The incoherent discourses that justified the Iraq War were not politically ineffective; to the contrary, they trapped opponents in rhetorical disputes that failed to upset the war effort. The personalized ridicule of President Bush and the ‘I Told You So’ narrative behind Cindy Sheehan’s opposition to the Iraq War confirm that rhetorical challenges to state violence often fall into traps like those set for disputing homophobic discourse. Treating the Iraq War as the result of a personality problem, anti-war rhetoric created an economy of ridicule that failed to engage larger questions of geopolitical power and furthered a politics of identification that dismissed criticism before its claims could be evaluated. The ‘I Told You So’ narrative created an emotional politics of shared truths that helped produce large publics critical of the Bush Administration, yet they developed greater commonality through celebrity and amateur policy expertise rather than a political plan for ending the war.
While direct action did not end the war, the Code Pink interruption of John McCain’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention revealed a disruptive power of bodies that lies outside their rhetorical suasion and thus the politics of identification. The queer theory of a politics based on this disruptive power is similar to direct action, in that both are centered on bodies, but it relies on bodies as subjects of desire rather than their objective ability to blockade space. Following Dean’s distinction between suasive bodies and bodies that mutter, the paper finds that subjects of desire can evade dismissive categorization. The politics of bodies that mutter blurs boundaries, which uncovers potentials not otherwise available, and introduces shared trauma, which produces events by disrupting the symbolic machine of power. This politics was not widely used in the opposition to the Iraq War, but it builds on other activist practices, such as queer militancy and radical clowning, which have shown the power of disruption. Ultimately, what the Code Pink disruption shows is that direct action will not be queered by adding more glitter or being more fabulous, which would further the politics of identification, but the productive failure of desire that escapes easy categorization through the becomings the follow in the footsteps of Samuel Beckett, who mutters: “Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. … Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”104