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December 27, 2005

Pro-War Picture Of The Year

Yon-Pic

If you’re not familiar with Michael Yon, he is an independent pro-war photographer embedded in Iraq.  He has been invited to testify to Congress by Rick Santorum, and his images have been used as presentation material by Senator Asa Hutchinson.  On returning to Iraq this past October, he was denied embed status on his own, so he became nominally affiliated with The Weekly Standard.

Mr. Yon’s self-published biography tells the story of a young man who received special forces training, and then was tried and acquitted for murdering a bar patron right after becoming a Green Beret.  His website, consisting of regular "dispatches" from Iraq, has become quite popular with the conservative blogosphere.

Mr. Yon’s work is relevant right now because his photograph, shown above, is one of 10 finalists in TIME’s year end run off for most popular "Viewer’s Pick."  (On the voting page, you can see the 10 finalists that received the highest vote totals from viewers over the past year as "best photo of the week.")

In an ideal world, one would be able to examine news image in a deeper context, pairing each picture with a comprehensive explanation of how, where, and why it was taken.  Thanks to Mr. Yon’s reporting, this photo is accompanied with some backstory.  Here are his comments:

The photo of Major Beiger cradling the Iraqi girl, Farah, was the
people’s choice the first week of May, 2005. Time Magazine titled it
"In his Arms" and used this caption:

"A US Soldier comforts a child fatally wounded in a car bomb blast in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad."

It was an instant of clarity in a blur of chaos that, for many of
us, frames and defines the nature of this war. Any US soldier who has
ever served in combat can probably give countless examples of moments
like this. I just happened to be on the scene that day when a terrorist
who had been trailing a Deuce Four patrol in a car packed with
explosives waited until a crowd of children had gathered around the
soldiers and selected that moment to drive into the crowd and detonate.
Although little remained of him to be shown in this frame, the image
somehow still reveals the true nature of our enemy in this war.

Obviously, the content is gripping and casts the U.S. forces in Iraq in
a compassionate, even maternal light.  Still, I believe that the
relative lack of ambiguity in this description raises more questions,
rather than less.

In this case, for example, it might be helpful to know that Mr. Yon possessed a highly subjective and emotional bond with the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry ("Deuce Four") brigade
he was embedded with in Mosul.  (As something of a coincidence, I
happened to stumble on this brigade back in January — see: Our Gang.
What drew my attention was its use of The Punisher symbol, and examples
where it’s tag was left on buildings.  You can also view multiple
examples of the symbol from the Brigade’s recent Punisher’s Ball, which Mr. Yon documented in November.)

Based on the narrative, here are just some of the questions that arise:

>> If the Americans were on patrol, could the attack be as meditated as the narrative implies?

>> Was this a moment of clarity for the soldier, or for Mr. Yon — who is now selling signed copies of the photo to subsidize his activities?

>> Exactly who is the enemy Mr. Yon refers to?  Is he
referring to Saddam loyalists?  Al Qaeda?  Sunni militia?  And what are
the politics of the blanket "terrorist" label?

>> Would Mr. Yon still have gotten this shot if his
relationship with the soldiers was less intimate?    (Early in the
year, there was an AP and and AFP photographer also embedded with this
brigade.  It’s unclear whether they were present, or had similar
access, however.)

>> Given his partisanship, what prevents us from labeling Mr. Yon’s image as pro-war propaganda?

Of course, here’s the question that really gets
conservatives quite upset:  One could ask whether this child would have
been harmed in the first place if the U.S. hadn’t doctored WMD
intelligence, or hadn’t overridden plans for securing the peace once
the Iraq campaign began.

(image: Michael Yon. May 2, 2005.  Mosul, Iraq. Time.com)

  • marysz

    The right-wing propagandists relentlessly use the bodies of women and children as fodder, (so to speak) to amass political and cultural power. Remember all the pseudo-concern about “women’s rights” in Iraq? Since women and children are so powerless, they can be easily tossed aside once the desired political objective has been reached. Yon purloins the image of this child and profits financially from the image of her suffering.

  • Mad_nVT

    War is Hell.
    Other questions: How is this soldier reacting to this heartbreaking death?
    How are the soldiers dealing with the chaos and the senselessness of being in the middle of a civil war? What is the truth and what is the reality? Which are the lies?
    How will they be when they return home?

  • Lisa

    While I do not think we should be in Iraq, I do not think it is reasonable to blame the terrorism on the U.S. presence. There has been a theory long supported by many in the left (and, of which, I am generally one) that terrorism only exists because of injustice. If this were true, the recent terrorist attack in Jordan has no justification nor do the attacks in Turkey nor the terrorist attacks against Jews outside Israel (Argentina and Turkey come to mind).
    Terrorists are in Iraq because a group of Muslims who had disproportionate control over Iraq have lost it. This group percieves that all others (even other types of Muslims) are less than them and that they have the right to inflict whatever death and destruction they desire in an attempt to gain back what was “rightfully theirs”.
    Our very grave mistake in invading Iraq does NOT absolve the terrorists (and those who support them) from their guilt in choosing to deliberately kill children and civilians.

  • http://www.thenewpolitics.com Chiaroscuro

    The question, it seems to me, is how different right-wing reactions are depending on who’s doing the photography. When the messenger is Yoo, their hearts bleed. When the messenger is Michael Moore, who had similar images of infant death in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” it’s liberal perfidy. Of course, in Moore’s film, it’s Iraqis cradling their dead children, not American soldiers.
    Yoo’s photo is also an echo (conscious?) of the Pulitzer Prize winning photo by Charles Porter of the firefighter carrying the dead baby from the wreckage of the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist bombing.

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    the options for “picture of the year” seem hugely skewed — I mean, Iraq is clearly the story of the year, second only perhaps to Katrina (which I notice is not represented among the choices!), so it’s hard to imagine voting for cute beluga whales in that context. I’m not surprised that the vote is hugely favoring this evocative image for its sense of being an immediate moment in a ceaseless battle…
    um, Katrina anyone???

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    also, it’s worth comparing these viewer choices to the editorial picks, which are much more representative of the stories of the year as well as being pithy capturing of larger issues as only visual images can do . . .

  • http://www.fractalcrayons.com/uscityzen John Gillnitz

    Sadly, with this Orwellian Administration we have to ask if this picture is real or propaganda.
    If I remember this event the soldiers were giving the children candy. While well intentioned drawing children to you while knowing that you are a target is a foolish thing to do. That element of regret is an encapsulated form of the more general regret over the war as a whole. In time I don’t think this will be considered a pro-war photo.
    What is the pink and red thing in the lower right? A shoe? Flesh?

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    The results as of noonish Wednesday.
    And I wonder, did the soldier’s own actions kill the kid?

  • readytoblowagasket

    The Top 10 Viewers’ Picks are almost all great screensaver nature images, often devoid of humans or minimizing them. The majestic green, red, blue, gray, and orange skies are really the same image chosen over and over again. The God theme.
    Except for the one space image, the Editors’ Picks are all about people — unless, of course, they’re black. (There is a token image of black parents at their son’s funeral, which looks very much like a scene from a movie. Nice.) Like TIME’s Persons of the Year cover, the editors seem to favor pictures of white people.
    I think the image of the year is the fleet of school buses stranded underwater in New Orleans.
    Lisa said: “I do not think it is reasonable to blame the terrorism [in Iraq] on the U.S. presence.”
    Thanks for employing the euphemistic term “presence” to describe the U.S. “occupation” in Iraq. It has a nice, innocuous ring to it. It reminds me of how in his blog about the Punisher’s Ball, Michael Yon basically articulates the U.S.’s right to fight terrorism through war and occupation (my euphemisms) without acknowledging a corresponding responsibility for the deaths of Iraqi civilians (which far outnumber the “terrorists” we’ve killed). I’m sure the remaining terrorists would see the situation this way too if they weren’t so unreasonable.

  • jt from BC

    Michael Yon reads eyes, souls sees through walls etc, with such abilities he is my nomination as # 2 propagandist for this War. (after you know who.)
    “Children’s faces are windows to their parents’ inner thoughts. Those honest smiles imply that behind closed doors, their parents do not hate or fear us….”
    http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/2005/02/kids_09.html
    —-
    some earlier propaganda stunts;
    A couple of news outlets are now reporting some disturbing news. Witnesses apparently say that when the troops arrived, they called out on a loudspeaker to clear the area, because there was a report of a bomb. After that, some of the soldiers gave candy to some children, attracting a crowd to one of the humvees. Then a car burst out of an alley and detonated it very much raises the question why were they handing out candy to kids when they hadn’t secured the area even to the extent of looking down alleyways?
    http://www.militaryproject.org/article.asp?id=621

  • jt from BC

    Mad n VT asks, “How will they be when they return home”? well probably worse than one could imagine especially as treatment and rehabilitation for PSTD are being reevaluated by the Pentagon.
    For a scary scenario check out:
    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=9408

  • Lisa

    JT,
    Terrorists in Lebanon still regularly fire missiles into Israel. You would think that if your reasoning were true, attacks on Israel would have stopped from Gaza after the withdrawel.
    I still have to ask how do you excuse the terrorist attacks in Jordan, Turkey or Argentina? Neither Turkey nor Jordan are occuppied; Argentina is not even on the same continent nor is there a sizable Muslim population.

  • jt from BC

    Lisa, first its not my reasoning its from experts who study such things I suspect they take into account statistical probabilities here I think 95 % is what Roper Pape suggests, does that seem reasonable to you ? Of course there are the 5 % + nut cases and numbers of exceptions which not surprisingly find the front page in every newspaper in the present highly charged and induced climate of fear which appears to be almost uniquely American. (We have been thought the Israel debate before so lets stay away from there, other than acknowledge that 1 Israeli equals 3 dead Palestinians) You don’t think “we should be in Iraq” did the US illegally invaded the country or not? (80% of Iraqis say its time to leave) I don’t think for one iota that the US made what you call ” a grave mistake” (if so this grave mistake was at least 10 years in the making and simply waiting for the trigger moment and the right configuration of personal and political forces) the whole bag of lies is coming undone daily, most of the worlds people knows whats at stake here and it sure is not about democracy and its sure not about “we all had the same intelligence” and its sure not about so many other scenarios I might offer. Whats going on in Iraq is barbarism from all sides don’t sugar coat it with such benign words or expressions. The MSM has a monopoly on these Orwellian terms anyway. Lets just diagnose and liberate Bush from his holy visions declare victory and leave.

  • Lisa

    JT,
    Aboslutely, we should have never gone in and we need to leave. Of course, I think we owe them HUGE amounts of money to help them rebuild.
    I don’t know about the 95% injustice/5% nuts. Terrorism always seemed nuts to me; there was never anything which justified this violence. IF it was simply a matter of injustice and they held it strictly to soldiers, I would be more inclined to accept this theory (and not every expert agrees with Pape).
    Regardless, the deliberate killing of children has no moral high ground no matter who it is.

  • http://infidelsblog.typepad.com/infidels_of_every_denomin/ Redshift

    Lisa,
    I think you’re confusing explaining the causes of terrorism with excusing it. Pape’s research found that the greatest common motivating cause for terrorism is the perception of foreign military occupation. That doesn’t excuse terrorism, and doesn’t make it right. But it does mean that rational people, when planning military operations, should take it into consideration as a cost when deciding whether an operation is worth undertaking.
    As for specific examples, Israel still occupies large portions of the West Bank, so the withdrawal from Gaza doesn’t disprove the occupation thesis — if another country was occupying the East Coast, and they withdrew from New England, we’d still consider ourselves occupied. Again, not saying that it’s the same thing, or that it justifies terrorism, just that the evidence supports that thesis.

  • http://cathiefromcanada.blogspot.com/ CathiefromCanada

    I think it is disgusting that he is selling matted copies of this print, and talking about how well the matt colours go with any decor.
    That said, I am not sure this photo is really as “pro-war” as the right-wing thinks — its really pretty sad.
    Love your site, by the way — I found it through your ads on Dibgy and have just added you to my blogroll.

  • jt from BC

    Lisa occupation is the primary cause of terrorism, what is it about that you don’t understand.
    Money is quite secondary on my list of important considerations as I accept the death total (100,000 and counting) in Iraq as presented in the Lancet.(That number plus the 500,000 children who died from sanctions may have “been the price (Madeline Albright) “was prepared to pay” a remark which leaves me speechless. The Lancet authors who did similar studies using identical models in African genocide conditions were previous praised by Colin Powell and Tony Blair but totally ignored these Iraq1 findings just prior to the last presidential election..coincidence? No amount of money can pay for these crimes. The pottery barn breakage philosophy of C.P. is for material things I believe.
    You have yet to comment on the initiation and introduction of Terrorism by primarily the US and UK including the mighty army of the Marshall Islands among others (was that nuts ?) and the indiscriminate killing of women and children in Iraq, which make the suicide bombers look like petty pikers.
    I have been doing some research on Turkey, Argentina, Jordan and Lebanon. Details I would be happy to discuss but the common theme and tactics (which I don’t agree with) seems to be attack any country that actively supports the US position in the Middle East. Turkey a NATO country in Afghanistan. Jordan where NATO countries train Iraq Police etc. Argentina’s support for Gulf 1&2 and I will leave you with this historical vignette of Lebanon:
    “In Lebanon, there’s a long history. The issue right now is the Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Syria entered Lebanon in 1976 with the approval of the US and Israel, open approval because their task at the time was to murder Palestinians. They stayed there. In 1990, George Bush no 1, gave them further authorisation to stay in Lebanon because he wanted them as allies in the war against Iraq. By the early part of this millennium, they were becoming the one state in the region, which was not obeying US orders, so the US turned against them and wanted them out. Well how did they get out? I think they should’ve been out all along. Congress passed legislation to condemn Syria and impose sanctions and so on and in that resolution, if you look at it, here you see the ultimate cynicism. They appeal to a UN resolution, correctly, which said every country should allow Lebanon to run its own affairs and that all foreign forces should get out. That was the resolution they appealed to. Take a look at that resolution, it was directed against Israel in 1980. It said Israel should get out of Lebanon. Instead, Israel invaded Lebanon again and extended its role in Lebanon and stayed there until the year 2000. So here we use a resolution that was directed against Israel for its occupation of Lebanon for 22 years, parts of Lebanon. And we say that resolution says Syria should get out. Not a word in the Congressional discussion, not a word in the debate. I mean the cynicism is just mind-boggling. Yes, Syria should get out; of course, they should have been out in 1976, when we helped bring them in. extract from Noam Chomsky Radio Netherlands interview Dec 27, 2005.

  • fotonique

    Label it pro-war propaganda if you like, but that’s pretty simplistic.
    IIRC, the good guys (Us) simply and objectively present the truth with pure motives, but the bad guys (Them) shade and subjectively present propaganda with evil intent. For example, Michael Yon, the allegedly pro-war photographer, is clearly lying—or at least a duped fellow traveller—when he says:

    I just happened to be on the scene that day when a terrorist who had been trailing a Deuce Four patrol in a car packed with explosives waited until a crowd of children had gathered around the soldiers and selected that moment to drive into the crowd and detonate. Although little remained of him to be shown in this frame, the image somehow still reveals the true nature of our enemy in this war.

    Any chance he’s just telling the truth? And far from being a reactionary running dog, some of Yon blog’s current front page post, Montage or Mirage, sounds like it was ghostwritten by the BAG:

    The election photo-montage I posted last week has a certain propagandistic feel to it. It has all the usual suspects: the waving flag, the iconic soundtrack (Fanfare for the Common Man, hardly on the Iraqi Top 40) and the sequence of photos selected to tell a story ALL IN BOLD CAPITALS. It seemed especially propagandistic given the fact that the United States government admitted to paying off media in Iraq for positive reportage. I spoke recently with a New York Times writer, Jeff Gerth, who broke parts of that story, and I came away with the impression that the matter is broader and deeper than we know at this time. Clearly, there is no doubt—-our government has admitted to it—-we are spinning “propaganda.”

    Hmmm… yet another POV from a photographer with boots on the ground, like Timothy Fadek. Fortunately, a properly focused, progressive POV allows one to ignore Michael Yon’s observations and his self-serving motives. (BTW, instructions for purchasing Tim Fadek’s photographic prints are here.)
    Tragically, the Iraqi child Yon photographed is dead, and we can argue at arm’s length about who bears the ultimate responsibility for her death. But why stop at an insurgent car bomb or American tanks blitzkrieging Iraq in 2003? It might be more misdirecting to lay the blame under the wheels of Gottlieb Daimler, Henry Ford, or ourselves, but perhaps that road is a little too bumpy.
    However, to suggest that American soldiers deliberately lured in children to provide a target for an insurgent bombing is as blackly propagandistic as accusing Germans of bayonetting babies. It wasn’t true in Belgium and it’s not true in Iraq: might this be a bit of insurgent propaganda? Are they the good guys or the bad guys?
    Soldiers and babies are a common photographic subject in wartime. Under the uniforms, soldiers are fathers, brothers, mothers, and sisters just like us, and holding a baby—like our own children—is a basic human feeling that transcends war or nationalism. We can all relate to it.
    Most images of soldiers and babies show a lot more TLC than U.S.A. (look carefully, there’s a quiz afterwards):

    1. Soldier & Baby
    2. Soldier & Baby
    3. Soldier & Baby
    4. Soldier & Baby
    5. Soldier & Baby
    6. Soldier & Baby
    7. Soldier & Baby
    8. Soldier & Baby
    9. Soldier & Baby
    10. Soldier & Baby
    11. Soldier & Baby
    12. Soldier & Baby
    13. Soldier & Baby

    Quiz
    Q. (Without doing any further research,) which soldier shown in the above propaganda shots is holding their own child?

  • wire

    Let’s see: soldier of an invading army (which BTW happens to relish the killing through the use of fire from the sky to incinerate all life in the target area while proving televisied coverage from the nosecone and which is part of an explicit campaign to change a soverign nation polically and economically by shocking and awing the population with the use of WMDs) is dressed in full battle garb (and BTW probably imediately supported by vehicles and infrastructure than can and probably are fuly enabled and expected to rain holy murder down on whatever some dudes telephoned in as a likely target) is standing around luring little children close to him with candy. Where does the responsibility and ultimately disgrace and utter humiliation belong? With the least able or the most able? Which warriros are hiding behind women and children? Who are the barbarians? What the fuck is wrong with this picture? Everything!

  • jt from BC

    fotonique said, “However, to suggest that American soldiers deliberately lured in children…” if you were referring to my quote understand that following it was this advice:
    “At a minimum, some new procedures need to be in place to prevent children from being exposed to this level of danger — particularly since this isn’t the first time. Last September, 35 children were killed in a similar incident.”
    I interpret this to mean exactly what it states be more aware cautious caring and responsible in known dangerous zones and not as “blackly propagandistic” If you have drawn your inferences from some other source, my apologies.

  • readytoblowagasket

    fotonique, thanks for the fabulous Soldier & Baby pics. (No, really, I mean it.) It gives me an idea: Rather than subscribe to jt from BC’s suggestion of “prevent[ing] children from being exposed to this level of danger,” I think we should put MORE babies and children in harm’s way. If we can round up, say, 160,000 babies — one for every American soldier in Iraq — think of the Kodak Moments! (Yes, now I’m being sarcastic.)
    Let’s examine Michael Yon’s completely unbiased description of what happened to create his Kodak Moment: “a terrorist . . . waited until a crowd of children had gathered around the soldiers and selected that moment to drive into the crowd and detonate.” I’m not sure how Yon can *know* that the terrorist *waited* until a crowd of children had gathered, but it sure makes for good storytelling. (Propaganda 101: Always paint the bad guy as REALLY BAD. Blowing up children and beheading grown-ups work well to unsettle many audiences.)
    Yon continues, “[T]he image somehow still reveals the true nature of our enemy in this war.” And that “nature” is what exactly? I think Yon means that the image reveals what Michael Yon believes is the nature of “our” enemy (whoever “our” is and whoever “enemy” is). I seriously doubt that my enemies and Michael Yon’s are the same. (Propaganda 101: Judicious use of vagueness allows the audience to fill in the blanks that work best for them. The content of the blanks is irrelevant; getting your audience to agree with you is the primary goal.)
    Yon states, “It was an instant of clarity in a blur of chaos that . . . frames and defines the nature of this war.” (Propaganda 101: An action that is physically impossible or two simultaneous and contradictory actions may be employed to make one’s point, but only if employed poetically. Audiences want to be lulled, entertained, and spoonfed rather than made to think too hard. You are responsible for the thinking; they are responsible for the reacting.)
    The question that got lost in this thread a long time ago is: Why should Michael Yon’s photo be selected as The Picture of the Year? Is it because we desperately need proof that we *are* the good guys?

  • Cactus

    But are we sure it is the one selected by the reader/viewer. I just voted twice for my choice, I’ll bet there was an organized voting campaign for the soldier/baby shot. Perhaps the entire set-up is rigged so that the only “person” shot is that one. Am I getting too cynical?

  • jt from BC

    Cactus, I’ve voted for the sheep photo at least a dozen times…nada % change…your on to something.
    Could a 160,000 odd special fans be responsible ?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/RubDMC/ RubDMC

    I think Gasket’s asked the relevant question(s), and Cactus isn’t just being cynical. I also think Gasket nails it with his succinct Prop 101 review.
    My two cents:
    #1 – Yes, “we” (“they?”) really are desperate for clear good guy imagery.
    #2 – Yes, this is most definitely a freeped poll.
    Personally, I think there’s much better and more honest stuff out there, and by “stuff” I mean images of the human cost of this war, than Yon’s Kodak moments. Iraqi stringers provide a steady stream of such images daily via the wire services (there are sadly many opportunities to shoot such photos), though virtually every traditional news outlet in the US ignores them.
    Just try the Yahoo! News Iraq slide show, for starters.
    Finally, if you’re a wingnut and you want to break form and actually depict a moment of war-related pain and agony, you don’t want it to get too personal, meaning that you want to maintain some anonymity with the subjects, as this photo does very well.
    The child is obviously a child, and the soldier clearly a soldier, but we don’t have to be discomfitted with seeing faces, looking into eyes, or confronting serious gore.
    It’s a neat little package designed to meet a preconcieved agenda.
    I think we call those cliches.

  • fotonique

    JTFBC,
    It wasn’t your reference in particular that I reacted to, but the general idea that the U.S. soldiers’ lack of caution caused the death of the child. Yes, they could have been more careful, but if nothing had happened here, we would have never heard of this story or would have brushed it off as more U.S. propaganda.
    I was wrong when I said “…to suggest that American soldiers deliberately lured in children to provide a target for an insurgent bombing…” I should have said “…to suggest that American soldiers’ carelessness caused children to become a target for an insurgent bombing…
    However, carelessness or candy didn’t kill this little girl. If the insurgents—terrorists in this case, as Lisa pointed out above—had not built, driven, and intentionally exploded a car bomb in a mixed crowd of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians, she would be alive.

  • Mad_nVT

    War is Hell.
    It always comes back to that.
    And Civil War is doubly so. Dead kids, always.
    So what kind of leadership would deliberately start such a war? And base it on lies? Many predicted that it would become a civil war, months before the invasion– it was slam-dunk obvious.
    Civil War– these Iraqi elections and constitution will have no effect. The end will be MILITARY victory by one side. Not electoral victory.
    The question is how heavily Iran, Turkey or the Arab nations become involved.
    War is Hell.

  • lytom

    How should we look at the “good intentions” of the soldiers in Iraq? They are in a hell zone, but they are the source of it. They have signed up with little understanding for what, that may be their excuse, although most consider following the orders to destroy their duty and right against “evil.”
    Few of the propaganda examples:
    The occupation Army has come up with number of names for their operations that hope to help the cause for occupation: Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom,…
    The drives to collect soccer balls for Iraqi children…
    The drives to collect candy and sweets to be mailed to soldiers for distribution in Iraq to Iraqi children…
    The drive to collect stuffed animals for Iraqi children…
    The few ill Iraqi children sponsored for surgery in US hospitals free of charge, and the more special the illness is, the better.
    All serve a purpose to make people feel good! But who are these people who are going to be feeling good? The propaganda has always turned toward the people whose support for the occupation will make the occupation to go on and on. With the headlines and pictures selected for the hearts and minds in US, the occupation can go on. The people’s continued support for the soldiers, who “really care” has one ask the question how long will it go on? … and after all, isn’t then the whole nation guilty of supporting the crimes against Iraqi people?

  • jt from BC

    Mad nVT said, “War is Hell.. and what kind of people would deliberately start such a war”?
    My reply is; by very ordinary leaders consistently following a very logical historical foreign policy to satisfy Americans material needs and ambitions. I believe the BASIC needs may be met(AMBITIONS ?) by less intrusive ways but past US history challenges my assumptions but does not diminish my belief or hope that another way may be found…before the rapture or end times..or more slaughter..or more hell.
    Perhaps this extract, article might assist in zeroing in on some of the strategic contemporary questions particularly about Iraq should they not have crossed you mind already. (or may be they will be complete waste of your time)
    ..”it’s not so much a matter of gaining access to Iraq’s resources, you can get access even if you don’t control a country. I mean the oil market is something of a market. What matters is control, not access. It’s a very big difference. The main theme of US policy since the Second World War has been to control the resources of the Middle East, the energy resources. That would give what George Cannon, one of the early planners, called ‘veto power’ over their allies, they wouldn’t get out of line because we’d have our hand on the spicket.” Noam Chomsky interview
    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=9404
    Lytom, as a Canadian I share responsibility for what happening in Iraq. We supply a great portion of all small arms ammunition, assist with the deadly supply of depleted uranium for weapons and protective purposes. Senior Canadian Staff officers are on “normal routine exchange interoperability missions in Iraq” The Canadian Navy serves US Iraq needs directly but is tasked euphemistically for propaganda purposes. Canadian mercenaries are flourishing and making a killing literary and figuratively in the war zone. For the first time since NATO + Allies,held war games in Northern Alberta (30/40 years)we invited the Israeli Air Force to teach us how to fight “three block wars” we were so impressed or slow to learn their stay was extended. This is only a sample of our collective complicity and future trends. For a Country which labels itself as “peacekeepers” we may be in greater denial or delusion than Americans.

  • fotonique

    RTBAG said:

    The question that got lost in this thread a long time ago is: Why should Michael Yon’s photo be selected as The Picture of the Year? Is it because we desperately need proof that we *are* the good guys?

    It’s not American self-righteousness, wing-nut rightness, or photographer-media collusion. People naturally prefer to look at images of other people, and Yon’s soldier & baby has the strongest human interest of any of TIME’s POTW candidates. Its sentimental title “In His Arms” doesn’t hurt either.
    Photographers frequently capture similar images (cliches do happen), and the media publishes them because of their strong emotional appeal to a wide audience. If Yon’s subject had been a civilian instead of a soldier—like the Charles Porter fireman & baby image that Chiaroscuro cited earlier—we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
    It all depends on our POV: how close do we want to get to the subject? We can interpret Yon’s image as a wide shot portraying American imperialism, or as a close-up of a man expressing grief over the needless death of a child.
    I prefer close-ups, myself.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    I agree that the personal is almost always more compelling but hasn’t Time set us up a bit by having a lot of nature shots and only one close-up?
    I think it would be more honest of them to provide close ups of Katrina’s aftermath alongside the soldier and kid; the choices would then be more equivalent.

  • jt from BC

    My POV is that this child’s death is an essential part of the “collateral damage” (“terrorism” ours ) and death estimates which could have been more accurately projected, had the US/UK Gov’s evaluated all available information starting with General Shinseki the invasion may not have happened.
    My other POV is that suicide “bombing” (terrorism )is tragically an option complimenting other forms of insurgent operations and very effective in creating a similar form of terrorism (abet on a mini scale) but similar to our curtain opener known as “Shock and Awe.” Our pilots (terrorists) tragically do their “bombing” from 30,000 feet.
    I personally don’t discriminate how one side kills the other side.
    Like momly I question the photo set up, only one other people pic, for me it looks like a Japanese tourist travel promotion photo but it may be much more profound as my knowledge of photography is zero/zip.

  • Mad_nVT

    Thank you jt-from-BC for the link to the article with the interview of Noam Chomsky. Good information and good “big-picture” view of what is going on. It’s long, but worth reading.
    Here is address again: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=9404
    There aren’t any photos, but the information helps to understand what is happening in BagMan’s photos.

  • fotonique

    Momly said:

    I agree that the personal is almost always more compelling but hasn’t Time set us up a bit by having a lot of nature shots and only one close-up?
    I think it would be more honest of them to provide close ups of Katrina’s aftermath alongside the soldier and kid; the choices would then be more equivalent.

    It’s interesting to compare TIME’s 2005 Editors’ Choice images. Nine out of those ten images are human interest shots, and I’d guess that same ratio crops up in TIME’s Pictures of the Week sets from 2005 (links to all of them are here). TIME’s editors are publishing far more people shots each week than any other genre, which reinforces the idea that we’re primarily people-watchers.
    The 2005 Editors’ Choice images and 2005 Viewers’ Choice images were chosen from all of 2005’s weekly sets. Readers voted for the final ten candidates by wide weekly margins (select any picture in a set and click VOTE to see that week’s results):

    Title (2005 Vote %) … POTW Set (Weekly Vote %)

    1. In His Arms (70%) … April 30 – May 6 (58%)
    2. The Star Nursery (5%) … April 23 – 29 (70%)
    3. Sheepish (4%) … February 19 – 25 (61%)
    4. Victory at Sea (4%) … June 25 – July 01 (55%)
    5. Dancing Jets (4%) … July 30 – August 5 (48%)
    6. Light Show (4%) … October 22 – 28 (49%)
    7. Star Bursts (4%) … June 4 – 10 (53%)
    8. Soaring High (3%) … July 23 – 29 (50%)
    9. Beluga Games (2%) … July 16 – 22 (48%)
    10. Blackhawk Down (1%) … May 14 – 20 (48%)

    I have not compared all weekly winners, but I suspect that the ten 2005 finalists merely had the highest percentage of weekly votes. It probably would have been more accurate if weekly winners were ranked by their number of votes, not percentages. What if you have 500 voting readers one week, and 1000 the next? So much for the accuracy of polls…
    OTOH, TIME would be asking a lot of its readers if they had to choose one winner from an entire year’s worth of images (several hundred pictures.) Who would take the time?
    That possibility may partly answer why the year-end 2005 images have a reversed ratio of people shots. Only two out of ten (In His Arms and Beluga Games) have strong emotional appeal, while the others are unemotional eye candy.
    Given the final images we have, and being the Christmas season, I think it’s no surprise that In His Arms has won the popular vote by a large margin.
    It’s not a set-up or propaganda, it’s just human nature.

  • jt from BC

    fonique, thanks for your efforts, “give a wise man instruction and he is wiser” (genesis I think ?) if not wiser I am better informed on the selection process. On reexamining the Beluga Games photograph my response is more of a magical impression than an emotive one. I wonder how these photos would rank say in Argentina or Norway two countries not involved in war, would ‘In His Arms’ make the 52 week cut? Does this photo serve a particular American need? and what is the belief which this photography satisfies ?
    You are no doubt familiar with;
    ‘The Family of Man’-Edward Steichen’s exhibit for the Museum of Modern Art, my iconic image of war is on pages 180-181 with the caption: “Who is the Slayer, who is the victim ? Speak.” Sophocles. My copy has survived fifty years of page turning. Limited by computer skills sorry I can’t deliver this image.

  • fotonique

    JTFBC,
    The Family of Man is a beautiful and evocative book: anyone who loves (or learns) photography should own it. Thanks for the reminder—I have not browsed my copy for a long time.
    The photograph you mention is from February 1944, and shows a dead Marine, shirt blown off, laying face down in a shell crater on Eniwetok Island, an isolated coral atoll in the South Pacific. The photographer was PHC Raphel Platnick of the United States Coast Guard. The photo’s caption, “Who is the slayer? Who is the victim? Speak.” is from Sophocles’ play, Antigone.
    I could have posted a scan of the FOM photo, but a Google Image Search using the terms “dead marine eniwetok” gives one result. The image is powerful enough alone, but an ex-Marine has also used it to illustrate his personal cancer journal, in an essay entitled The Expendability of Men:

    Several years ago I had what (for me) was a staggering insight about the nature of men in this country, or at least men of my generation.
    Unlike women, men were raised to die.
    It had been so subtly ingrained in me that I had never realized it.
    For example, I was taught that I had to be prepared to go off to war, that “women and children” came first and that it was the role of the man to defend his home.
    In other words, we were expected to give our lives for home and country.
    Put more bluntly, men were expendable.
    I was expendable.

    Unfortunately, so was Eniwetok Island. After World War II, it was used for atomic weapons testing.
    If the Earth could speak, I wonder what it would say about us?

  • ummabdulla

    This reminds me of the pictures of soldiers handing bottles of water to people who’d been forced to flee their homes in Fallujah. It was so heartwarming – if you didn’t know that it was the U.S. military who had forced them out, and that they were destroying their homes and killing whoever hadn’t fled…

  • ArkieDemGirl

    One correction–Asa Hutchinson isn’t a senator. He was 2nd in command of the Dept. of Homeland Security and is now running for governor of Arkansas. God help us…You’re probably thinking of his brother, Tim Hutchinson, who was a senator from Arkansas for a few years before he was defeated by Democrat Mark Pryor, son of former senator David Pryor.

  • readytoblowagasket

    fotonique said: “It’s not American self-righteousness, wing-nut rightness, or photographer-media collusion. People naturally prefer to look at images of other people, and Yon’s soldier & baby has the strongest human interest of any of TIME’s POTW candidates.”
    There are three separate agendas (if you will allow me to use that word) we should acknowledge and differentiate in this discussion: that of the TIME readers, that of the photographer, and that of the TIME editors. They are not one and the same.
    I agree wholeheartedly that people like to look at images of other people. I’d like to point out, however, that the TIME readers chose more images without people in them as their preferred images of 2005 (what I called “screensaver nature images” in my first comment). To me, that’s significant. What it signifies, I think, is that TIME readers are exhausted by seeing this year’s innumerable scenes of death and devastation, whether here in the U.S. or afar in other lands. The readers’ choices look to me like an emotional reaction to a distinctly destructive year. The reaction may mean people simply want a break to stare at a pretty picture or that they are turning to powers nonhuman — God/the beauty of nature/the animal kingdom — to restore some balance. I don’t think the TIME readers have a political agenda, I think they have an emotional agenda — and Yon’s photo is certainly an emotional choice.
    I do think Yon has a political agenda, however, and I believe that after reading his own blog. I don’t care that much about his political agenda, except to note that he sold his image to TIME. Lots of photographers would LOVE to sell to TIME but can’t because of a different kind of politics (they don’t have “connections”).
    But when I said, “Why should Michael Yon’s photo be selected as The Picture of the Year? Is it because we desperately need proof that we *are* the good guys?” I meant why did the TIME readers choose it (if they in fact did)? The picture illustrates an American soldier expressing compassion or sorrow or despair or regret. Those emotions prove that Americans are not as bad as our behavior (through war, torture, neglect, deceit, and crime) has indicated this year. It’s difficult to be an American and not feel a twinge of guilt that this child died because of our “presence” in Iraq. If we weren’t there, there wouldn’t have been a terrorist, and this child would be alive — plain and simple. The dead child can symbolically represent the thousands of innocent Iraqis we have killed this year. That’s my view of why the readers chose it. And so I agree with The BAG’s labeling it a “pro-war” picture. I also think Yon intends it to be pro-war (meaning, the U.S. soldier really is the good guy, see?).
    As for the editorial agenda at TIME, I see it as crassly commercial (hence my comments about the Bono & Co. cover in the “Persons of the Year: The Dark Side” post) and intellectually bankrupt. I’m sure TIME has a political agenda too, but I have so little respect for its editorial rigor that I don’t want to continue to give it the time of day. That’s how I felt about Bush, however, and I’ve learned that I must look at the agendas and influence of those I’d much rather turn away from.

  • http://www.yourfirstpaydayloan.com paulsen

    Seeing those photos of all the wounded, and parentless children, makes me ill. I am so beside myself to know that any child has had to go through what these children, and others like them have had to endure. Picture your own kids, or your grandkids in a situation like theirs. Could we handle this kind of turmoil, and traggedy on a daily basis? I know I couldn’t, no wonder why soldiers are committing suicide, and going crazy. Turmoil like this can make one become something they never expected to be.

  • jt from BC

    rtbag, thanks for your valued opinion, it addresses’ my question head on,
    (I wonder how these photos would rank say in Argentina or Norway two countries not involved in war, would ‘In His Arms’ make the 52 week cut? Does this photo serve a particular American need? and what is the belief which this photograph satisfies ?)

  • http://rebootd.blogspot.com Sarah

    The problem is not the photo itself. The problem is that it’s theme is being used disproportionately. If Time magazine had the guts to publish less flattering photos of soldiers in the act of killing, dead soldiers, mutilated women, and fire-bombed children as well, then this photo’s significance would retreat to where it belongs: as simply one small part of the whole obscene mess. But this way see, it’s much easier to sell a war.
    A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon. ~Napoleon

  • readytoblowagasket

    Sarah said: “The problem is not the photo itself. The problem is that it’s theme is being used disproportionately.”
    And THAT’S where TIME’s editorial/political leanings come into play. The editors (not the readers or even the photographers) choose ALL of the images for every story in the magazine all year long. From that *edited* selection comes this “Best of the Year” roundup. (So, if you think about it, TIME’s “Best of” issue is really about TIME patting itself on the back for a job well done all year. How much credence should we give to TIME for reflecting on itself?) The readers can’t choose images they aren’t being shown in the first place, in other words.
    Out of the hundreds of images the editors got to see this year, Michael Yon’s photo got picked over someone else’s photo (just like the editors picked Darth Vader over my cat, who probably Mattered more, certainly to me). As fotonique demonstrated upthread, other photographers shoot pictures of soldiers holding children. So what’s so special (to the TIME editors) about Michael Yon’s photo? It’s a question worth asking, especially since WE ALL lived through 2005 (somehow) and are perfectly capable of evaluating what was and wasn’t important. We may never be able to claim definitively that the *editorial* reason Michael Yon’s photo was picked was because it is a positive image (of the war), but we can certainly make an argument that it was picked for that reason, especially when there is no other side presented, as Sarah points out.
    jt from BC: I’d meant to acknowledge that I’m with you when you say, “I personally don’t discriminate how one side kills the other side.”

  • Lt. Bighorn

    This is NOT a pro-war picture. it is a profoundly sad picture. It feeds my anti-war anger.
    The Iraq war was completely unnecessary. Everyone who has suffered — Iraqi or American, civilian or military, male or female, adult or child — has suffered needlessly.
    Those who are responsible for this war crime must be punished.

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  • Rafique Khan

    please stop the war all over the world stop war in Iraq.

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  • A Deuce Four Wife

    Ummmm…no this soldier was not responsible for the injuries to the child..The truth of the matter is that SHE was a victim of a car bomb committed by HER OWN PEOPLE. Yep, her own people IRAQI’s killed baby Farah, NOT THIS AMERICAN SOLDIER OR ANY AMERICAN SOLDIER!!!..How do I know this??? Because I know this soldier personally. My husband was there when this disgusting bombing took place and was standing to the side when this picture was taken..
    My husband served under the soldier in this picture for several years and you don’t get any better then this man as a friend and a soldier. I will bet that not one person above making the nasty and insinuating comments about this soldier or this picture, know him or the cirsumtances under which this picture was taken.
    You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

  • Keith

    You anti-war people are disgusting. To you there is nothing worth fighting, killing or dying for.
    Well in fact there are things that are worth fighting for and many men are doing it even as the likes of you besmirch their reputations and trivialize their efforts.
    Vipers all.

  • sandboxsailor

    It is wrong to say that the terrorism is because of American occupation. Terrorism and the sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni has existed in Iraq since the split of Islam a 1000 years ago. Saddam was able to keep most of it in check. This country has been at war for the past 50 years, whether with Iran or within itself.
    Whether the US was right to out Saddam, the US is not responsible for the violence. The recent attacks on markets where there was no US presence killing hundreds of ‘innocent’ people show that there is not way the US or anyone else is going to fix this country. The roots of this violence is not nestled in the occupation, but the culture and religion of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

  • frankieavalon

    What is the problem with you leftist wankers? The soldier picked up a kid that a car-bomber wounded. That’s it. He helped the kid, who later died, by providing comfort from the maniacal islamic bomber who thinks that killing children with american soldiers is a good thing – because the children are now tainted having been touched by an infidel.
    Yes, that’s how they see it. And since Saddam killed a helluva lot more people than the Americans have, it’s okay he’s dead, too.

  • Spc. Banik from Deuce Four

    You all are nuts. The picture is real, not propaganda. That was my platoon the SVBIED targeted. And that son of a B*tch did wait for children to arrive to make a show of it. He could have hit us at any time. He waited for us.
    I like how you people claim that we’re the cause of the trouble. We’re just a focal point for their fight, and it’s very easy for them to do it in Iraq. Thanks for the comment about us being “fathers, brothers, etc”. Those children are like our own, and we’d do anything to help them. They need our help, and we are there to provide it for them. Blame those who choose to target innocent civilians with bombs, not us. We provide security, we just don’t go blatantly shooting anyone and anything. IF you think so, you need to enlist and find out the truth for yourselves. If you don’t agree, your a hypocrite and you don’t have the right to talk about ANYTHING military or Iraq related. You seriously need to do more research because you obviously think we’re the blood thirsty badguys. Why are there always questions when we finally do something nice!?!?!?! Are we not supposed to be friendly to the population now? Are we supposed to shoo away the kids and not communicated with the local populace because of a fear they could die from a suicide bomber? Where does the cooperation and teamwork begin, and the fear end? I want you to think about that. How are we supposed to help that country if we can’t even talk to them. WHAT KIND OF SENSE DOES THAT MAKE!?!?!?!?! Leave military policy to the guys who actually do the fighting/nation building and stay the hell out of the way.

  • jtfromBC

    Spc. Banik from Deuce Four > ‘..The picture is real..
    I believe that, what I can’t get my head around, is why the hell your in Iraq? Okay that’s a secondary question I’d really prefer you sight in on these figures and take a moment to …
    In 2007 it was estimated 1,220,580 violent deaths were due to the Iraq War.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ORB_survey_of_casualties_of_the_Iraq_War
    2.5 million persons have fled, and 2.5 are displaced within the country.
    Add 750,000 (a conservative est) who have sustained serious injuries, are malnourished, underfed or starving =’s 7 million people.
    Population of Iraq 27,499,638 (July 2007 CIA est.)
    Population of the US 301,139,947 (July 2007 CIA est)
    …now try to visualize approximately 75 million fellow Americans directly experiencing similiar consequences like those of ” Operation Iraqi Freedom”.
    stay safe.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~sfs73/index.html MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “Leave military policy to the guys who actually do the fighting/nation building and stay the hell out of the way…
    …How are we supposed to help that country if we can’t even talk to them [?]
    understandable bitterness, rhetorical confusion expressed by the soldier(s), JT: cast as an occupier, rather than a warrior, he has no opportunity for glory, nor any means to nurture.
    Here, the Child = his saviour literally lives or dies in the Soldier’s arms; He is overwhelmed by the tragic dilemma of their shared helplessness. The Soldier knows, no one has to tell him this, that the sacrifice of this Child serves no meaningful purpose of any nation or salvation; Rather, death only illustrates the horror of their relentless, mutual attrition.
    The Soldier forever struggles to save what ever dignity remains of the sacrificed innocent : that is himself.

  • former SF member

    i was wondering if anyone knew how i might get in touch through email maybe to the Major in this picture… i was serving in iraq in 2005 when i came across this picture in the newspaper and I was inspired to sketch it. it is something i would love for him to see and possibly copyright but who knows. if anyone could help me i appreciate it. email is [email protected]

  • Sgt Mayhall

    i barely even know what to say right now. most of you have never seen a child suffer besides through the eyes of a camera. you sit there on your sofa or parked in front of your computer screen and you think you understand the world. you later discuss it in detail with your friends over coffee and feel that the conclusions you have drawn are the correct ones. armed with ignorance you then proceed to pass judgement on the men and women who have sworn to bleed on your behalf…
    are you so blind that you think we leave our loved ones at home and go into harms way merely to do harm to others? do you imagine that we ride gloriously into battle in our air conditioned humvees and leap out spraying bullets into everything that moves?
    judge the politicians if you must, but leave the soldier alone.

    • the man

      hit the nail on the head, to many many people who have not got a clue about what there talking about all because they have never experienced it. Its called weakness they know that they never will be a soldier so instead they find ways to take out there jealousy on people like the marines by having slay digs such as “i would never join the marines, there crap” or why didn’t he just do that instead it looks easy, all he has to do is run into a wall of bullets, god sake how hard can it be whilst i sit here in comfort and watch, talk never listen, ignore never believe, destroy be lazy blame others. i cant believe some of the comments about this picture lol he is what every modern day soldier should look up to, bring peace to the world, kick ass when needs be.

  • andy

    I just don’t see how this photo could possibly be pro-war???? That soldier is reacting as most human beings would react. But, he is holding the body of a dead child that has died as a result of this war. This is a sad, horrible scene. Pro-war???? This is a sad, sad commentary…
    The soldiers reaction is appropriate, but I find it horrible that he has to be in that situation at all.

  • susan

    Here is my unanswered question about this photo: WHO, in their right minds, would stop to cuddle and kiss a child who was dying? Wouldn’t you be trying to get medical care for the child? I would be running my legs off in an attempt to save the child’s life, not kissing them!
    I emailed Yon about this and he arrogantly told me that “I don’t understand war”.

    • the man

      ass hole lol

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