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Mar 15, 2006

New Post Office

(the regular, full size image here)

This photo, taken Tuesday, did not come in a frame.  That was my doing.  However, I suppose it will end up in one shortly, if not in the Dunham household, then on Representative Kuhl's wall.

The image, which appeared on the White House website Tuesday, shows Bush signing a bill to rename the Scio, New York post office in honor of Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, who died in Al Anbar Province, April 2004.

Cpl. Dunham has been dead two years next month, possibly just enough time having elapsed to charm Brother, Sis and Mom with this signed proclamation from America's head cheerleader.  (Dad, on the other hand, is not so quick to be bought off, managing to give himself to the camera with some genuine complexity.)

In what feels like a rush to create the evidence of compassion, the White House gathers the family in an airport lounge.  Without a thought as to composition, Dad's head nearly hits the picture's edge; the image falls away toward a bare corner; a low hanging picture has an airplane pointed at Brother's head; and the shot is cluttered up with random chairs, one clearly holding the Dunham's plopped-down effects.  (It's a picky additional point, but the White House caption also has the parent's names out of order.)

More than anything else, however, the picture feels like a collage. So discrete are the parties, the three individual older men, along with the back three figures, could as well have been spliced together.  More significantly, neither Bush nor U.S. Representative John R. "Randy" Kuhl, Jr. (R - New York) seem to have any kind of personal connection to the grieving Dunhams.

Am I being obsessive and unrealistic in isolating such details?  Perhaps.  But, as a keepsake for a family whose son Bush sent to die, this photo seems reflective of Bush's attitude toward the war.  It's thrown together, it's impersonal and it's primarily gestural -- a mundane act of customer relations in the business of war.  (...In fact, if there is any life to the photo at all, it might be found in the furrowed brow and slightly tense posture of Rep. Kuhl.  Of course, for a Republican congressperson posing with a President with Bush's popularity ratings, that is a reaction anyone could understand.)

(image; Kimberlee Hewitt/White House. March 14, 2006. Rochester, N.Y.


Bag wrote: >>>But, as a keepsake for a family whose son Bush sent to die, this photo seems reflective of Bush's attitude toward the war. It's thrown together, it's impersonal and it's primarily gestural -- a mundane act of customer relations in the business of war.<<<<<<

BAG could have added, "and yet people, and more specifically, the MSM, still continue to buy it"

The parent's names are in patriarchal order, not spatial order, in the White House caption of the photo.

Forgive my ignorance, but does anyone know if the president's signature is even needed to rename a post office?

Yeah. It looks like Bush and Kuhl were photoshopped in after shooting bluescreen.

I see two blocks of people. The one--brother, sister & Mom--are dressed in bright pastels. They are in the moment. They are feeling the buzz of being close to power.

The second block is the patriarchal triangle. Bush is using his "Look at me, I'm-a-busy-executive-doing-the-work-of-America" body language. Rep. Kuhl has his game face on, making eye contact with the viewer, hoping for a good photo-op for the voters. But Dad towers over them, and he doesn't look like he is buying the BS. His hands are folded in resignation. He looks out at us with a Bill Murray-esque wry expression. His face is saying, "I've lost my son because these bozos, and now I get to be used as a political prop."

He looks exactly like the kind of white male who used to support Bush and has changed his mind.

KEIR, said "Forgive my ignorance," it appears the answer is yes;

Remember Karl Rove comes from a marketing background !

Yeah, I thought photoshop too, until I read the back story.

The Congressman's pose and demeanor remind me of one of those 18th century group scenes where the author paints himself in, as the only one shown looking the audience in the eye.

Alienation/fragmentation/sadness. I wonder whether the lack of composition was a matter of "let's get this done" or "the boss won't care"? I also wonder whether Bush apologized to the folks for sending their son in a fatal mistake? Has he learned a thing Sheehan-wise?

Many elements of this image scream Hurry!, the messy composition, the thrill of meeting the President still lingering in the faces of the family. Given the Corporal's sacrifice couldn't they have found more than just a few seconds for Corporal Dunham's family?

This is Dulce Et Decorum 2006, little Horace, mostly Wilfred Owen,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

and Pound

Died some, pro patria,
non "dulce" non "et decor" …

(Look for the Scio NY post office to be closed / consolidated soon.)

The BAG "(...In fact, if there is any life to the photo at all, it might be found in the furrowed brow and slightly tense posture of Rep. Kuhl..."

or his furrowed brow may be due to:

"....Kuhl (Conservative Republicans) have consistently voted with Tom DeLay to slash Veteran's Healthcare and reduce services... they wave the flag and then turn their back on Veterans ! "

A precise fit with Wilfred Owen & Pound quotes noted by black dog barking. (Ezra Pound was also a great admired of Fascism)

It should be pointed out that the honor is deserved. Dunham saved fellow soldiers by falling on a hand grenade and covering it with his helmet. He took shrapnel in the skull and died about a week later in the U.S. with his parents at his side. They had ordered the removal of life support. Dunham’s battalion commander recommended that he be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, but presidential approval is required. Back in May of 2004, Senator Schumer of Dunham’s home state of New York urged Bush to approve the medal:

Here’s a blog-reproduced Wall Street Journal article about the last days of Dunham, who had re-enlisted to take care of his buddies:

The inappropriate venue and the messy photograph make it clear that the whole business was squeezed into Bush’s schedule with no real thought about the honor or the person and act honored. It’s easy to understand why the family would meet with the president, but there is no reasonable explanation for this outrageous, on-the-fly bill-signing. I guess Bush’s handlers couldn’t arrange to have the family come down to D.C. for a signing in the White House with a custom-made banner saying “Freedom is on the March.”

I don't understand the connection between fighting in Iraq and getting your name on a post office. Is a post office better than having a street named after you? Does anyone go to the post office anymore?

When I looked at the enlarged photo, Bush's furrowed brow is what puzzles me. As if signing his name is taking great effort.

I keep thinking about how that room might smell, and it makes me queasy.

TRACY, your correct his valour is White House deserving but minus the banner.
RTBAG, the post office naming was a second choice,

1) Cpl. Jason L. Dunham
Thursday, September 23 2004 @ 07:44 PM EST

2) Passed the House of Representatives December 19 (legislative day, December 18), 2005

This is kinda weird. I don't think I've ever seen a post office named for an individual. I go to the "United States Post Office", then in smaller letters -- "McKeesport, PA". I thought Post offices are about the location, not one particular person. Perhaps I am totally out to lunch, or considering how many war memorials are in my town, and how many locals have given up their lives in the past century's wars, maybe our post office just hasn't caught on to the idea of dedicating itself to a fallen hero.

But of course, this is only another photo op. I am cringing at the smiles on the faces of the family.

I am waiting for TheBag to catch up with the photo op Bushie pulled with J-Mac, the autistic basketball hero. A post office wasn't renamed, but the Head on a Stick is definitely worthy material of this blog.

Please, pretty please, Michael, can we "have at" that particular event? Pleeeeeze............

This is getting really weird.

So Cpl Dunham's commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor, seconded by one of his state's Senators and referred to the President, according to an area TV station, in May of 2004? And his story is the subject of a 2005 book?

Unlike Pat Tillman the story involves enemy fire. Unlike Jessica Lynch, the story is true. And yet the Dunhams don't even get invited onto Air Force One?

Seriously weird. In this context the President looks petulant, the Congressman apologetic.


You're being nice about the bees in Pound's bonnet. 'Traitor' applies to someone charged with betraying his native country. A charge not prosecuted because 'certifiably insane' was deemed more appropriate.

I can't get over how Kuhl looks in this photo. He's got a practiced, man-of-the-people busy at work photo op look on his face. It's obvious he's pretending, but it's still charming and disarming despite being insincere. He looks like a sitcom actor posing for a TV Guide photograph; wasn't he the dad on "The Brady Bunch"?

Kuhl has to do his best. He had some problems in his last election relating to his divorce.
google "Rep. Kuhl spousal abuse" It's even on wikipedia.

JT: Of course I was being sarcastic about the custom-made banner, but that's how Bush's handlers operate. The banner wouldn't work, and no banner means no White House for the family.

Asta: Just like you, I was reminded of Bush's meeting with JMac. JMac is the highly functional autistic high school senior who was kind of a manager/helper for his school's basketball team. The coach let him suit up and then play in the last few minutes of the last game he would ever see as a high schooler. As in the most hackneyed sports movie you've ever seen, the kid who wasn’t chosen for the team became a star. (Okay, he didn’t single handedly win the game, but he actually made a record score). JMac's story, atypically true like Dunham’s, as BdB points out, captivated America. Naturally, Bush wanted some of that mojo for himself, so he meets with the kid on the tarmac of an airport in "upstate New York," (to put it the way Bush pinpointed his campaign stop). On the tarmac, Bush got that arm-in-arm prearranged thing going with JMac and Mom, said a few words to JMac, admitted he learned of JMac’s ballistic ball-playing when aides showed him the tape, and blew off – all inside of five minutes.

Now what if you really wanted to give JMac a treat – inasmuch as he had given such a treat to America? And what if you were the president of the United States and you regularly had major league sports players at events in the White House? Would you think about inviting the kid and his parents to come come to the White House when some of those major leaguers were there for a photo op? Do you think that a high school manager/helper would like to meet a few major leaguers? Maybe, but Bush’s poll numbers are down now, so the meeting can’t be scheduled for some future time when other athlete/props might be around. Cynicism is as cynicism goes.

Here you can see (1) a video of the original CNN report of JMac’s magic day and (2) the CNN follow-up video at the airport, where Bush tries to cop some of JMac’s mojo:

I'm confused... like Asta, I'm trying to understand what would be the point of naming a post office after a person, instead of the location. Now it's supposed to be referred to by his name - but when you refer to a post office, you want to know where it is, don't you? Is this re-naming somthing that's done often?

I followed the link that talked about the library... naming that after him would seem to make more sense; why did they refuse to do that?

And sorry if this has been said, but I think I followed all the links and didn't see it... was Cpl. Dunham ever awarded the Medal of Honor?

When I first saw this photo, I couldn't think of much to say about it, but this thread has turned up a lot of interesting information...

Y'mean this medal?
National Security my ass.

kevser, no, not the Medal of Freedom. The Congressional Medal of Honor:

ummabdulla, as far as I can tell, Cpl. Dunham did not receive the Medal of Honor. If the website is up-to-date, only 4 have received the Medal of Honor in the past 3 years. Here's how you get a Medal of Honor:
a.) while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
b.) while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or,
c.) while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Obviously there are some additional inscrutable qualifications we aren't privy to. Otherwise everyone in the armed forces in the endless war of, I mean, ON terror would qualify. But probably only a military insider can address that.

To me, it's starting to feel crummy discussing these private citizens' shitty treatment by our asshole president without their participation. I guess because the photo documents their isolation from us, yet the White House's posting their pic on its website makes their loss available for public consumption. Makes me nauseous, which must be why I wondered what it was like to be in that claustrophobic room smelling of diesel fuel and new carpeting.

UMMBDULLA, was Cpl. Dunham ever awarded the Medal of Honor? Nope but I'd guess the possibility as 50/50

Marines honor corporal's heroic sacrifice
Submitted by: 1st Marine Division
Story Identification #: 20045143251
Story by Sgt. Jose L. Garcia CAMP AL QAIM, Iraq (April 29, 2004)

Project Hero: CPL Jason Dunham, nominee, Medal of Honor
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, February 11, 2006

About the library there was some misunderstanding the family wanted only a room while others wanted the BLDG.

RTBAG, do official WH photographers ever get to arrange the scene, I'd sure be embarrassed to have my name attached to such a pic

btw, kevser, I didn't mean to shortchange that photo link you provided of George B putting the Medal of Freedom around George T's neck. That is a GREAT (and also stomach-turning) photo. You would think Bush were bestowing the Hope diamond on Tenet, they look so very much in love. Rapturous.

Excuse me while I go hurl.

I'm back. jt, if I were a WH photographer, I would probably take an alias.

Well, the official photographers are paid for by us, the taxpayers and citizens. You'd think they could find somebody competent willing to work in the White House for those salaries?

The pictures from the entire day of Bush being off busy-busy-busy (see the link to the government website under Michael's framed image) look like a high-school newspaper photographer was following the principal around. Now perhaps this IS student work, under an internship. however, the best we can say of the lot is that most of the subjects were in the frame.

My sympathies are with the family, getting only a few minutes as Bush passes through, just as the other photo-ops were hurried. The only leisurely meeting was with the senior citizens, where Bush took time to make his sales pitch.

I do wonder if these photo-ops were at airports because the strigent security and monitoring would provide Bush a measure of safety? He could walk into that lounge knowing that the family had been strip-searched and x-rayed and mind-wiped... otherwise why turn his back to them?

Why are they behind him anyway? Surely he would want to face them, as if he was giving them a gift?


Since you all have taken the liberty to tear down our family Dan and I ( yes I wrote that in the order I wanted it printed) would like to take the time to rebuddle.

When Jason was in high school he "chose " to join the Marines on the delayed entry program with our concent and blessings. Jason's death was not a casulty of war, there are three men alive today due to the gift our son gave. Do we like the way Fate played out, NO. Every morning we get up look in the mirror and it hits us square in the face that we do not have one of our children. It takes your breath away to have your heart broke every day. We are learning ( note learning) to find a new normal that does not include Jason. And each night we thank God that we still have our other three children.

As to the set up of the room. No one was concerned about the chairs, or that my purse was sitting on a chair. Our concern was that we were able to witness the Presadent signing a bill in our son's honor. Before we agreeded to the possibility of the Post Office haveing a name change I did ask what would happen should a new one be built...... the name will go with it. This means that future generations will not forget our son or what he did. ( and after you are done with our family and move on to someone elses you will forget our son) As to the library, that was not something we were involved in and small town politics played into that. Our choice of clothing for the day is of no concern to any of you. My children were clean and neat. Dan and I will police our childrens attire, you need not. We will note that should we again be in the position were our picture will be taken for public print we will know not to smile. Meeting the President was not only a personal honor but it was a great civics lesson for them. The room was clean, warm and fresh.

As to the bill being a photo shoot to drum up support, you were not privey to the conversation, we were thus let me clue you in on a few items that you did not get correct from criticing the picture. Mr. Bush spent close to 30 minutes with our family. He spoke with us as a parent. He spoke with our children about school and future goals. He spoke with warmth, compassion and admiration for Jason choosing to do a job that many would not do. And that his friends still do today.

Before you judge, tear apart and demean our son and family you may want to take the time to meet them first. I have learned something from your callas method of tearing apart a picture, we are no longer able to be a private American family but are now in the public light. Our skins will need to grow tougher, but I refuse to let my heart grow cold. I am very proud of Jason, for his true American Spirit. I do not like that I will not get to talk with, hug, kiss or watch all of the normal milestones of life that we wait to see our child go through, but I will not dishonor his memory by letting you think that Mr. Bush sent him to his death. Jason extended his enlistment on his own. Jason gave his life so that three men are still here today .

As to the Medal of Honor, that is still being reviewed. As we understand it only three men have been nominated for the Medal with one recieving it to date. ( I could have the facts wrong but as I said, it is how we understand them)

I would suggest that you all sit back and thank the soldiers of the past, present and future who choose to uphold the freedoms that allow you to voice your opions publicly and with the knowledge that you are safe doing so.

To the Dunham family,

I am deeply sorry for your loss, and I am sorry for any additional anguish that this entry -- and the subsequent comments -- may have caused you. May you be well.

Michael Shaw


To the Dunhams,

I am also sorry for the loss of your son, and for anything here that offended you.

Actually, I didn't know anything about your son before I saw this post, but it led me to go and read articles about him; it was a heroic death, and made me wonder how many of us would do what he did. I went to some other links provided in the comments and read about the library and the Medal of Honor, and I even went to Google Maps to see exactly where Scio was, to see if I had ever passed through there when I lived in New York state.

So I definitely was touched my your son's story, and I would guess that a lot of other people who read this post were also.

Many of us here probably have a different view of the war in general and the politicians who are in charge, but I'm sure that no one has anything but admiration for your son, and sympathy for your family.

UMMABDULLA, along with Michael's comment I thank you for your well expressed point of view, I too believe that the majority of posters on this site share it as well. My personal feeling and empathy for the Dunham family are no different than the one I have for Cindy Sheenan, all lives are precious, regardless of political differences.

I was going to post here yesterday, but ummabdulla said it better than I could have. In fact, I think several of the posters did some research on Cpl. Dunham, and wrote of respect for him and what he stood for. I've seen no evidence on this site of disrespect for our soldiers. I also think any reference to the photo composition was aimed at the apparent lack of preparation by aides which surely accompany the president. Nevertheless, I'm sure it was a shock to read so many comments about such private pain. Please know that whatever our comments, we do respect your loss.

So sorry that some people are so rude.Hold your heads up high .Jay did a fine job and we will allways love him and never forget what he did for our country.

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