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Apr 20, 2007

And Then There Was ... Iraq


In a week of news involving the Attorney General going down, the Virginia State tragedy going down, abortion rights going down, Wolfowitz going down, where do you fix the focus?

... It's ironic Iraq got pushed to the sidelines this week considering the surge may have effectively died on Wednesday. 

The five massive bombings in Baghdad (and one, just outside) seemed to signify, in horribly dramatic fashion, that the U.S. is helpless to stop the violence. (Accompanying the story, the NYT slide show seemed to also convey a definitive sense.)

Because of size constraints, its been my practice to post larger images as thumbnails, with the full-size in a pop up.  I'm forsaking that convention today because I don't feel this sweeping image deserves to be minimized.  (To view in total, you might have to expand your browser window.)

Meanwhile, the visual beat can sometimes be illustrated by the lack of an image.... 

In a story that, just as much, spells out the futility of the surge, the LAT reports that U.S. forces have been building a three-mile-long security wall in the Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya to separate its Sunni and Shia districts.  Accompanying the article is a photo of U.S. troops holed up in Adhamiya. 

As for the wall itself? There's no visual documentation (either at the Times website, or on the newswire -- as far as I could tell) of the portentous evidence.

(Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.  Baghdad. April 18, 2007.


It's "Virginia Tech."

No it is not "Virginia Tech"!
Response to "Virginia Tech" shows complete disregard for human lives in Iraq!

I wonder where is the haven for Iraqi????
Not in schools, not on streets, not in their homes, where then?

And tell me, what is the response to this massacre?
More troops?
More prayers from emperor?
Where is the outrage????

The Road to Nowhere.

On a fundamental level the problem that the US has in Iraq is that there is no plausible endgame plan. Platitudes about 'the mission' hardly hide the fact that there are no militarily achievable objectives and no cogent plan forward.

This image seems like such a striking metaphor for that - a pile of burnt-out vans and buses, and people milling about. No way forward, no way back.

I'm really liking the composition of this photo - using the streets to frame the vans, and the visual metaphor of an intersection full of people separating the clearly wrecked from the apparently functional.


it's aftermath, not chaos. There is a clear line between rubble and observers, stunned as they are ~ vulnerable as they continue to be ~ they are orderly; they are us : not the victims of this, yet. This image is gesture, not Guernica.

the fire, that horror has alredy been hosed away; the wreckage made somewhat tidy for traffic. it's too late, this image. History? yes; but only cold artifact, a chilling reminder.

we ask, "who was there? there when it happened; what happened to them?" Why are they anonymous, un-seeable, not unlike the dead of Virginia Tech, in their bloody classroom; the dead of Columbine, in their bloody lunchroom ~ who the hell are we "respecting," when we scrub them, the undead dead, the unsuffering wounded, from our images?

them? what conceit! And where was the 'photo-journalist' ?

not there, there. Alice doesn't live there, anymore. Her 'stringers' pick up the thread she lost: "Here is a picture of stunned Iraqi people, looking at the aftermath of a horrific explosion."

"How horrific was it?"

NYT : “The blast killed at least 140 people and wounded 150; incinerated scores of vehicles, including several minibuses full of passengers; and charred nearby shops.

Those are horrific numbers; but the image? just a junkyard; rubble/remnants; remainders.

Great point, Gonzo. We see violent images in our movies, in our fictional tales - but in real life, we sanitize them. Even the fuss over releasing the tapes and images the Virginia Tech killer sent to NBC - why not let the world see what madness really looks like, and then we might recognize it when we see it in other people - instead of electing them to lead our country.

When I saw Bush making fun of that woman executed in Texas - honestly, how could anyone vote for him after that?

Dante's Inferno.... V.2007

Hell on earth.

What, in God's Name, did those people do to deserve this?

And, donning my Nostrodamus Hat for a moment. These are chicken scratches compared to what is coming. While these amateurs play with their car bombs, I know deep in my gut, that there is some deadly serious, major player out there who is going to torch one, - the likes of which we have not even imagined yet.

Will I be right?

Bet on it. To me, it is so obvious that even a shrub jr. should be able to figure it out - if he wasn't so worried about the other white meat.

Pork. It's what's for dinner.

I know this is weird, but there is a beauty to this photo, the orderly chaos of it. Almost antediluvian, in a way, as if the only way to cleanse the land of the horrors would be a great flood. The only evidence of the slaughter are the burned out buses in the foreground and the people seemingly frozen into inaction, standing mutely, not knowing where to look. They are as close to each other as they dare be, not knowing any longer who to trust, perhaps avoiding even eye contact. But the vacant eyes of the buildings in the background are watching it all from a distance. Of course, in the other photos in the sequence, it is obvious that all the bystanders run in to help, even at their own apparent peril.

Or maybe this is more symbolic, in a way, of the junkyard we have turned this country into. Iraq had a moral right to be left alone, and we violated that. Where are the photos that were taken before all the bodies were removed? We won't see them in this country. (Except for that one in the sequence.) THAT was one lesson they DID learn from Vietnam. Wasn't the beginning of the turning points in the war when those two photos were published? The one of the colonel executing the kneeling prisoner and the other of the little naked girl running down the road.

Actually, it is "Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University".

So it's kinda both "Tech" and "State" but more commonly known as "tech".

When they don't know what else to do, they build a wall. I will be looking for visual evidence of this new edifice.

These images of endless, grey plains of rubble, punctuated by huge craters ~ with burnt-out skeletons of vehicles and reflecting pools of black-red blood in the sand ~ they are genre universal : they could be any aftermath; existing in any time, at any place.

There is nothing in this universalized image that, without text context, succeeds in telling us that this particular tragedy was/is "the American Occupation of IRAQ".

As news photo-journalism, this image, however powerful, entirely fails : it fails to convey here, or now; it fails to convey cause => effect... is irresponsible, thus : devoid of their suffering; invoking not, our shame.

Though the video of "what we're doing in IRAQ" is certainly sanitized for cable/network TV, and rarely correlates to whatever the news of the day happens to be ~ if you turn off the audio, there is one image that repeats over and over, day after day: an American soldier, kicking down a door.

in my opinion, this is the signature image of The Occupation, moreso than any other.

it passes so quickly, this image of our boys, kicking down a door ~ and so frequently do we witness it, that we now see it without asking, "What is he doing? Why is he always kicking down the door? What happens next: what will he do next?"

But we never see that. It's like a Love Scene on the screen ~ they embrace, the music swells, we know they're going to do it ~ but we never see the act of Love...

...we never see the act of War, either. But we see enough, don't we? Perhaps the children can't imagine, yet; or, maybe there are many of us who, for whatever reason, (or reason, not), never really "see" what they're looking at: the soldier, the door. But you see it now, don't you? You know what will happen next.

Whatever they're doing, whenever they do something, over there ~ we know they begin by kicking down the door. We see it, all the time: n'oubliez jamais.

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