Grant Wakefield/Various, 'The Fire This Time: Deconstructing the Gulf War - a permanent record of the fate of Iraq and a guide to the language of mass-media propaganda'

IssueMarch - May 2003
Review by Daniel Garay

In 1985, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, all-round American patriot Colonel Oliver North met with Iranian businessmen in a hotel room in Frankfurt: “ of the things that we would like to do, okay, is we would like to become actively engaged in ending this war in such a way that it becomes very evident to everybody that the real problem in preventing peace in the region is Saddam Hussein, and we'll have to take care of that...


With this introduction, images of that tall, well-groomed military man in a maritime-blue suit reappear before us, uninvited, unwanted, but real nonetheless. And at that very moment, one is lost, and taken, engulfed by the fire this time.

Before you realise what you are seeing, you suddenly see that you are ... listening. And that is precisely the strength of this project - that it is an audio documentary. Not having ever heard anything like this before, I was stunned once again by how powerful audio can be. For one is not fed images, one conjures them up oneself, giving those images even greater force and credence.

The Gulf War suddenly comes rushing back, Iraqi soldiers running through cross hairs, those three golden newsletters blazing at the bottom of our screens. Be prepared to listen for the next seventy-seven minutes to this amazing, mind-blowing reconstitution of the Gulf War, what preceded it, and what came after.

Grant Wakefield, the creator of The Fire, takes us through the past, present, and future of the bloody conflict, by way of a clear and captivating narration intermingled with news sound-bites, drums, bass, and a whole range of industrial sounds.

It is only the first disc that is of interest, with the second being the instrumental equivalent of the first. But that first disc, with its thirteen tracks, is cleverly split into three parts, taking us on a linear journey through the reality of that war. It opens with five tracks that guide us through the build-up to the war, engaging us, asking us to think, to remember, and then dropping us at the height of history, on the eve of the war, at the end of track five.

The next four tracks are almost a mirror-image, by seizing us and throwing us back into the war, reaching an apex at the ninth track. By the end of it, we are drowned and disgusted. But there's more. Four final tracks, including a powerful statement by one former US Attorney General on US conduct in the Gulf War, lead us into a slow and reflecting finale about what exactly happened, and what was to come.

A truly powerful work of art, The Fire This Time is a nightmarish expression of that intangible, war. Listen.

Topics: Iraq
See more of: Review