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May 26, 2005

Marked Men


I don’t even know where to start with this image. 

Should we begin with the military signaling that the U.S has a two-dimensional view of the Arab world by turning detainees into human writing surfaces?

Could we talk about how shockingly primitive and ill equipped our troops look for the lack of a more professional, systematic and unassuming way of accounting for prisoners?  (By the way, this photo was shot as part of the second large U.S. assault on Haditha in two weeks,  so you can’t say the military didn’t have a chance to consider a better way to keep track of captives.)

If you’re going to mark, could we talk about the psychology (and humiliation factor) of marking the forehead instead of say, the more unobtrusive shoulder or ankle.  (Of course, I could understand them ruling out the inside forearm.  That would be too reminiscent of Auschwitz.)

And then, there is the writing instrument.  If I’m not mistaken, that looks a lot like a Sharpie.  Do you have any idea how hard that ink is to wash off? 

Frankly, I had almost given up hope of finding another example of tagging by our folks in Iraq.  I guess buildings aren’t good enough anymore?


(In spite of my rant, it’s actually hard to believe this isn’t a standard military technique.  In all the news photos I’ve looked at of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, however, I have never seen this procedure before.  I can’t say it was comprehensive, but I also couldn’t find references to this method in a web search. 

…However, I did discover that civil war deserters were often branded on their foreheads with indelible ink, and that branding was also a favorite method of punishment used by Saddam Hussein.  Somehow, you would think that just this latter fact would argue for a different method of prisoner control.)

If any of you are familiar with this method, could you leave a comment as to why this identification technique is used and what alternative methods are available?  Also, the USA Today story suggests that the U.S. Military was not well prepared for this assault.  Does the fact this method was used suggest something about our military situation in the field?  For example, are we collecting more prisoners than we can handle?

(Yahoo caption: A U.S. Marine writes an identification number on the forehead of an Iraqi man detained during a search in Haditha, 220 kilometers (140 miles) northwest of Baghdad, Wednesday, May 25, 2005. About 1,000 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers encircled Haditha, in the troubled Anbar province, launching the second major operation in this vast western region in less than a month.)

(image: Jacob Silberberg/AP.  May 25, 2005 in YahooNews and USA Today.)

(Thanks to BAG reader Robert)

  • Charles Covington

    This image is totally inconsistent with any efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. There are certainly more modern ways to track detainees than this which, with its indelible marker, aims more at humiliation than identification. I was also struck by the soldier’s casual approach to the tatooing…almost like signing an autograph. I think this picture goes hand in hand with the AP photo of a group of Iraqi women that includes a mother pleading with U.S. Marines to free her blindfolded son Wednesday in Haditha. The son stands blindfolded in the background and if this is the same “prisoner,” he was detained for having too much ammunition for his rifle. The story between the image of the mother pleading and this one of his being “branded” stirs the imagination.

  • jon st

    Three cheers for you Bag…when I first saw this photo, two things screamed out at me:
    “Who the hell is stupid enough to do this in public, at this point?” followed by, “man, what a field day the media and the blogs are going to have with this”. Your notable exception aside, I was wrong, so far, on the second count….so perhaps I am wrong on the first, as well. Perhaps, sadly, this has all become part of the norm.

  • mugatea

    Four cheers for bag, I viewed this shot on SFGate and thought I should send it your way, but you were already working it.
    Yes, that’s a Sharpie and yes it’s very difficult/painful to remove from human skin. It’s a “permanent marker.”
    The Sharpie, by Sanford, was first marketed as a “laundry marker” until the company realized it had many other uses. I wonder if when they marketed it to the military they suggested it for marking up prisoners.
    Do you hear that sucking sound? That’s the sound of humanity leaving the planet.

  • lytom

    It is heartbreaking as many other pictures showing US’ treatment of Iraqis.
    The reality is worse, than what we can imagine of humans branding other human beings. What happened to the spirit of the people of US, letting their government lead without a challenge?

  • laloca

    once again, i find myself in the unusual position of defending our troops’ actions in iraq. perhaps because i know so many people who have beeen over there/are over there.
    Could we talk about how shockingly primitive and ill equipped our troops look for the lack of a more professional, systematic and unassuming way of accounting for prisoners?
    let’s do some brainstorming for a moment. what are the needs of the troops vis-a-vis accounting for prisoners?
    1) quick to administer
    2) difficult to remove
    3) easy to see
    4) portable
    5) idiot-proof
    6) functional across a wide variety of expected and unexpected conditions
    …you can’t say the military didn’t have a chance to consider a better way to keep track of captives.
    define “better.”
    If you’re going to mark, could we talk about the psychology (and humiliation factor) of marking the forehead instead of say, the more unobtrusive shoulder or ankle.
    as long as we also talk about the difficulty of seeing marks on the “unobtrusive shoulder or ankle.” tagging prisoners isn’t solely for accounting purposes — it’s also for ready identification. and yes, while it’s humiliating for the prisoners to be tagged in this manner, this is a war we’re talking about. think what you will of the merits of the war (personally, i think it’s one of the most reprehensible actions of the most reprehensible administration in living memory), but the troops are acting under less than ideal conditions.

  • thei3ug

    I think you’re looking at this from the wrong angle.
    The prisoner is probably happy his serial number wasn’t something like “6079-WS” and included his DOB and full name on the second line.

  • cj

    Interesting photo. Ironically, I could see GWB and Co. extolling this photo as evidence of the humane treatment of “detainees.” Consider this: The soldier applying the mark has a somewhat fatherly, if not priestly, demeanor, i.e., left hand on shoulder as if to reassure, applying the mark itself almost like a blessing (sorry, grew up catholic). The “detainee” himself, does not look particularly frightened, but he does look rather solemn, like he’s ready to accept the mark. He’s also wearing a clean (not torn, dirtied, bloodstained, Che Guevara emblazened, etc.) shirt. He does not “look” terrorist in the least. I suspect that he’s just a guy who happened to live in the area when the military came through. This can almost be the poster for the “kinder gentler occupation force”. “Look, we’re not shootin’ ‘em, we’re not beatin’ ‘em, he still has all his clothes on, no blood, NO GUN pointed at his head, and they seem ready to accept the right way….” The fact that the man is even standing says it all! Considering previous photos of prisoners, detainees, persons of interest, etc., I actually think psyops is scoring a propaganda coup with this one. Also considering the apparent lack of popular outrage in the US over the more horrendous photos of abuse, we’ll all just go back to waiting for the Michael Jackson verdict as per plan……
    As for the sharpie, now that’s a cost conscious military. Probably got a good deal on ‘em at Walmart……

  • michael ryan

    There’s something in the Bible I recall about the mark of cain, and that mark is actually presented in genesis as God’s way of preventing everyone who sees Cain from murdering him. I always wondered when i read the story why said people would have murder on their minds if they did not see the mark, not to mention where did these people come from since the staory claims that cain and Abel are the first offspring of Adam and Eve, but never mind I’ve gone far afield. So, it could well be that this guy will get released with an apology and a box of chocolates, and will use up a bar of soap trying to remove the mark. And yes it’s not as cruel as a branding-iron mark. And the guy looks way too well-groomed and well-dressed to be much of an insurgent, but what do I know. This picture deserves a lot of attention. Don Rumsfeld should go. We’re going to be there for more than 20 years.

  • Nick

    Medics write “TK” and the time on the foreheads of patients who have had a tourniquet applied. I wonder if that technique was adapted for use in this picture, in the absence of whatever other system normally gets used.

  • Molly

    I wonder how long the prisoner will be a prisoner and what happened after the picture was taken. Unfortunately (or fortunatley, maybe) we will never know.
    Good point about branding. My daughter writes on herself all the time (Mom won’t let her get a tatoo) so I know Sharpie eventually comes off, it just takes some time.
    I do agree that any pictures of UStroops and Iraqi detainees regardless of the humanity portrayed in them are potentially loaded with TNT especially after Abu Ghraib. I wonder how long it will be before we stop seeing pictures altogether.

  • George Myers

    It, in light of the current Supreme Court consideration of jury “tampering” by presenting defendants in shackles (as Clinton associate Susan MacDougal was shown in the press) is certainly stigmatizing. Having just came in from writing on plastic bags and survey tape with a “Sharpie” while in archaeological survey of a property where West Point graduates had their reunions, also owned by “Mama Leone’s” next to their property, I am inclined to use “Marks-A-Lot” instead, less toxic. Perhaps this has gone on a lot (they are old brands) and Yippie Abbie Hoffman used to wear the F word as such on his forehead perhaps as a counter to the same procedure used in Vietnam. Better “kara” (Turkish “black”) marked then dead. “Ah fah la fah ka” Soupy Sales used to sing, “I love you” they say all over Turkey.

  • asdf

    laloca paraphrased:
    “War is hard work and they’re doing their best* under distress. I know, because I’ve met some soldiers. Marking the forehead with ink is a quick and effective way of warehousing. So, cut them a break.” (emotional *Sigh*included….)
    even better*
    “war is hard work, defend america!”
    *Remind self to define *best* & *better*
    Is best right after better,
    or right before bestest?

  • Kelly

    What stuck me first was the humanity expressed in the prisoner’s furrowed brow.
    Second; the shot is composed so that if we were to remove the U.S. soldier’s head, we would be in the first person. Our arms would be holding a blindfolded and bound man while we mark him.
    This photograph is sympathetic to the detainee. Which makes sense as to take a prisoner is an exercise in de-humanization. A prisoner is subjugated by definition which is aptly shown here.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    I agree with lalcoa. Marking like that with Sharpies is what they do at the local swim meets here. I hadn’t realized that it was an oppressive, humanity destroying way of rendering the kids as 2-dimensional objects. And here I thought that all writing was 2-dimensional, but the BAG has shown me that 2-dimensional writing is in only done by the brutal. Oh wait – the BAG’s caption is 2-dimensional! Michael, how can you be so cruel? (On a side note, I’ve not found the marking from a Sharpie all that hard to remove, especially if you just wait a couple of days)

    asdf, lalcoa was asking for a definition of a better method, not the literal word “better”. It’s noteworthy that you failed to provide one, although hardly surprising. I suppose you’d recommend we follow the practice of the other side and just decapitate them all?

    As for humiliation and winning hearts and minds, why is that you all don’t consider randomly blowing up large crowds of women and children (as the caliphascists are doing) as not winning hearts and minds? Do you really think that the average Iraqi considers this worse treatment than he got from the Ba’athists or is getting from the people the Coalition is fighting? Moreover, the Iraqis might well compare this to what happens in other Arab Muslim countries when people oppose the government, which is outright massacres by government forces. I suppose that in order to be truly culturally sensitive, we should do the same, right? Or we could leave them to be slaughtered by the caliphascists instead of writing numbers on prisoners.

    You treat this kind of activity as if it were taking place on Rodeo Drive, Hollywood, instead of a country being attacked by a well financed group of fanatical terrorists, which is far more delusional and parochial than anything the military can be accused of.

  • eja

    Hey AOG, maybe if we had a concrete reason for going in there in the first place instead of the “pack of lies” BushCo$ used to sell this disaster we’d all feel better about the methods our military is using to fight this “well financed group of fanatical terrorists.” While were at it, we invaded their country, smashed their infrastructure – what little was left after an 8 year war with Iran which killed a million plus, after 12 years of brutal sanctions that are directly attributed to the death of hundreds of thousands (mostly children) – killed 100,000 of their people (and counting) – but since they are fighting back, they are the terrorists? That’s some logic.

  • Asta

    (Annoying Old Guy wins the Most Appropriate Screen Name Award for 2005.)
    That said, no one here has mentioned that the Islamic religion forbids tatoos or any kind of mutilation to the body. (This does not include suicide bombers as they are the extreme.) It seems “those people” treat their bodies as temples while we do not. We will pierce anything. And then ink in “MOM” over the nipple ring.
    This was discussed in another forum when the first photos of the Abu Ghraib abuses were released and I remember seeing a photo of one of our soldiers (supposedly) showing off a tatoo spewing Jewish symbols. This was rationalized as having some demoralizing effect on the Muslim prisoners.
    You know, AOG, when we do this kind of trash to other human beings, what will stop them from treating our young men and women in uniform the same way? Have you thought about that? And since when was it okay to “brand” people like USDA certified sides of beef?
    Everything about this war is WRONG. IMMORAL. This is way worse than Viet Nam. Mr. Asta asked me last night how was it different. And I said, Viet Nam was fought on a misguided philosophy about the evils of a growing “menace” called Communism. While our attitude about it may have been flawed, Communism WAS spreading.
    In the case of Iraq, we were lied to concerning PHYSICAL EVIDENCE. There WERE NO WMDs. Nada. Nill. Zilch.
    Oh, and AOG, if you’re so gung-ho about this war, sign up your grandchildren for the next wave, because we will probably still be there long after the next solar eclipse. That’s 2012 FYI.

  • Geoduck

    Of course, I could understand them ruling out the inside forearm. That would be too reminiscent of Auschwitz.
    I wonder how many people even know what “Auschwitz” is anymore.

  • Ashtara

    I carry a sharpie to ink drawings, and if I get bored, I draw on myself all the time. If it’s on your palm, it’s gone in two hours. If it’s on the outside of your arm and you’re outside on a hot day… illegible in under a day, gone completely in two or three unless you reink it. On the forehead, I assume it would last longer, but could still be washed off with plain water and a little scrubbing. (I was on swim team too, we did the same thing Kelly mentioned on our hands so we knew when we were swimming. Add in a time or two through water and a towel, and it was usually gone by the end of the meet.)
    Sharpies aren’t permanent markers on skin because that’s not what they were designed for. And since that’s what the soldier is using, the forehead makes more sense than about anywhere else– it would wear off on to the prisoner’s clothing if written on their shoulder or ankle.
    From the army’s POV, it makes sense. Cheap, fast, easy.

  • Annoying Old Guy


    You say “no concrete reason” and then proceed to list two major ones:

    • Toppling a regime that fought a vicious war that killed millions, constituting a continuing threat to its neighbors, some of them USA allies.
    • Putting an end to sanctions that were killing hundreds of thousands

    It’s always amusing to see sanctions cited as a reason against the invasion, since it indicates a clear lack of thought on the issue. You also might want to check here for reasons why the 100,000 dead claim doesn’t stand up to even a little bit of logic. Further, you could always look here for a nice list of concrete reasons. But you might want to be careful, you could pick up actual facts from reading things like that.


    I’d be willing to consider the argument about the sanctity of Muslim bodies if Muslims themselves followed it. But one needn’t read very far to find numerous examples of how it is violated (you might check out what’s going on in Sudan, where one group of Muslims is committing mass rape and genocide, along with bodily mutilation, against another group of Muslims). This is not to say that that makes such actions moral acceptable, but it does show that complaints of that nature are simply rhetoric, not to be taken seriously.

    I find it pathetic that you exclude the caliphascists operating in Iraq for no reason other than it ruins your point. And of course the standard hyperbole of referring to writing on someone with a marker as “branding”. I know people who got real brands, and others who got written on with Sharpie markers, and really it’s not at all the same. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me.

    Further, we have only your word that this in fact upsets Iraqis for being to too rough. On the other hand, while the looting was going on, many Iraqis thought the problem was that the Coalition wasn’t shooting looters on sight. Is it so inconceivable that Iraqis might well react to the terrorism with support for some hard core law and order, just like frequently happens here in the USA? I’m not making that claim, but I seem to have more evidence for it than you do for your claim.

    As for the possiblity of the other side treating our troops the same way, I have considered that although apparently you didn’t before posting. Do you really think that our troops would find it worse to be written on with markers than beheaded and burned alive? That’s what the other side does now. What exactly could they do in response to this that is worse?

    As for being gung-ho about the war, does that mean you can’t be

    • Gung-ho about fighting fires unless you’re a fireman?
    • Gung-ho about fighting crime unless you’re a policeman?
    • Gung-ho about fighting disease unless you’re a doctor?
    • Gung-ho about building tall buildings unless you’re a cosntruction worker?
    • Gung-ho about electricity unless you’re a coal-miner?

    If not, why is fighting a war any different? People get killed in those jobs all the time. Your question is simply a cheap way to rule out majority support for any war, since only a minority actually serves in the military. Or do you mean that our military decisions should be turned over entirely to the Pentagon? That’s the logical conclusion to the basic principle implied in your question. Of course, the military voted overwhelming for President Bush. I think that means you should support the invasion as well if your question isn’t just a cheap rhetorical trick.

  • lytom

    It seems we can rationalize anything…as long as we are good at it!
    I see it done here with the defense of markers used on swim teams, somebody writing messages on palm…etc…
    All this rationalization falls short of making the picture right!
    We could defend a pipe line delivering blood to ill patients who need it, yet if we learn that the blood was taken forcibly from people for the benefit of others, it does not make it right.
    Bottom line, war on Iraq was wrong and still is; Occupation is wrong and will be even if the puppet government and Bush announces there is “peace”.
    Imposing US “freedoms” on others is wrong.

  • Asta

    AOG, guess what? The majority in this country do not support the war. Go check out the numbers.
    Your long-winded response was predictable. If you were a person of honesty and integrity, and not a hypocrit, you would have simply said that you support the war as long as someone else fights it for you.
    About Sudan. Well, that’s Muslims killing other Muslims. A LOT like what we were told was going on in Iraq, that Saddam was a murderous dictator killing his own people. Well, tell me why, then, that we haven’t sent troops into Sudan to stop the killing there? Oh, wait, I think I know…um….gee, the Sudanese aren’t oil-rich?
    I am going to IGNORE all future posts of yours. This is not a political debate forum. I come here to enjoy others’ comments about the psychology behind media images, and the hidden propaganda messages we are being fed daily. If you simply want to argue and try to intimidate people, I suggest Democratic Underground or Bartcop.

  • Johanna

    Once again, I feel as though I am crying out in the proverbial wilderness when I repeat post after post, that I feel that this is part of a deliberate action to desecrate and humiliate Arab/Muslim men.
    Here are some thoughts that came to me last night regarding Arab/Muslim heads:
    At first soldiers called them rag “heads”
    Then they put hoods on their heads and tortured them.
    Then they saved up their coke bottles in their humvees to crack over the heads of Arab/Muslims.
    They blind fold heads of “captured” suspects.
    They write on their heads.
    And in return:
    The Arab/Muslim jihadist removes heads.
    All of this is extremely troubling and heart-wrenching. I personally feel that many of our soldiers are not fighting in this occupation with righteous nor with dignity and unfortunately we don’t hear about it until sometimes a year later and we then wonder of the strength of the Arab/Muslim will to rid their land of our presence.
    I thank “lytom” for his/her post and Asta for the passion that comes with his/her commentaries. And I am so grateful for those who posted commentaries that expressed a sense of shared humanity. I come here to read of what others are thinking and feeling and am always grateful when I come across commentaries that express a sense of humanity and insight.
    Peace. Johanna

  • Asta

    Johanna, that was elequent.
    I sincerely agree with you that this war is, as you so well said, a “deliberate action to desecrate and humiliate Arab/Muslim men.”
    I’m willing to take it a step further. To desecrate and humiliate the entire Muslim world. Bush let his “agenda” slip in Freudian fashion when he said, shortly after 9/11, that he was on a “crusade”. I believe he truly is.
    (And nothing would make me happier than to see him suit up in knight’s armor, mount his trusty steed Barney and go charging into battle. Yep, the War President should see some action on the front line.)
    It seems we are sliding back into the Dark Ages.
    (BTW, your presence here is also appreciated by me. It is so heartening to meet another human being in a world I believe is rapidly losing its humanity. Thank you so much for your comments here. When I read them, I don’t feel quite so lost in the Proverbial Wilderness. Peace be with you, too.)

  • cjm

    i am going to volunteer as a human chalkboard, whose with me ?

  • daniel

    It seems like a lot of the comments to this post are reading WAY too much into the image. I’m also seeing a lot of comments that follow this sort of logic: “the war was wrong so everything done in the war is the worst possible thing that could be done”.
    Here are some relatively simple questions that address various points:
    What should the soldier do instead?
    Should he use his portable inkjet printer and laptop (which I’m sure are standard military gear) and print out a bunch of “Hello My Name is…” stickers and meticulously place them on the shirt of each prisoner? Should he whip out his magical pouch that carries a universe of objects at an infintessimal weight and start strapping magic bracelets to peoples wrists that light up when he’s looking for a particular name? You all seem to be smart people … what is the PRACTICAL solution to this problem?
    Did you ever think that maybe the soldier hates HAVING to do it this way because there IS NO OTHER practical solution? That man has just as much human dignity as the prisoner. He’s probably serving so he can support his wife and kid and is doing the best he can in the most humane way he can with the materials at hand. I mean, sure, I GUESS you can only empathize with the prisoner, but lets be fair and honest about the situation while we empathize.
    Further, does writing temporary (yes, sharpees are temporary on flesh) information on a prisoner violate any law or basic human right? If the prisoner is released, the mark will wash away in a day … not much humiliation if you ask me. One day, in a full life, with some sharpee on your forehead. Not only that, but sharpees are not considered to be unclean from any cultures viewpoint. It would probably wash away in the young man’s daily ablution.
    Listen, I may be just simple minded or something … but it strikes me as odd that everyone says, “there ought to be a better way” but no one has posted a better way yet.

  • PPP

    “a country being attacked by a well financed group of fanatical terrorists”…that would be the U.S., right?
    and what was the one about this type of marking being appropriate for “warehousing”? I’m so glad we think of the Iraqi’s in this way…
    we’ve already lost.

  • spook

    I agree with Johanna and asta about the deliberate act to debase and humiliate the arab nations. It is not new consider the previous conflicts that America have been invoved with where the enemy were given names such as Gooks (korean ) nips (japanese) Towel heads (afghanistan) Commies ooops too political sorry dubjah……come on if we depersonalise the enenmy it makes killing them easier…………..thats the bottom line

  • pjr

    AOG, you posted this in regards to eja:
    You say “no concrete reason” and then proceed to list two major ones:
    Toppling a regime that fought a vicious war that killed millions, constituting a continuing threat to its neighbors, some of them USA allies.
    Putting an end to sanctions that were killing hundreds of thousands
    First of all, have you any recollection as to whom your government was backing in the Iran/Iraq war? I suspect it surely wasn’t Iran.
    Secondly, which country was it which spearheaded the sanctions after the first Gulf War to punish Saddam for his audaciousness?
    Thirdly, let me extend my sincere acknowledgement of the supreme sacrifices represented by your Memorial Day; would that we lived in a world in which such reverance were a thing of the past, permanently.

  • blackhawk up

    AOG: “…a country being attacked by a well financed group of fanatical terrorists…“.
    Don’t you mean “a country being occupied by a well financed group of fanatical terrorists”? (And I don’t think the soldiers are fanatics, just their chickenhawk commanders-in-chief.)

  • Milton

    AOG: “Well, tell me why, then, that we haven’t sent troops into Sudan to stop the killing there? Oh, wait, I think I know…um….gee, the Sudanese aren’t oil-rich?”
    You better re-check those facts because they are dead wrong, Sudan has oil and plenty of it. That is partly why China (which has a veto in the UNSC) is so opposed to any intervention, they need the oil from Sudan.
    By the way, it wasn’t the US that stole from the Iraqi people through sanctions, it was Saddam and the corrupt UN that allowed it.

  • Asta

    Milton, ’twas I who commented about oil and Sudan, not AOG. AOG and you are of the same mindset, totally opposite to mine.
    However, I did do some research on Sudan and their oil, and I want to thank you for your job in further confirming for me the blatant and unforgiveable hypocrisy of our country.
    It seems we only intervene in supporting human rights when we don’t have to go up against countries like China and India and Indonesia, because we don’t want to lose our cheap imports and slave labor resources, and besides, China could (and would) kick our ass.
    Bush’s mantra “Culture of Life” is a joke.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    It’s sad, in a pathetic sort of way, to hear people who complain about the “illegal” war in Iraq fault President Bush for not intervening in Sudan. Perhaps the reason is, having exhausted his international political capital to invade Iraq, Bush was forced to get permission from the UN to intervene in Sudan. And what did the UN say? “NO”. So if the USA invades a country without UN approval, it’s wrong and the fault of the USA (unless it’s under former President Clinton in Europe), but if the USA does not invade a country because of no UN approval, it is also the fault of the USA. So which is it? Is the USA wrong when it go against UN dictates or acquieses to them? Or is the USA (and Bush in particular) wrong regardless?
    P.S. Keep in mind that the UN has Sudan sitting on the UN Human Rights Commission. That’s the kind of organization you respect?
    1) So what? We’ve discussed that before. I simply don’t agree that either (1) it was wrong in the context of the time or (2) doing something wrong in the past makes all future actions wrong as well. I find your apparent belief in the latter exceptionally bizarre, as the end result can only be no one able to do anything good ever.
    2) The USA, primarily because it’s allies and the UN refused to allow a regime change at the time. I can only infer that you think that a wrong thing. Could you explain what should have been done instead? Surrender? A hearty pat on the back and a “hey, just invade and loot neighboring countries that our allies anytime, dude – no hard feelings”?
    3) Thanks. I spent some time the day before putting flags on veterans graves with my boy, so that they would be there when Memorial Day dawned. The best thing we can do to honor their sacrifice is to see things through, so that the sacrifice was not in vain.

  • Milton

    Sorry about the mix-up.
    However I saw this article from BBC on the Sudan, It’s very interesting how France has been opposing any actions in Sudan. Not that Europe has a very good record about stopping genocides*.
    I wonder what your position on the U.N. is because both France and China opposed the intervention in Darfur AND the war in Iraq. Also, ironically, France and China have been giving weapons to the Janjaweed**.
    So now it is okay to go against the U.N in some cases but not in others. Hmm… very interesting.
    P.S. My personal view is that it is ridicilous that we are not doing enough to stop the genocide in Darfur. However, failing to act, as bad as it is, is not nearly as bad as actively aiding those who carry out the genocide.
    *As seen by Europe’s failure to stop the genocide in the Balkans.
    Asta: “It seems we only intervene in supporting human rights when we don’t have to go up against countries like China and India and Indonesia, because we don’t want to lose our cheap imports and slave labor resources, and besides, China could (and would) kick our ass.”
    It is interesting how countries like China*** or Indonesia**** don’t care about human rights to begin with.
    ***Note the illegal occupation of Tibet by China and other such repression.
    ****The invasion of East Timor by Indonesia and subsequent human rights abuses there.

  • Brendan

    I sincerely doubt that anyone here really believes that our foreign policy has been driven by altruism, which is why I am most amused by some of the comments by AOG and Milton. AS much as we might congratulate ourselves on coming to the aid of millions of people throughout history, in almost every case the humanitarian angle was merely a ploy to elicit the support of the American public so that the true objectives would remain obscure. After all of the material that has been written concering the current debacle in Iraq, I have yet to come to any firm conclusion about WHY we are REALLY there. I don’t buy the WMD angle, or because we’re the world’s savior and protector or that it was necessary to achieve lasting peace. Nor do I beleive that oil is sufficient motive, since there are many far weaker and more politically expedient contries that we could invade. I don’t buy the “fight ‘em there, so we don’t fight him here!” argument either. The only thing I can really say with certainty is that we are definitely not there for any noble purpose, despite what our current administration might espouse. I also belive that there will be much grief to come of our foreign ploicy and that much of that burden will be shouldered by the poor and middle class.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    I’m saddened that you think the export of liberal democracy and American national interests are opposed. Some of us think it’s the best long term strategy for promoting national security. It’s also not just a policy of the current administration. An earlier anti-humanity right-wing nut job expressed it this way:

    Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

    P.S. See here for a fuller explanation of why, even though wildly optimistic, this is a chance we must take.

  • Cosmic Rose

    The marking in the forehead is a religious message related in the Christian bible in the book of Revelations as no man may buy…sell… or trade without the mark of the beast placed on their forehead or hand. This is the deeper message being sent because the biblical scriptures also asks… who then can wage war against the beast? This is a psyops maneuver (man-over).
    In regards to the annoying old guy’s comments: So if the USA invades a country without UN approval, it’s wrong and the fault of the USA (unless it’s under former President Clinton in Europe), but if the USA does not invade a country because of no UN approval, it is also the fault of the USA. So which is it? Is the USA wrong when it go against UN dictates or acquiesces to them? Or is the USA (and Bush in particular) wrong regardless?
    The US is part of the UN. The answer is… the USA is wrong when it illegally and immorally engages a sovereign country in an act of war by lying …and manipulating evidence to allude to an imminent threat to national security if PRE-EMPTION can’t be considered a valid justification for doing so. This is called FALSE WITNESS which is strictly forbidden in the same Ten Commandments that the right wing fundamentalists supporting this administration ’s policies are crying about their not being able to erect/place in government buildings. Commandments they obviously don’t know how to read let alone interpret.
    You are comparing apples to oranges when comparing a legitimate need versus a contrived one. You do not export liberal democracy at the point of a gun or by using draconian means. If it is necessary for you to do this then what you are exporting is NOT liberal democracy at all but rather justified TYRANNY. You also do not force democracy abroad while whittling away at it at home and expect people to be jumping for joy to adopt it as their own. If you declare that lives must be taken (perceived innocent or not) in order to secure my freedoms… I would tell you that I do not need your form of security… and I do not want it either…. as would many of my fellow HUMAN family who want the same rights for all as they want for themselves. The most basic being FREE WILL to choose how one will live without being FORCED to live as others declare they should. Present US policy does not secure our independence without it costing someone else’s. We can do nothing about past US policies or mistakes other than agree not to repeat them… but we can certainly speak up about the present administrations policies that continue to put every one of us in jeopardy as well our very environment. IGNOR-ANCE IS BLISS indeed.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    You do not export liberal democracy at the point of a gun or by using draconian means.

    Germany. Japan. Italy. This is what makes claims that I am the uninformed one so hilarious.

    If you declare that lives must be taken (perceived innocent or not) in order to secure my freedoms… I would tell you that I do not need your form of security… and I do not want it either.

    So the American Civil War was a mistake and those freed by that war should be put back in chains?

  • Cosmic Rose

    It is hilarious that you would direct such a statement to me when I never made such a claim against you. IGNORE means to turn ones head and look the other way in case you weren’t aware. IGNOR-ANCE would then take on a different meaning… PERHAPS… not in all cases.
    Obviously humanity relishes making the same mistakes repeatedly. Obviously they CAN indeed imagine that they are exporting democracy at gun point when they aren’t the ones on the other end of that FORCED liberation. Obviously they can find a legitimate reason for most any form of in-human behavior they desire but that doesn’t make it legitimate or right none the less. Aren’t we supposed to be evolving yet you bring up past mistakes with an offhanded dismissal thinking it somehow minimizes the effects of our present mistakess by negating completely the huge costs to humanity that took place while engaged in such behavior/wars? You are asking a Native American if I felt The Civil War was a mistake? YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS you bet your astrals I do because even it wasn’t fought for the reasons you are alluding too unfortunately. The US is still filled full with prejudice and hatred toward others that are of a different skin tone… different Nationality…different belief system… etc. FREE from their chains? The chains have simply taken on a new fashionable look is all. The American government is STILL lying to and stealing from my own ancestors what was rightfully theirs through worthless promises and treaties never intended to be adhered to or upheld.
    I don’t believe in placing chains on anyone and then later acting as if you are their liberator when you trade them in for less offensive ones. I do not believe that WAR is the solution to conflict resolution but rather a means to perpetuate conflict. If it were otherwise… we would not be having this conversation because war would have long ago become obsolete…no longer necessary. I see how you have earned your username proudly.
    Back to the subject matter at hand. The left hand doesn’t always know what is in the mind of the right hand which directs it. The soldier in the image might not have a clue why he was ordered to mark individuals in such a manner other than it is what he was told to do by his superiors. (there is also a possibility that he might) His superiors might not be apprised of any psychological manipulations being committed by this particular directive either because they have too many other things on their minds like living long enough to make it home. BUT… those at the highest level of command… know full well that they are directing these soldiers to de-humanize the so called enemy. In a situation where that enemy isn’t clearly defined… EVERYONE is the enemy. Anyone who can seriously believe that de-humanizing the enemy is not the military’s greatest mistake (if their intent was in fact to win the hearts and minds of ANYONE on either side of the deadly game of war) isn’t able to see clearly in the first place. It is meant to destroy the human will/spirit… not to uplift it.
    Directed now to other posters….as for it being so simple to remove a marker with just a little bit of soap and water…. It isn’t the mark the sharpie has left that is going to leave the LASTING impression. Not only that… but there is so little clean water in the world these people live in… do you honestly believe they wouldn’t rather drink it than have to use it to wash off their humiliation as much as they might want to… the body has its own needs which sometimes superceed the needs of the soul.

  • yourtutor

    Young knave o’ the world – your void of knowledge is staggering. Idealism is just that my child, let the man use a marker. It’s small, easy to carry, and in all liklihood wont raise your taxes to purchase unlike your fabulous makring machine that spares the “humiliation” of a p.r.i.s.o.n.e.r. So foolish be you.

  • Adam

    Interesting that you all seem to have missed what the prisoner is wearing.
    It’s ‘casual wear’ from the Western world. The UK I think.
    His country and culture had been invaded long before troops landed by marketing people, and images of ‘the good life’ as enjoyed in the US or Europe.
    All the while living in Sadam’s regeime.
    Then the Westerner strangers come: The oust Sadam (eventually), blow up buildings, have gun battles in the streets of his town, and eventually blind fold him and mark his head like an “discount” price tag for the near “use by” items at a supermarket.
    Amongst the fear, humiliation, anger, sadness, and violation – do you think he may have a sense of dissappointment? That he’d been lied to about how wonderful life in the West actually is?

  • Dan

    Concerning the so called “tagging” of prisoners: Pure ignorance on your part.

  • dean

    I want to mention that the man wearing a brand name t-shirt sort of humanizes the abuse as military against any man, not some dude in camo’s or turban ,etc….just an idea

  • PBill

    Point being missed, I think, is that if that man is ever released he will probably want to kill Americans.
    How many thousands have we treated in such ways?

  • ADan

    *He* would want to kill someone for being briefly marked with a sharpie?
    or *you* would?
    What sort of depraved fanatic are you?
    *He* is going to write it off as a wasted morning and flip the bird at the soldiers on his way out, secure in the knowledge that disrespecting authority won’t win him a one way ticket thru Udays’ Marvelous Mincing Machine ™, a really dehumanizing experience.

  • Dale

    How awful!!! Writing on them!!! Oh the humanity!!!!
    How about we just put thos e”Hello, mu name is” tags from Office Depot? That will work, yeah great idea!
    You people are whacked.

  • Dale

    Or we could just kill him.
    Maybe saw his head off on camera like the Islamists do to innocent reporters and other civilians.
    Nope, we write on their heads with a Sharpie. We are such vicious bastards, aren’t we?

  • Dale

    Adam – Do you think he might have done something to be treated in such a way? Or was he just standing on a street corner dreaming of Western life when we scooped him up and hauled him away so that we could complete his disillusionment!!
    I am sure he is innocent. Just like those goons at Gitmo.
    Just rememebr, prisons are full of innocent people and, if you don’t believe me, just ask one of them. HARHARHAR
    BTW, your comments indicate that you may think this young man and his country were better off under Saddam. Is that true?

  • hauksdottir

    Perhaps you don’t realize that this site is for the dissection of *images* and all the layers of meaning, manipulation, motivation, and manifestation. Debates here are framed by whatever the photographer has chosen to capture and the media outlet has chosen to run… and why.
    Other sites are for political arguments, where the dialogue need not be anchored by a particular image but by the writer’s own POV.

  • fotonique
  • PBill

    My answer: Probably, if a soldier from an invading army pulled me from my house and treated me this way, I would very well be thinking of killing.
    Though, the thought of having any foreign army invade my country leads me to believe I would fight them kill them by any means necessary. But maybe my sense of true patriotism makes me a “depraved fanatic”
    I can only conclude ADan, that you missed my point, so I’ll try and spell it out for you. Lets say a “terrorist” army invades and occupies the US because all our fighting forces are overseas. But you’re kind of a pacifist and think that you can just wait until they install their puppet government and leave. But it’s appearing that they really don’t want to leave and are constantly knocking down your door and pulling you and your family from the house, binding your hands, and marking your fucking forehead.
    What the fuck would you do? And don’t tell me that doesn’t happen.
    You must think, “Hey, these are American troops, they’re the good guys.” And you would be right, except they’re in a bad situation and are being seen by more and more Iraqi as the bad guys.
    So ADan, go and fuck your self. And when you fucked yourself long and hard enough to come to the revelation that the meaning of patriotism includes protecting the people from a corrupt government, stopping the corrupt government from using the armed forces in illegal and unjust wars for political purposes, and that the civilian citizens of our country are the front lines against the corrupt government, you’ll understand where I and many, many more Americans are coming from.

  • Chaco

    I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this as the list of comments here is rediculously long, but there is no evidence that this picture was taken in Iraq at all. BTU’s are damn common anywhere there are soldiers. That pattern also does not appear remnicient of the US camo. I just don’t feel there is enough proof here to jump into the “hateful american” boat. It’s no wonder the media hasn’t had a field day with this yet. There’s nothing real to jump on.

  • Todd Brooks

    Hey, would you do this for me?… Ask the jahaad crew to mark Americans in a less obtrusive way. Say.. instead of actually taking dull knives and sawing their heads off, how about a sharpie marking behind the arm or something a little more humane.
    Want to see the proof? just go to for the actual footage. See an American forehead planted on their ass because that was the best place to set it after the head was cut off, then tell us how you feel about a sharpie number on the forehead.
    What a dumbass, what if it was your family?

  • dummy

    this is stupid

  • starsandstripes

    Its not often done with sharpies as much as just regular markers, but it is used during raids to identify targets. Its not in any dameaning or branding sense it is just mearly to ease the already long process and speed up the paperwork involved in capturing detainees. Trust me its neccassary..especially when you capture 20-40 guys in one raid. There is evidence to catolog and personal belongings and such that are all identified to the number on the forhead.

  • ummabdulla

    This is an idea (among many others) that they got from Israelis, who tried the same thing with Palestinians. Holocaust survivors were outraged, though, so even the Israeli military stopped the practice.
    If it’s so necessary, I’m just wondering whether it’s standard police practice when arresting more than a few people in a raid?
    And while the marking might add to the humiliation, remember that this guy is also being arrested, handcuffed and blindfolded, probably for nothing more than being a man of a certain age in Haditha.
    By the way, many of the Iraqi prisoners (as well as the ones in Guantanamo Bay) have turned out to be innocent and been released.

  • hauksdottir

    It is quite possible to attach a number to a person without writing directly upon their body as though they were a joint of meat or an archeological acquisition!
    Hospitals deal with large numbers of new people daily, and since giving the wrong treatment can lead to death (with resultant embarrassment and legal problems), everybody gets wrist tags. These have the advantage that you can put microchips full of data in them.
    Large trade shows usually just give people badges on lanyards (again with barcodes), but entry to some events such as Microsoft developer conferences is limited to people with numbered and coded wrist bands. Programmers at the Game Developer’s Conference gave a howl of outrage; I can only imagine the furor if Microsoft tried writing directly on the attendees….
    A stamp of passage to an event on the back of the hand is sometimes ok. It washes off in a few hours, and if the restrooms are outside of a reserved area, it is a convenience.
    A number is never ok.
    A number on the face smacks of branding and nose cutting. Shame.
    Why shame someone who is probably innocent (given how these sweeps work)?
    If hospitals and trade shows with tens of thousands of people descending upon them can deal with registration and processing in a civilized manner, so can a military unit handling a few dozen “suspects”.
    Furthermore, if you clip a wristband with a chip onto a person and clip a tag with the same chip onto a sealed bag of his effects, it can all be computerized and verified. A wrist band is faster to apply, legible, tracable. They can even be color-coded: red for caught on a battlefield, yellow for running a checkpoint, blue for guilty of being at home in bed when we broke his door down, etc.. This might even speed processing if a vanload of men can be pre-grouped before they get to a detention-center.
    The innocent can be released and back home without wearing the public shame of having been branded like an animal. The ones needing further detention are already in the system. With their gear.

  • Joe

    I think you bleeding heart liberals hate anything to do with FREEDOM, our GREAT President, and our wonderful BRAVE troops. Would you perfer us having a twelve-year old child cut off the head of the captured prisoner as THEY would do to you? Get over it!

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