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Jun 28, 2008

War Is Personal


"War all comes down to these little tiny stories about people's lives that will never be the same."

-- Eugene Richards

Looking back, I'm certain the depiction of trauma and loss suffered by Iraq veterans, as documented by so many fine photographers, will be recognized as playing a critical role in galvanizing the American public against an otherwise fundamentally sanitized war.

At BAGnewsNotes, I've looked at many difficult images over the past few years, including Todd Heisler's essay, "Final Salute"; "Nina Berman's "Marine Wedding" photograph of Ty Ziegel and Renee Kline -- since divorced; Andrew Lichtenstein's photo of a funeral rehearsal in Modesto; and the haunting image by Barry Gutierrez just last week of Sgt. Ryan John Baum with his daughter, Leia, on his chest.

The photo above was taken by Eugene Richards as part of a series he is developing with The Nation Institute.  Sgt. José Pequeño suffered a devastating brain injury from a grenade tossed into his Humvee in March 2006.

In his mother's arms, I hardly recall a more visceral sensation of the senselessness of the Iraq campaign. Given the angle, Pequeno's brain injury draws an unavoidable analogy between war and the capacity for thought.  Ultimately, there is no rationalizing or comparing one devastating form of injury with another.  In Sgt. Pequeno's case, however, the war has literally caused him to lose his mind.

War Is Personal: Sgt. José Pequeño (
Eugene Richards On "War is Personal" (Photo District News)
Jose Pequeno (Caring Bridge)
A New Home for Chief Pequeno (4/60 New Hampshire Public Radio)

(h/t: John. image: Eugene Richards)


33,000 stories....

U.S. Military Fatalities in Iraq: A Perspective on Year 5

After five years in Iraq, the U.S. military has suffered over 33,000 casualties, more than 29,000 wounded and 4,000 dead, and it remains engulfed by three converging currents that constitute the Iraq War – the underlying military conflict, the battle for political control, and grinding civil strife....

4,113 of these stories...

06/28/08 DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (3 of 3)
Cpl. Marcus W. Preudhomme, 23, of North Miami Beach, Fla...assigned to 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii...died June 26 while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province
06/28/08 DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (2 of 3)
Capt. Philip J. Dykeman, 38, of Brockport, N.Y...assigned to 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii...died June 26 while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province
06/28/08 DoD Identifies Marine Casualties (1 of 3)
Lt. Col. Max A. Galeai, 42, of Pago Pago, American Samoa...assigned to 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii...died June 26 while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province

hundreds of thousands of Iraqi stories...

06/28/08 Baghdad - Police found three dead bodies throughout Baghdad, one in Fedheliyah, one in Palestine Street, one in Saidiyah. 3 0 3
06/28/08 Salahuddin - - Police found 25 decomposed bodies in Al Tharthar area south of Samarra today. Police said the bodies were of civilians.

Every day.... and it goes on....

"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" - Barbara Bush

THIS is why you and everyone in this country should put their minds to trying to ensure that does not happen to any other mother's child.

Even at the angle that does much to cover the horror and trauma of the wound this soldier suffered, it is still quite disturbing to realize the full extent of the injury and makes me wince just to see it. The revulsion is tempered by the loving tenderness of the mother. It is difficult to witness this, but I am glad I did just the same.

I'm certain the depiction of trauma and loss suffered by Iraqi veterans, as documented by so many fine photographers...

This was meant to be "Iraq veterans", of course.

It's an especially awkward occasion for the typo, given the extent to which the suffering of the Iraqi people, combatants and civilians, has not been documented by U.S. media.

The administration has successfully (for the most part) prevented the compliant press from photographing returning caskets and body bags. However, The Bag has posted several images of wounded vets, and pointed us toward photo essays of same.

I note that of all the references listed at the bottom of this post, there is not one reference to the NYTimes, nor the Chicago Tribune, nor the Los Angeles Times. It's time to call out our major publications for their ongoing complicity in continuing this occupation. If they had the courage to print such photos as these, all those polls showing 70% against the 'war' would jump to 90% (the rest, or course, being the only neo-cons left).

Well, it's a thought........

Nell, I fixed the typo but your point is more than well taken.

Many people see war as an abstraction. They talk about "winning" and "losing" as if there were points going up on some scoreboard. These are the people who say we "lost" Vietnam because we didn't have the stomach to "win" it. Where does an attitude like that come from? We're surrounded with it. Politicians say "the surge is working" as if that meant something. In reality, we're locked into a sort of trench warfare. Every day adds to the number of dead and wounded, but nothing else changes.

People who support the war in Iraq really can't claim a moral basis for that viewpoint if they are unwilling to embrace the reality of war. However, it's noteworthy that even with the support of corporate media, Bush can't sell more than a minority of Americans on the need to continue the war. In the context of heart-rending photographs like that of Sgt. Pequeno and his mother, "winning" and "losing" lose their meaning.

Pair this with Robert Capa's famous photograph from the Spanish Civil War, the soldier at the moment he is shot through the head.

this photo is heartbreaking. I followed the links at the bottom and read the mother's story of how she was notified, and it made me want to weep. Also at one link is a photo of this young man before he was injured - you look at that face and feel the sense of loss.

I can't even begin to wrap my mind around this photo. It's too heartbreaking.

Okay, maybe I see it like this...if you don't die in this war, our government promises that you will spend the rest of your life in some kind of hell, whether it be emotional or physical. You won't get the medical help you need, and if you do return home somewhat in one piece, you won't receive any of the benefits the soldiers had returning from WWII, like an education and a decent mortgage loan.

This "war" smacks of one huge medical experiment. Unlike the Nazis (oh don't go all native on me because I am going to bring up the Nazis) who did hideous "experiments" on prisoners, gypsies, Jews, etc., our government has chosen to perform outrageous procedures to keep soldiers alive when in the sense of all decency and compassion, they should have been allowed to die. They are sending our soldiers from one ring of Hades to another. It must be great entertainment for the sociopaths on Capitol Hill.

Maybe we might want to begin to realize that we are all guinea pigs to this administration.

The "Al Qaeda terrorists" who crashed into the WTC only killed 27xx people. George Bush and Dick Cheney are personally responsible for the deaths of over 4000 American soldiers on the battlefield, countless others off the battlefield, an unknown but definitely larger than 4000 number of American contractors, and tens of thousands of deformities, permanent injuries, amputations, and other devastating conditions including tens of thousands of traumatic brain injuries and PTSD cases among American troops. They are also personally responsible for the deaths of about a million Iraqis and the displacement of five million more.

Why is the military hunting for Osama bin Laden? The real terrorists locations are known - 1600 Pennsylvania Blvd, Washington DC. If Congress had any legal stricture, if the FBI had any allegiance to the rule of law, these war criminals would be impeached and charged with treason. After their trials, they should be turned over to the Hague to be charged in an international court for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.

All these devastating injuries, these heartbreaking pictures, and all I can think of is, I know who is responsible, and not only do they walk free, they appear on TV regularly to lie to us.

And they want to attack Iran.

How many more, you inhuman monsters? How many more murders must you be responsible for? How many more grievous, life-changing injuries? HOW MANY FUCKING MORE? HOW MUCH MORE BLOOD? How many people need to die to satisfy your evil greed, your lust for power, your insane ambitions that only further yourselves?

And how long will the Americans sit idly by, and watch their own sons dying in foreign lands, to appease petty dictators, murderous monsters, evil, evil, EVIL men?

Occupations of foreign lands are expensive.

The marine and his wife are divorced? I'm sad to hear that. That "Marine Wedding" series of photos was intense.

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