled here isn’t selective or unreliable.

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