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February 27, 2006

Your Turn: Iraq Over TIME

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With the latest rupture and all the rumblings about civil war, I have been wondering more and more about Iraq’s political class.  In particular, I marvel over the fact that, with each highly touted election, Iraq’s secular politicians grow progressively smaller and more invisible.

Therefore, when I saw Muqtada al-Sadr on today’s TIME cover (albeit, wedged between the first two stokes of the “M”), it got me wondering how many Iraqi political figures had made the TIME cover since the war started almost three years ago.  That led me to this archive of Iraq covers and the disappointing answer (if you exclude dictators) of none.

(Given America’s obsession with Saddam, and it’s overriding desire for an alternative, you might be interested exactly when the last Iraqi political figure — besides Saddam — showed up on a TIME cover — link.)

Once I had the whole “Gulf War II” series in front of me, I shouldn’t have been that surprised (given the mainstream audience and America’s imperial and warrior instincts) about the home team bias and the stereotypes.  Still, for all the blather about spreading democracy, where are any signs of either statesmen, or a dignified Iraq?

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Because the visual data offers an almost limitless number of points, patterns and themes, I invite your thoughts.

Access larger versions of each cover here.





(current cover image: Karim Kadim/AP. March 6, 2006. time.com)

  • http://notoriousapostate.blogspot.com Notorious Apostate

    What I found striking was that the latest photo is the first of the covers shown in which a recognisable common Iraqi appears. Before this cover the Iraqis were as unrecognisable and mutually interchangeable as Storm Troopers out of Stars Wars or any other henchmen from B-grade movies. This at the same time as every single US soldier pictured has been shown as an individual. Even now, the Iraqis only appear in a mob.
    One could go on and point out other similarities to Hollywood depictions of evil.

  • lytom

    What will it take to wake up people to the plight and hell in Iraq?
    The last Time issue is showing anger and that is more than other issues have done…and not only in Time magazine but in MSM.
    It seems that desperately grieving people in pictures, blood and gory have not waken up the empathy, maybe the released anger will.

  • ummabdulla

    This is a great idea… Looking over the whole series of covers, it’s mostly about the U.S. army, and suddenly – with the “breaking point” cover – it’s the Iraqis themselves sort of bursting on the scene. And they’re not showering troops with rose petals and sweets. (Maybe that could have been a cover photo – if it had ever happened.)
    I think that everyone’s been waiting for and expecting a civil war so much that the bombing of that shrine in Samarra just seemed like the sign. Whether it starts a civil war, or whether theer’s already been a civil war, that will probably be remembered as a turning/tipping/breaking point.
    Bush says that this gave the Iraqi leaders a glimpse into the abyss, and that having seen it, they’ll work to avoid this. But the political leaders don’t really seem to have much influence on ordinary people.
    The BAG notes that Time hasn’t had any covers of secular Iraqi politicians after Saddam, but really, who would they put? Chalabi and Allawi aren’t exactly inspiring statesmen.
    I’ll have to refresh my memory about AbdulKarim Kassem… unless one of our resident historians wants to do it?

  • marysz

    It’s interesting to compare these covers to the Time covers published during the Vietnam War. It looks like then they had plenty of pictures of Vietnamese generals and politicians–Ho Chih Minh, Madame Nhu, etc. Time covers were more aesthetically interesting then; they still used portrait artists–the magazine looked really classy. Now they just use news photos and the magazine has lost the aura of authority it once used to have. Time was pretty hawkish about the Vietnam war and ridiculed anti-war demonstrators, dismissing them “peaceniks.” It could be that the magazine is hedging its bets this time around.

  • ummabdulla

    That’s a pretty striking difference, marysz. Hardly any covers of regular soldiers on the Vietnam covers, but plenty of Vietnamese personalities. And back then, the Defense Secretary made the cover a couple of times.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    Huh, you went somewhere I didn’t expect having just looked at the pictures without reading your text.
    I THOUGHT you were going to make the case that Time was getting on the anti-war bandwagon and tracing that timeline from Abu Graib to the mosque bombings.

  • jt from BC

    UMMABDULLA, Abdul Karim Kassem…may be accessed as
    Abdul Karim Qassim
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Karim_Qassim

  • jt from BC

    MARYSZ, thanks for “It’s interesting to compare these covers to the Time covers published during the Vietnam War” I took a cue and went on to Korea:
    UMMABDULLA, “Hardly any covers of regular soldiers” you must have missed checking the other covers. I noted that the US military were represented with 6 of its Soldiers and 5 of its Generals.
    The Times covers of The Korean War depicted 7 US Generals + a General Staff meeting with ONLY ONE US SOLDIER, he was however The Person of the year in 1951, some compensation as the stats are: 33,629 soldiers killed in action and the total of 54,246 as the total of fatalities from all causes.
    I don’t think any Generals were among the war dead… interesting EH.

  • James

    I like how the finger lines up with the I in Time. But shouldn’t it be purple?

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Several Generals died during the Korean War, I belive the highest ranking one was a Lt. General during the U.N. retreat toward Pusan.
    One thing that I find, perhaps not directly related to the Time covers but to the coverage of the war in general is that the U.S. media has no qualms about showing dead (some stacked in piles two and three high) Iraqis and streets filled with pools of blood yet not Coaltion or American troops are shown this way. A double standard?

  • Cactus

    Let’s remember that TIME is not an independent medium operating in a vacuum. The question is how much is it reflecting the current party line and how much the distaste of the people generally for the war, which now seems measured in bodies draped in the flag and mosques reduced to rubble. If the latter, they have their finger in the air testing which way the wind blows before they print the cover. [Perhaps that "finger over the 'I' was a subliminal clue?] If the former, many questions pop up. Such as, does the administration really want a way out of this mess? Or are they showing us the face of the infidel to anger the (American) public to get them ready to support an attack on another nation (Iran?) (Syria?).

  • PTate in MN

    What a great series!! It has been all about us, hasn’t it? We relive the war in these covers and titles.
    The first four covers are printed weekly. The covers start with an American show of power, a confident “what will it take to win?” discussion, a picture of Saddam and then, ex-Saddam. So much for the glory days. We’ll get this wrapped up before the hot season, slam-dunk!
    Then, three months pass. Starting in July 2003, the doubts begin to set in: We see a soldier, pinned down, looking anxiously heavenward under the title, “Peace is hell–is this any way to run an occupation?” to the famous shot of Bush on the USS Lincoln: “Mission NOT Accomplished–how Bush misjudged the task of fixing Iraq.”
    We then have a sequence of covers trying to figure out wtf is happening. We start in November, 2004, with “The real story of Jessica Lynch.” Okay, she looks glamorous, but wary: The government is lying to us. A month later, a swathed Iraqi with a BIG gun pierces our self-absorption: “The Hidden Enemy.” We hadn’t paid any attention to our enemy previously. We didn’t have an enemy–other than Saddam and the terrorists. We were liberators! This realisation is followed in December by the pathetic, toothless Saddam. THIS is the enemy we needed to destroy? Two months pass. In February, 2004, the big question surfaces to a two-faced GWB: “Does Bush have a credibility gap???”
    Then, starting in March 2004, monthly acknowledgement that things are bad. The tone becomes impatient. We see an American soldier against a white studio background: Looking for a way out. We see three soldiers under siege. The images from Abu Ghraib shock us: America uses torture! How did it come to this? Finally a rather dull, cluttered collage to illustrate a moment of truth in May, 2004. Does Bush know how to lead us out?
    The answer unfortunately, is no, he doesn’t. So TIME, like America, ignores the war for six months. Maybe if we don’t pay attention it will go away?
    In the sixteen months starting in November 2004 to March 2006, the covers are few and the tone is desperate: Bush has won the 2004 election. Nothing is changing. We aren’t winning. We aren’t leaving. Our soldiers are pinned against walls and behind bunkers. We lose Fallujah (in November). Two months pass: How soon can we get out?? Eight months later: Is it too late to win the war??
    And finally, after another six months, in March 2006, Americans reach the Breaking Point. Americans “see” the Iraqis for the first time. The Iraqis–who have been so unimportant that they haven’t been pictured in our narrative so far–are bursting forth, storming the reader, an angry mob. Whoa, they don’t like us.
    To wrap up the story (which remains all about us) we need a cover showing George Bush under the title: How a clueless, deceitful president failed America.

  • jt from BC

    RAFAEl, you are correct a General, Walker shown on a Times cover was killed (in a freak jeep accident.) He was known for his heroic ( rash ) front line actions (at odds with Douglas MacArthur he was in the process of being replaced ) He enjoyed speeding and unfortunately MacArthur’s order didn’t catch up with him in time. He was the only General killed in Korea.
    We don’t see US soldiers stacked up is because they don’t get killed in numbers of 10, 20, 50. Its upsetting to Americans and would adversely affect moral and recruiting in addition to those other standard Pentagon explanations. Its good to see the evil doers get it, its sad to see the innocent ( if they are) bystanders slaughtered, but tragic to look upon our “fallen” (killed) warriors.

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

    PTate nails it!

  • tina

    we should remember that the black and white cover showing Saddam crossed out is a remake of a famous cover showing Hitler’s face X’ed out.
    This shows that we a) have entirely too much hubris and b)the stupidity of the Bush-Hitler comparison and our longing for another “good” war. World War II being called the “last good war” (WTF???)
    This wasn’t supposed to be Vietnam, this was supposed to be the anti-Vietnam, the one that “got done right”.
    Time magazine aided and abetted in this miserable travesty by running this standard issue propaganda cover. You want to know where their intentions are, that’s it.

  • tina

    sorry, above may not be clear…I mean Bush comparing Saddam to Hitler all the time. You could almost hear Bush saying, come on guys, they both have a mustache!! Get with the program…..
    People were artificially whipped up and manipulated, I felt it very clearly at the time.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    JT, I understand the propaganda reasons, but evem during WWII, which alot of conservatives use as a reference to complain about the media coverage (never mind that there was no cable, 24hrs news cycle or the Internet), you saw multiple, gripping pictures of American casualties, but none today. Are the Rethugs so afraid of the truth? Is the media that iresponsible/biased/racist? Hell, even Clearchannel tried to stop the TV premier of Saving Private Ryan, which is as much a patriotic film as Hollywood has done in over 50 years!

  • jt from BC

    RAFAEL, I believe those like you who ask such informed questions already know a great part of the answer, please accept my response as complimentary and not as cynical. Should you have a spare hour or so here is a documentary that will not probably be coming to a TV media outlook any time soon in America;
    http://www.indybay.org/uploads/why_we_fight.ram
    Time magazines coverage of the Iraq war is indirectly reflected in this documentary..so that’s my hook for trying to stay on topic if not precisely in commenting on the covers, and it may also address some of your questions directly as well.
    I wonder how long it will take for the BBC to do a similar type documentary on the UK ?

  • readytoblowagasket

    Judging by the pictures alone, one has to wonder if TIME even knows that the war has *started.* Because my first and lasting reaction is that all of the images of American soldiers look like Hollywood-handsome war-movie poster candidates. TIME’s “war” imagery amounts to romanticized, gotta-love-a-man-in-a-uniform heroic propaganda. Lots of good-looking American men and women getting all dusty. Damn, war is pretty! Therefore it must be good. No bad (ugly) apples like Charles Graner in TIME’s photo archives.
    Thanks for the excellent PEOPLE magazine coverage, TIME! I’m feeling MUCH better about this so-called war.

  • hauksdottir

    I still want to know what Bush stuffed in his codpiece!

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