Retina scanning: Just like in the movies

Below is some truly amazing commentary I found while looking for more info on the iris scanner noted in Retina scanning Iraqi recruits. At a site called Bag News Notes I came across this post (with photo) of the US military retina-scanning civilians returning to Fallujah after the city was cleared in November of 2004: Your Turn: Facing Fallujah.

Is this the new face of occupation?

After seeing one picture like this, I kept finding more and more variations of it. Most of these shots are coming from Fallujah, where the U.S. military is using retina scan technology to try and keep this ghost-city in lock-down.

Because they are few and far between, you might also be interested in this Fallujah update (“We Regard Falluja As a Large Prison” – link) by David Enders in July’s Mother Jones.

I don’t think you can find a more evocative image. How do you eye it?

Now you may quibble with the sentiment, but wait until you get a load of some of the comments left on the post. Here’s a sampling:

The US forces are preparing the ground work for a “camp” (entire country of Iraq) for the citizens who no longer have any rights! How well fitting would the term be “Operation To Control and Erase the Personal Freedoms of Iraqi Citizens.”

Yeah, yeah. That would be a great op name. Same old same old. In fact, this almost seems to have been written by the The Iraq War Was Wrong Blog

This is the first photo I have seen of the iris ID. When I first heard about this, I immediately thought of the Nazi resistance museums in Oslo and Amsterdam

Museums in Oslo and Amsterdam use iris scanners? Oh. I get it. The US is (and correct me if I’ve got this wrong) being compared to the Nazis. Ah. So same old same old.

I was first reminded of “Blade Runner” the film which revolves around retinal scanning after the “double” fad (or cloning or the “doppelganger”) and the “greenhouse factor” come to pass (back in 1980 according to the script, I was a “Planetary Atmosphere” student during the Mars Viking Lander). Then I thought if all magic is science, science we just haven’t seen before, what might someone attribute to this “science” as they found out about it.

Whoa. Magic. Science. The “double” fad. Deep. Deep something… And I have no idea what he’s talking about when he mentions the Viking lander. He must have copied and pasted the wrong bit or something.

In America we have begun to believe that identity is electronic. How can we expect a soldier to look an Iraqi in the eye and know the first thing about what he’s thinking?

We can’t. The scan is for identification purposes. We don’t fingerprint someone to know what he’s thinking, do we?

That eye says try to keep me down with all you might I still know who I really am and what I stand for and it is not you.

On the other hand, this commenter seems to know exactly what that Iraqi is thinking, and she doesn’t even have access to the scanner’s readout. Good job!

Well, no, the eye isn’t looking at us, or at the soldier, of course; we are hidden behind a technological screen, the dream location for the exercise of unseen power, for power that is ashamed of itself. There aren’t any eyes in sight here; that’s an element in what’s unsettling in the composition of the image.

Ummm…I’ll let that one speak for itself.

Another reference would be some scenes from Brasil , where they had a small monitor and a big lens in front of it. If I remember correctly, some scenes show what the small monitor would ‘see’ through the lens, as if the machine would be able to decipher the human behind the lens by reading the image of the eye.

A “reference” is when someone intentionally refers to something else. These folks seem almost knowledgeable about film, though.

Another commenter points out the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States:


But he doesn’t state whether the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States reminds him of ‘Blade Runner’ or if it reminds him of ‘Brasil’. For all we know, it could remind him of ‘Stargate’, which included both an eye (that of Ra) and pyramids. And the spaceship landed on top of the pyramid, much like the top of the pyramid in the seal is above the rest of the pyramid. And the eye is in the top, and Ra was in the spaceship. Okay…I’ve convinced myself…George Washington and the Freemasons of Colonial America were from another planet and subjugated the free peoples of Earth. We’re all just waiting for James Spader to show up and set us free.


The picture reminded me of a cyclops. According to Hesiod, they were strong, stubborn, and “abrupt of emotion”. Their names eventually became synonyms for strength and power, and were used to signify especially well-crafted weapons.

The fact that he is human sized and not a giant leaves the impression that this monster has been shrunk to a manageable size, but even blinded & weakened the cyclops can still cause great damage.

Good grief. The ‘Pyramids of Mars’ ‘Stargate’ scenario made more sense.

There is an interesting subtext to the picture of the “iris scan”. In an insurgency, as we all know, the people living under occupation don’t have to militarily defeat the occupiers to win: they only have to be willing to continue to pay the price of warfare for a longer duration. In other words, they have to make the occupiers “blink first”. In this picture, the state-of-the-art technology is in the hands of the occupier, seemingly rendering the Iraqi man a subjected individual, defeated and passive. However, looked at another way, the steady, unblinking eye seems to be challenging the occupier, in mocking disregard for the technology, to blink first, thus rendering the occupier the true subjected individual, trapped in a situation of his own making.

Uhhh, it’s a still picture. That means that all the eyes are “steady, unblinking”. Does he think that this particular Iraqi doesn’t ever blink?

Folks, I know you think I’m just making this stuff up, but it’s just copy and paste. Unfortunately, that’s the end. And if you think I cherry-picked quotes and twisted them to make my point, you should go check out the original post. It’s just astounding to think that some folks really think this sort of commentary adds any meaningful insight into the debate.

I wonder if we were simply fingerprinting folks there’d be all this imagined subtext. But this page has some good eye scanning cartoons. Particularly the one bottom left.


  1. In America we have begun to believe that identity is electronic.’ I think that identidity will be organic for a long time…otherwise the clone stuff will begin very soon!