Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Occupation and the Insurgency It Spawns

It's a brutalizing fact of life for Iraqis; but it's sanitized for my fellow Americans.

The sights and scents of violent human death is commonplace for Iraqis.
Here is a photo of Shia caskets in the wake of a recent USA-assisted offensive against the Sadrists.

But when three U.S. Marines are killed in action and their bodies are captured on film by an embedded photographer, he is suspended from his embed and taken back to the Green Zone.

Here is Zoriah's story. And here are Zoriah's photos. Here are Zoriah's words:
I want you to observe and comprehend what others live through on a daily basis -- to see what the Iraqi civilians and foreign soldiers see. I want people who follow my photography to understand that although I am able to bring images of war occupation to the world in a form of art, what actually goes on here is horror. My message is not that war yields great photography. My message is: war occupation yields human misery and suffering.

..... If you are offended by graphic images -- instead of reading the entry about the suicide attack linked to below and being upset by the sight of death -- please do something to stop the political situations and foreign policy that facilitate these atrocities.
Bush, Cheney and McCain pretend that our occupation of Iraq is as sanitary and tranquil as in our post-war status-of-forces agreements in Germany, Japan, and Korea.

Zoriah's photography puts the lie to that mythology. A picture is worth a thousand words.

13 Moderated Comments:

Blogger K McKiernan said...

Hardly any photos like this even get shown anymore and sadly, they hold little power over most people. Awful.

Speaking of awful, Vigilante, go to this address, and I guarantee you will get irate.


PS. Why do you only go to J and my cinema page and not my solo page? I'd love to hear from you.

7/09/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger J McKiernan said...

The most powerful images can tell indelible stories. And whether we are aware of the specific context or if we are not, these images speak to an overarching theme: we live in this world where people are being killed...or going hungry...or are without clothing and shelter...on and on. Death and destruction--these are the spoils of occupation. Those who capture these images are like journalists, essayists, artists, and heroes all wrapped up into one.

Two quick references...one is the 2001 documentary "War Photographer," which is a chronicle of the life and work of James Nachtwey, who is widely considered to be among the greatest war photographers in the world. To not only see Nachtwey's powerful work, but to listen to how he describes that work is revelatory.

Also, I made a short audio documentary relating to a friend of ours who was arrested and detained for attempting to take snapshots of flag-draped coffins being returned from Iraq.

The most awful circumstance is this: Bush and Cheney, as you wrote Vig, paint this occupation and its devastating toll as sunshine and roses. And the way they are able to do that is to squelch any shred of contrary empirical evidence. It's why they don't want us seeing Zoriah's photos...and it's why they detained and questioned my friend over an unplanned digital snapshot.

7/09/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Until more families can make a direct connection between a dead soldier or marine the real photo of a dead soldier or marine is no different from the action movie that showed actors or computer generated animation figures being blown up for enjoyment. After the movie is over Mr. and Mrs. Middleclass think nothing of it and even less of the real kids getting killed in Iraq.

7/09/2008 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Vig, this is a much-needed post. K is right—Americans rarely see photos of the carnage we call Iraq. Hell, J, those two bastards won't even allow American soldiers who were killed be shown on the evening news. They learned well from Viet Nam, didn't they? Let us not forget that Cheney and Rumsfeld were part of the Nixon Administration.

I definitely agree with beach bum. Anti-War Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel from New York stated on CSPAN we should reinstate the draft. He is not pro-war. His position is based on the idea that maybe the war would finally hit home. Maybe he hoped people would awaken from their apathy. And maybe, just maybe, people would start seriously insisting on impeachment. He's got a rather canny, wry sense of humor.

As far as graphics, I subscribe to Dhr Jamil's MidEast Dispatches. In late 2003, weary of the overall failure of the US media to accurately report on the realities of the war in Iraq for the Iraqi people and US soldiers, Dahr Jamail went to Iraq to report on the war himself. The hard news link provides a completely different perspective. You may be able to find some graphics from his links. And we still have BBC, Bill Moyers on PBS, and Al-Jazeera, which might be good sources.

J, the documentary sounds great. Awesome Journalist Greg Palast was arrested for alleged terrorist activities when he went to shoot pictures at the havoc from Hurricane Katrina. Because he was photographing too close to a Shell Oil refinery, he was taken into custody. At least, that's all I can remember this late in the day. Speaking of which, I apologize in advance for any disorganization, off-topic remarks, and general rambling.

And now, FISA. I wonder if gathering images and truthful news gathering will become even more difficult.

7/09/2008 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Thank you, gentle readers. I feel deeply about this issue. It is personally gratifying to me that you do, also.

7/09/2008 09:42:00 PM  
Blogger DB Cooper said...

I have never understood where the Pentagon gets off suspending the 1st Amendment's guaranty of freedom of the press. Photojournalists have the constitutional right to film whatever they want of the public's business. And certainly our KIA's return to American soil is news we are entitled to read about and view. Where does the federal code say the 1st Amendment is suspended? WTF? In god's name, WTF?

7/09/2008 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Soros' Proxy said...

I disagree with Beach Bum on this one, and go with J McKiernan who says:

The most powerful images can tell indelible stories. And whether we are aware of the specific context or if we are not, these images speak to an overarching theme ... Those who capture these images are like journalists, essayists, artists, and heroes all wrapped up into one.

American militarists want to protect American people from imagery for a reason.

7/10/2008 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Excellent link to Hard News, Stella! I am always in debt to you!

7/10/2008 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger GetaLife-ReadUrNews said...

The answer to Cooper's quest is that Rummy's Rules still pertain: the attempt to hide from public view the returning war dead. Through at least 2005 -- during Rumsfeld's tenure, no less -- reporters were placed in a location where they could hear the prayers and the eulogies and film the handing of the folded flag to the next of kin. The coverage of the ceremonies -- in the nearly two-thirds of cases where families permitted it -- provided moving reminders to a distracted nation that there was a war going on.

Former Arlington Public Affairs Director Gina Gray, took over as the public affairs director at Arlington National Cemetery about three months ago. She discovered that cemetery officials were attempting to impose new limits on media coverage of funerals of the Iraq war dead -- even after the fallen warriors' families granted permission for the coverage.

Just 10 days on the job, she was handling media coverage for the burial of a Marine colonel who had been killed in Iraq when she noticed that Thurman Higginbotham, the cemetery's deputy superintendent, had moved the media area 50 yards away from the service, obstructing the photographs and making the service inaudible. The Washington Sketch column on April 24 noted that Gray pushed for more access to the service but was "apparently shot down by other cemetery officials." Six weeks after The Washington Post reported her efforts to restore media coverage of funerals, Gray was demoted. Twelve days ago, the Army fired her. She says,

Had I not put my foot down, had I just gone along with it and not said regulations were being violated, I'm sure I'd still be there. It's about doing the right thing."

Fired whistle-blower Gray had worked for eight years in the Army as a public affairs specialist in Germany, Italy and Iraq, then returned to Iraq as an army contractor doing media operations. While working with the 173rd Airborne in Iraq in 2003, her convoy was ambushed and, she says, she still has some hearing loss from the explosion.

In the Washington Post, by Dana Milbanks

7/10/2008 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Stella by Starlight said...

Vig, I am more in your debt than I can ever state. I, too, am disgusted at Barbara Bush's "why should I ruin my beautiful mind" think about this war quote. Like mother and father, like son(s). I was angered by beach's comment: not what he said, but the absolute disregard people have for our troops.

Of course, I'm a pacifist, but whenever I meet a soldier, I put out my hand and say, "Thank you so much for all you sacrificed." Sadly, they are usually surprised at the acknowledgement, particularly those who served in 'Nam. Although I never served in the military, the needless deaths of those in a war zone—soldiers and civilians—haunt me, especially this war.

I'm on Dahr Jamail's mailing list: he's quite amazing. I hope this is a factual article from Al Jazeera, which will be welcome news: US to 'end Iraq combat next year'.

"Negotiations are ongoing with the US side and the current attitude is to reach a memorandum of understanding either for immediate US forces withdrawal or timetable withdrawal," he said.

The memorandum "now on the table" includes a formula for the withdrawal of US troops, he said.

7/10/2008 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Big Yellow Forehead said...

War is such a heinous, hideous act. We tend to glorify it in this country and sex it up to make it look "cooler" than it really is. It's a travesty.

7/11/2008 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Jolly Roger said...

As you know all too well, anyone who tried to humanize this conflict is going to wind up without a job, or worse.

Just check out the number of journalists that have been killed in Iraq. And then compare that number to past wars? Accident? Anomaly? Nah.

7/12/2008 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger Kentucky Rain said...

Vigil as you know I have long been opposed to calling the Iraq "situation" an occupation, choosing instead to call a war a war. I have changed my mind, not based on your post, but based on a collection of circumstances that put the conflict in a political as opposed to a bellicose arena. So that being said have a great day my friend....

Obama-Clinton '08

7/14/2008 01:20:00 PM  

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