Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
May 18, 2005

Uniform Response


This was a photo from Monday — right before the Administration turned a magazine blurb into an opportunity to reset the news cycle.  Given the magnitude of the bleeding in Iraq, the problem can’t help but find its way back into the headlines.  In the meantime, the White House’s Newsweek drama turned out to be much more effective in tamping down the bad news from Iraq than this ineffectual and rather pathetic GI Jane maneuver by America highest Secretary.

In  an article in Monday’s NYT Business section, David Carr describes the rise and fall of former New Yorker editor Tina Brown.   As the person most responsible for turning politicians into celebrities and popularizing celebrity politics, Carr believes that Brown was so successful in reducing politics to hero worship that Ms. Brown rendered herself obsolete. 

Consider this image exhibit A of the "Brown effect."

If political celebrity has come to overshadow the actual skill and performance of the politician, nobody symbolizes this transition more these days than Condi Rice.  Ms. Rice flew from Qatar to Irbil in northern Iraq, by way of Germany.  From there, she traveled 95 miles by helicopter to Salahaddin to meet with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani.  At which point, according to the NYPost, she "descended from the plane wearing a desert camouflage Kevlar helmet and matching bulletproof jacket over her tan suit."  Beyond the fashion statement, my question is: What was the point of the helmet?  In this photo and the others I’ve seen, the only figures wearing helmets are the guys who do so for a living.  And the only shooting encountered was the fawning kind coming from the bevy of photographers Ms. Rice had in tow. 

Given the lack of a practical reason for the head gear, there could only be one of two reasons for the accessorizing.  One is to show the folks back home that the Administration remains on the march (notice the hand).   The second possible explanation is that Rice fancies herself a warrior.  Of course, this might sell back home where (kudos to Ms. Brown) being a soldier and playing one in the media have become synonymous.  In Iraq however, folks like Mr. Barzani probably had to keep from wetting themselves after seeing this lady in the chapeaux.


The other affront to reality here was the way this charade was reported (or, more accurately, not reported) in the papers.  Take the account of Ms. Rice’s trip in the LA Times, for example (link  — subscription).  Surprisingly (or, again, not surprisingly), there was no mention of why she made the sudden and unusual visit.  But then, in the post-Brown world of political celebrity, maybe the only questions that really matter anymore are who, where and when

(image: Peter Mackler AFP/Getty Images.  May 16, 2005 in The Los Angeles Times, p. A7)

  • jon st

    My is not a very profound, or isightful question, but I just wonder where we are going with children like Bush and Rice running the show? She just looks sad, and silly. Like a child playing at war. Like Bush often looks.

  • Asta

    Is she wearing pink Kevlar? Quite a contrast to the tight black boots/military look she sported in Germany recently.

  • hauksdottir

    Cotton Condi!
    (spun sugar treat sold at circuses and fairs in America)
    The men are clearly in regulation tan… Condi is in ruffled pink kevlar. What a hoot! Are those perky little petals on her bonnet?
    She was perfectly safe from being assassinated (any sniper would fall off his perch while laughing), but her tailor dies at dawn.

  • Quiet Jim

    The personificatiion of evil and a joke at the same time. Tough to pull that off but Condo-Lisa belts it out of the park with panache!

  • jawbone

    Maybe she was having a bad hair day.
    Northern Iraq is not supposed to be harrowing for visiting US officials. Her suit was clearly chosen to match the protective gear, so it was planned ahead. Amazing.
    I can’t tell if it’s a pinkish beige, but it’s not military issue, is it? At least not camo.
    By the way, one helmet as a couture statement–or any statement–is a “chapeau.” More than one hat is spelled with the “x” on the end. (Can’t resist being on grammar patrol this week.)

  • 1MaNLan

    The photos of MacArthur “returning” came to mind when I looked at this photo. They both have a “staged”, self-important kind of look to them compared to great war photos. My reaction was: “This is the BEST they can do?” I’ll just let that question stand as the epitaph for this photo, which is itelf functions as an ironic metaphor for the Iraq conflict.

  • larrybob

    I think “baghdad burning “says it all about Condi, I don’t believe in vampires but maybe I’m wrong

  • Quiet Jim

    Baghdad Burning:
    The Dead and the Undead…
    “She stood in the crowded room as her drove of minions stood around her……A huddling mass trying to draw closer to her aura of evil. The lights flashed against her fangs as her cruel lips curled into a grimace. It was meant to be a smile but it wouldn’t reach her cold, lifeless eyes… It was a leer- the leer of the undead before a feeding…”

  • xenophone

    re Condi in Pink – it may just be Bagnews’ scanner or website or how the picture was printed in the Times, but she’s actually wearing body armour in the now-standard US Army 3 colour desert camo. It really does have a pinkish cast to it if you look at it in person, which appears weaker or stronger depending on the textile manufacturing batch, and different film stocks, digital cameras and print processes can also point it up or de-emphasize it in photos. Various desert camouflage patterns thru history have tended towards pale pink – apparently a good non-conspicuous color in a broad range of desert lighting and terrain conditions. IIRC – the British SAS were driving around Oman and similar parts in Land Rovers called “Pink Panthers” which were, appropriately, painted a dusty rose red. Why the other helmets and armoured vests in the pic are of some other color, i have no idea.

  • meg

    Jeesh! She looks like an ugly Colin Powell in drag.

  • Joe

    I think that your reading into it to much. It’s very dangerous over there and she is a v.i.p. so it only makes sense. We can go back to WWII and pull out pictures of Averal Harriman riding around in a aromoued car with Patton and he has a helmet on, one of those wwi jobbies so it’s really nothing new. I remember Paul Bremer always wore combat boots. I really don’t think she was posing for the cameras.
    Hey if you were in Iraqi woudln’t you want a helmet, I know I would.

  • mugatea

    By the squint of her eyes I’d say there was a strong wind or a wind at least. All the people around her have little to no hair. Let’s all take a moment to imagine Condescending Rice’s hair flapping in the wind. Not a pretty site, probably much worse than the photo above, eek. She wore that helmet to protect herself not from bullets but from looking like Buckwheat’s mother for the cameras.

  • The BAG

    There was one other image I intended to post with this one. Unfortunately, it was taken down when I went back to YahooNews. It was simply a wider (and earlier) image showing Condi getting ready to take off down the road with the small greeting party. In that image, however, she is in a swarm of photographers. If you check the photos, you’ll also see that every aspect of this jaunt was made for prime time. They even had camera people along for the helicopter ride.

  • PTate in MN

    The hat, the chapeau, is a traditional symbol of authority–in direct line of descent from the crown of a King, who, just like GWB, is derives his authority from God.. So the helmet signifies that Condi has higher status than the unhelmeted minions, because she is GWB’s representative, and she wears his authority. Adding to the little princess look is the special quasi-military costume when everyone else is in suits. What is it with conservatives and dress-up?
    In addition to Douglas MacArthur, she looks like royalty making the rounds. Except I can’t account for the fangs. Those do make her special.

  • janet Tate

    Let’s stipulate that Condoleezza Rice, as part of the gang of thugs that currently controls our country, is odious, arrogant, and appalling. Beyond that, is there any point to the sexism and racism that inevitably pops up in discussing her? Aren’t we supposed to be beyond that?

  • sandy

    Wow Monkey has all his “bitches” out and about on his behalf lately. Condi-sleeza’s off playing dress up in a “liberated” iraq, her pink “cammie’s” are a hoot. And Laura(I look like I’m be held hostage)bush is all over the news lecturing that newsweek was “irresponsible” to print the story about the Quran being mistreated. Funny she never questions/comments about whether the story is actually TRUE.. I Wonder if the press will ask laura if she thought it was “irresponsible” for the moron she married to go to war based on lies….

  • henri

    the color pink blends wonderfully in desert imagery, especially when the horizon is in the backdrop. Over distance the pink object flattens, losing dimension, and thus its object identification.
    The Kurdish leader wears no armor, drawing distinction to him. Why does the former Chevron employee appear so well armored? I suspect the armored Condi image plays right into the lap of the fear based American mind (see conservative).
    “look at the risk. such precaution, we must be vigilant! There is too much danger not to be prepared for the worst! Fear the unknown! Heaven help us! God bless Kevlar! God bless Chevron! God bless Condi! God bless America.”
    (she’s so brave!)

  • Edward Teague

    You might look at who makes the point that this is the lady’s 2nd trip (?), the last time was when we had the Thanksgiving photographs of the two turkey dish, one of George and one of the unsliced but cooked and edible kind…remember the story how Condi went along for the ride ? No pictures, no press conference, no excited GI’s telling their folks, no pictures stories in the local hometown press about how they met Condi, the Pres, Commander in Chief.
    Anyway she makes me horny in that outfit.

  • pebird

    I think the pink was created/edited by color profile of the photo. Look at the sand off the road and the flesh tones of the other participants. A way to show Condi as hard and soft simultaneously.
    I think I saw this photo in Yahoo and the right was cropped, so you couldn’t see that most of the participants either were wearning no/less armor or had taken their helmets off.

  • g.o. 1984

    She used to have delusions of being GW’s wife, now I guess she just wants to BE HIM, it’s a dress up role playing thing.
    What the F*ck*ver!
    These people suck and it’s just another example of their complete failure.
    Where are the flowers welcoming her as a liberator?

  • Nick

    Maybe she is thing of Ron Brown?

  • pigswill

    the comments here are hilarious…
    why people here dont sign up to be part of the press entourage is beyond me.
    I mean – why cant the whole world witness the wit people clearly have in here… it may prevent me from vomiting as violently from the sight of her.

  • Dale

    This image immediately called to my mind the famous Michael Dukakis in the tank image, with a similar reaction– ridicule

  • fotonique
  • sweatymoon

    condi is not cute at all. she looks like bucky beaver.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes