In Frames of War, Judith Butler investigates how war has been framed by the state and by the media in such a way as to make the essential act of war—that is, taking human life—morally justifiable. She argues that the left, in particular, needs to reconsider what makes the loss of human lives "grievable." One aspect that she suggests intellectuals and policy makers should think about is the idea of "precariousness," which she argues is actually instrumental in justifying the use of violence. What we need to recognize is that the same state power that produces precariousness of life is deployed in processes that are supposed to protect it. To cite one example, the lives of Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein were portrayed as so precarious that the loss of many thousands of those lives in the war to remove Hussein was not deemed excessive. A great deal of this process, obviously, is due to the media, which Butler argues has become an integral part of the exercise of military power. The media has also been instrumental in portraying people in precarious circumstances, such as throughout the Arab world, as representing such a threat to Americans that their lives, when lost or oppressed (as in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib) are not grievable. These are the two main thrusts of what is a very complex series of arguments wound through several more or less distinct essays.
Source: Judith Butler, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (New York, Verso, 2009) 23-29.a