NOTE: BagNewsNotes is now located at Please update your bookmarks.

You will be automatically redirected in a few seconds...

« True Colors | Main | Your Turn: Things Looking Up In San Antonio »

Nov 09, 2007

"Canyon of Heroes"

Grinker-Parade 9106
(click for full size)

There are a number of things I find stunningly memorable about Lori Grinker's photo, taken on lower Broadway in the so-called "Canyon of Heroes" on June 10, 1991.

Perhaps because historical memory comes at a premium in the U.S., I realized I had nearly erased from my mind the twelve year gap between the first Bush Iraq war and the now four-and-a-half-year-old second.

I forgot that the original war really was a coalition, all 17 partners taking part in this parade.

I forgot about the yellow ribbons, a cluster of which seems to appear on a stanchion at the extreme left.  Because the first Bush-Iraq war only lasted seven months, military families were afforded the opportunity to be more hopeful.

Looking at the police woman just off the left shoulder of the soldier (bottom right), I almost forgot how police officers and firefighters used to be just regular civil servants, rather than manufactured symbols of an undefined worldwide cultural and religious war operating under a catchy slogan.

I forgot how, sixteen years ago, these troops would have had the World Trade Center at their backs, before "the events of September 11, 2001" cynically justified a botched Iraq rerun that will bring no parades and no sense of closure either.

Branded like a combat maneuver, "Operation Welcome Home" was billed as the largest parade in N.Y. history, a $5.2 million privately-funded celebration involving 10,000 pounds of confetti, 6,000 tons of ticker tape, over 3,000 dignitaries and 24,000 marchers.  Despite all the lip service paid these days to remembering, supporting and honoring the troops, this image of the soldiers hightailing away (especially in contrast to the iconic, joyous and frontal view of how a V-Day celebration is classically thought of) only emphasizes the association to Iraq as one tinged with anonymity.

*** ** ***

I wish to welcome Lori Grinker to BAGnewsNotes as the site's newest contributer.  Her book, Afterwar, is a landmark investigation into the physical and psychological effects of war on veterans stretching from the latest engagement in Iraq back to the first World War.  As one of the country's most important photojournalists, Lori maintains an instrumental role in locating conscience as a counterpoint to empire.

Regarding the specific photo above, Lori writes:

It's always a bit strange/uncomfortable for me to photograph celebrations like this while also photographing and interviewing so many veterans (and now civilians from Iraq) who show us another side of war. It's extremely bittersweet. How would we rejoice today if the troops were coming home from Iraq?  It would be a great moment, a huge relief but mixed with sorrow and anger...

I am proud to offer this platform in the blogosphere to bring Lori's work to a broader, concerned audience.  I look forward to sharing her important imagery and reportage over the coming months.

(image:  Lori Grinker.  New York City.  June 10, 1991.  Used by permission.)


Aug. 2nd, 1990

Jan. 16th 1991 4:00PM EST

Feb. 23rd 1991 12:00PM EST

Feb. 23rd 1991 8:00PM EST

Feb. 27th 1991 12:00PM MIDNIGHT


Controlled, channeled, being funnelled into the next war....cannon fodder pouring out of a tap.

One striking difference between the two US-Iraq wars is the involvement of combat troops from Middle Eastern countries during the Gulf War. Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and United Arab Emirates all contributed combat troops to the Gulf War coalition; none of them joined the Iraq War coalition. It's hard to accept Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a threat to world peace or the United States in 2003 when his neighbors weren't threatened.

I think I get what you are trying to say about the yellow ribbons, but I don't remember there being anything "hopeful" about their display.

I think Tom Engelhardt in "The End of Victory Culture," has the best analysis of these yellow ribbons. The way they were immediately deployed in massive numbers all over the country the moment fighters were summoned to Saudi Arabia (not when the war started, just as soon as they were called up) was eerie. It was as if the soldiers and marines and sailors and airmen were first and foremost victims. The ribbons served to memorialize a sacrifice that was still going on; and they were a pre-emptive strike against "anti-patriotic" people who were against the war. The first major troop mobilization since Vietnam, with the "Born on the Fourth of July" myths of people spitting on veterans fresh in people's minds.

To me, Gulf War the First doesn't seem like a previous era, rather the beginning of the current one. But that's semantics, of course.

You're right about how CIVIL (non-military) the civil servant (police officer) seems in this photo, as opposed to today's militarized and (post-Seattle 1999, post New York 2001) riot-geared, SWAT-ized police robot-men.

When the US crushed Iraq the first time in 1991 the government staged Desert Storm Victory parades in dozens of US cities. General William Westmoreland proclaimed a great PAX AMERICANA that would last a thousand years! But we knew better. This prophetic little doc, hailed as "provocative" by the LA Times and July 4 Video Pick of the Week by the LA Weekly ended up being broadcast by only 50 PBS stations nationwide. It was banned by most for its unblinking look at how war hype and propaganda pull on the masses. A must see for true patriots

Just this title..."Canyon of Heroes"... Looks to me rather like the herding of people into slaughterhouse

How dark and foreboding the buildings look, as if the soldiers are being swallowed by a black hole of the future. Even the flags seem to hang over them ominously, as if daring them to forget why they are there. The camouflage of the soldiers combine with their movement forward to give the viewer the feeling that they are plunging headlong into that black future, which, of course, is now. They think they are marching toward the blue sky, not realizing it is blocked and they are trapped in that black abyss forever. The people who own those buildings are controlling their future as well as their present.

(Pardon the pedantry, BagMan, but shouldn't "contributer" be "contributor"? Your right sidebar has it both ways.)

In January 1981 I worked in a Wall Street bank not far from Broadway. At lunchtime, my co-worker Dan Gioia and I went to the corner of Wall and Broadway, which was Ground Zero of the parade, which hadn't started. There were hundreds of people milling around, everybody gawking at each other the way the crowds do on New Year's Eve in Times Square. We heard mad, enthusiastic cheering coming from somewhere but did not see anyone cheering. Dan suggested we head off in the direction where the cheering seemed loudest. When we got there, the cheering seemed to come from the place we had just left.

Dan turned to me and asked, "Where the hell is all the cheering coming from?" The best we could determine is that some of it seemed to be coming from the bottom of a Con Ed truck parked at the intersection of Wall and Broadway. But it was a sort of white noise that wasn't coming from any one place. We decided to look for the speakers where the cheering was coming from, but we didn't find them. But we didn't see anyone cheering! Fifteen minutes before the parade even started, it sounded like the ninth inning of a close game of the World Series.

The welcome home parade ten years later wasn't entirely a staged event, but it wasn't as spontaneously festive as the newspapers claimed. It was more like bored soldiers marching in front of bored office workers. If enthusiastic cheering shows up on the sound track, I wouldn't be surprised if it had previously been recorded on some other occasion. Pelé scoring a goal for Brazil? Two on and two out against the Red Sox?

At least they were home. I imagine that most of these troops — perhaps not as badly as the GIs in the August 29, 1944 Paris Liberation Parade (who marched right back into combat) — just wanted to get their duty parade over with and hightail it back to their loved ones.

One of the bleakest political parades was George W. Bush's January 1, 2005 Inauguration Day Parade. Channeled down Pennsylvania Avenue — in America's capitol city, Washington, DC — between multiple rows security fences and ranks of crowd-facing police; surrounded by grim Secret Service agents dressed in black; and followed by a column of armored limousines, 'Black Maria' SUVs, SWAT vans, ambulances, squad cars, and police motorcyles.

For being the world's most powerful democracy, the envied land of the free and home of the brave, we sure looked isolated and frightened that day.

Why do I get the feeling that day isn't over yet?

I've often wondered why, when evidence arose of Saddam massing troops against Kuwait, we did not tell him "don't even think about it". The diplomatic bungling of Bush 41 laid the grounds for the debacle of Bush 43.

Bob h--whaaaa, you think it was a bungle? Not at all, everything went according to plan, except that a full scale war with Iraq did not happen at that time...took ten more years to come up with a good enough excuse to have another go-round.

Read the testimony of April Gillespie, then ambassador to Iraq, on what her marching orders were. Saddam was not much short of set up.

tina, you raise an important subject, for those unfamiliar or forgetful of how the USA (Glaspie) help hoodwink Saddam Hussein,

I suggest Ambassador Glaspie

In addition heres my favorite Black Ops about how the brutalized wee ones were created by our esteemed concerned ones.


"Bush the Elder permitted major deceptions in Gulf War I. When Gulf War II begins, just remember that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. "

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

My Other Accounts

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 07/2003