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Jul 02, 2006

Only The Dead (And Right Wing) Have Seen The End Of War


Where's my copy of Catch-22?

The Administration gets completely smacked down by the Supremes for their terror detention policy and the Repugs crow how that's a good thing.  The situation in Iraq keeps getting worse, with the country tilting toward civil war, and the Repugs declare how the war is their best issue.

To make a read on a political image, you've got to get a fix on the politics itself.

The photo above accompanied a NYT article on June 29th entitled "Iraq War Ends Silently for One American Soldier."  It shows soldiers -- including one on a stretcher -- engaged in a somber ritual, offering a final salute to a fallen comrade before the body is sent home.

To appreciate this story, however, you have to see the June 26th Filkin's piece that preceded it, titled  "U.S. and Iraq Take Ramadi a Neighborhood at a Time."  That article featured a photo I took issue with last week at HuffPo.  That image, which ran on the front page, showed a soldier walking past a serviceman's boot.  The caption stated that an American soldier had died on that spot, near Ramadi, the day before.

My problem with the "boot image" and the article had to do with tone.  In both, the death of an American soldier is treated as callously matter-of-fact.  To the credit of Mr. Filkins and photographer Joao Silva, however, the second article (which I'm speculating had to do with the soldier who owned the boot) is as close as you can come to a eulogy with a straight news story.

Which leads back to politics.

This deep into the war, with things going south so fast, you would think a picture like this would reflect terribly on the Administration.  We are literally bleeding from a policy that continues to defy logic, and our presence in the Sunni-Shiite crossfire grows more ambiguous by the day.  Seems clear, right?  Except that the Cheney's and the Frist's and the little Lindsey Graham's now see pictures like this as an excellent endorsement for the war, and as fine raw material for the upcoming election season.

In this latest Republican alternate reality, these soldiers stand (those that can) for platitudes.  Forget the situation on the ground, or what many or any of these men might be thinking in their private thoughts.  Forget the qualified comments of the dead soldier's commander.  ("I don't know if this war is worth the life of Terry Lisk, or 10 soldiers, or 2,500 soldiers like him....")

Because, when the conservatives read this picture, they know exactly what the soldiers think.  You can just see it on those faces, can't you -- the way they declare the cause as just, and the victory as inevitable?

(image: Joao Silva for The New York Times.  June 28, 2006.  Ramadi.


This picture doesn't communicate that the end is near, just that we are grimly continuing to fight.

That shot is weirdly lit, shadows dominate the faces – the parts of a picture normally lighted best. Sunlight angling in low enough to cast the long shadows we see on the ground is usually full of color. This white light must be incandescent, is it the middle of the night?

If I saw this image in a dream I'd call it a nightmare.

I've just finished reading "A Stranger to Myself: The Inhumanity of War, Russia, 1941-1944," by a young German soldier who died there at the age of 23. It is his chronicle of war, and gives, in spite of dated language, insight into what each of the men in the picture above must be experiencing. They "soldier on" because they have no choice. What they have seen and what they have done has rendered them incapable of doing other than follow orders.

The picture is deeply saddening, because of the lack of expression on their faces, which masks what they must feel, if they allow themselves to feel.

Could be a flare of some sort. Reminds me of that old saying: "Mamm, any of your sons will do."

"Forget the qualified comments of the dead soldier's commander. ('I don't know if this war is worth the life of Terry Lisk, or 10 soldiers, or 2,500 soldiers like him....')"

A friend in the Army attributed the same sentiments to another commander, a man who recently died in Iraq. It may well be that the military is reaching consensus on the futility of the Iraq War.

My first thought was that the clever photographer snuck one past the hall monitor by showing all the comrades saluting the soldier in the body-bag. That bag looks like it hasn't been zipped yet; I wonder if that is the protocol, to salute before zipping.

The photo is unusually dark, especially at the top, where the faces of the soldiers are so dark as to be unidentifiable. I agree that it doesn't look like sunshine; this would have to be the end of the day and the light is too bright, and too white. I've seen photos where those huge arc lights (like used in the movies) are set up. They can throw light a couple of blocks away.

I think the fact that this photo is printed in the NYT is further evidence that the public (and the press) is getting tired of the mayhem and the lying about Iraq.

"The photo is unusually dark, especially at the top, where the faces of the soldiers are so dark as to be unidentifiable"

The article explains that for security reasons helicopter fly at night in the Anbar region:

"Here in Anbar, American bodies are taken first by helicopter to Camp Anaconda, the big logistical base north of Baghdad, and then on to the United States. Most helicopter traffic in Anbar, for security reasons, takes place at night. Hence the darkness."

The light is a blue light:
"In the darkness, the bag was barely visible. A line of blue chemical lights marked the way to the landing strip not far away. "

BTW if you go to the NYT article and click on the multimedia link, you can hear the journalist talk about the death of the soldier, that he had witnessed.


I have to wonder what alternate reality you live in. Do you really think that if the American voters are presented with two party platforms

A: "We can win, we're number one!"
B: "We've lost, let's slink away as fast as we can"

that the voters will go for plan B?

The BushCo Regime thinks the war is a winning issue because whenever it comes up this is the choice the voters see.

You know, Annoying Old Guy would be a likeable fellow if he wasn't so old.

I think some people are confusing the body (which is not in the photo) with the guy on the stretcher. The "bag" we're seeing in the photo is actually a man on a stretcher, according to the NYT article.

The lack of color reminds me of the late 1960s-early 1970s war movies and TV shows. The movie and series "MASH" both featured a lack of color, a limited palatte of brown and green and grey. So did "Catch-22" which you referenced. The photo is definitely reminiscent of a time when so much of America agreed with anti-war sentiment that it was prevalent in entertainment.


You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.

Besides AOG, any posters here care to provide a reasonably comprehensive precis of the status quo ante, then provide an alternate course of action?

The modern American left is all anger, and no options.

Jeff Guinn said: "any posters here care to provide a reasonably comprehensive precis of the status quo ante, then provide an alternate course of action?"

If we did, we'd have our own blog.

Oh, and you forgot the accent on "precis."


Oh, and you forgot the accent on "precis."

No, I didn't. My keyboard did. And if there is another way to put it in there, I don't know it.

Perhaps you could tell me, is there an accent in "pedant?"

The rants here would be more believable if there was some kind of notion of an alternative behind them.

Just saying.

Jeff Guinn: Maybe if you'd posed your initial question sans snark, you'd have gotten a real response. For example, I might have revealed that I thought AOG made a rare excellent point in this thread, which was worth exploring further. And I *never* say that. But passive-aggressive generalizations like "The modern American left is all anger, and no options" aren't great conversation-starters here.

Make a note of it.


Duly noted -- I could well have preseented with less snark.

But there is an observation under the snark: I have yet to hear anyone from the left (which, I am sure you will agree, is often quite angry), who has given a reasonably comprehensive rundown of the status quo ante, then offered an alternative, analytical, course of action.

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