This essay examines Claire Beckett’s Simulating Iraq (2007–9), a series of large-format color photographs that documents army personnel and civilian workers training American troops for military deployment by staging the theater of operations awaiting them. At the heart of this endeavor is the problem of cultural mediation through which the slippery notions of “us” and “them” or “friend” and “foe” are constructed and materialized. While such simulations of identity create effects of the real, they also elude definitive capture or specific localization. Beckett’s photographs capture the complicity and contradictions that course through the elisions among imaging systems, the field of perception, and the logic of military operations.

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