Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
May 30, 2006


The enemy cannot defeat us on the battlefield, but what they

can do is put horrible images on our TV screens.

–George Bush, Philadelphia Congressional Dinner, May 24, 2006


Two CBS Cameramen are killed and Correspondent Kimberly

Dozier was critically wounded in Baghdad car bombing yesterday.



Anti-U.S. rioting broke out in Kabul yesterday following

traffic accident involving Afghanis and U.S. military vehicle.



Bodies of Iraqis reportedly slain in Marine massacre in

Haditha in November.  Breaking story is being compared, in

potential impact, to Abu Ghraib.


(image 1: Khalid Mohammed/AP. May 29, 2006.  Baghdad.  Via YahooNews. image 2; Shah Marai/AFP-Getty.  May 30, 2006.  Kabul.  image 3: Reuters TV.  November 19, 2005.  Haditha.  Via YahooNews.)

  • RomanticOtaku

    The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.
    – Brian O’Blivion from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome


    meanwhile, let’s take action against Iran! Not.
    an argument for restraint. and why it matters.


    With respect to the President’s t.v. screen comments:
    While his point may have been well intentioned (hard for many to assume, I know), it needs to be vigourously and repeatedly pointed out that those images are real. they are reality. war is reality. (as is terrorism). sometimes hard for those who have not fought in it to recognize that.
    With respect to the Haditha incident. We are all responsible for our soldiers. this journalist eloquently makes the case.
    But our image to world is critical. as pointed out in the above cited article on Iran, it is also critical to effectively communicate and illustrate to the world that we are in Iraq:
    “liberating Iraq from a repressive regime, and temporarily assisting the new government with security, nothing more.”
    Stories/incidents such as Abu Ghraib, and Haditha, hurt that image. Abu Ghraib was a mistake by those managing the war, and was wrong. Haditha was a mistake by a small isolated group fighting that battle, among thousands fighting it, and was wrong, but can be an outgrowth of war, if never excusable.
    It is important to continually emphasize to the world that we don’t repress information to manipulate or hide (it also would be important to convnce the pack of faux journalists masquerading as news people over at the clever as fox station, if they didn’t already have a pre set and manipulative political agenda)…
    ..thus, unlike with many other countries, the world knows about our mistakes, our failures, as well as our successes. And it is similarly important to emphasize that Haditha was a grievious, cold blooded mistake by otherwise honorable fighting men and women, that in no way reflects upon the values, goals, or actions of the larger group or the U.S. military, or our presence there.
    We want to help Iraq stop its internal killing, where sunnis kill shiites, and shiites kill sunnis, merely for their ethnicity, and insurgents fight the formation of a new Iraq governent that reflects the will of the Iraq people rather than a small group at the expense of real Iraqi sovereignty. Should we go? Should we stay? Out intentions have always been honorable, and we have freed Iraq from the dictatorial rule of a malevolent despot. But what is now best for the Iraqi people?
    Some other related considerations, and questions, regarding Iraq, and the war on terror, which it has become part of. And which it is sometimes being confused for, including by the media. And some regarding the symbolism and implications of the poor job that the media is doing covering this issue — and the related issue of the what we are doing instead here at home.

  • weisseharre

    “With respect to the Pres(s-id)ent,
    reality hard to recognize.”

  • limapup

    Oy vey.
    The ripples are beninning to reach the shores. The tidal wave is on its way.

  • Marysz

    Wasn’t this “blame the media” attitude also prevalent during the Vietnam war? Then, as now, a morally bankrupt Administration is furious because they can’t control the flow of images from the war zone.

  • jt from BC

    pressthenews> “Out intentions have always been honorable”
    Yes, perhaps, maybe, but in fact these intentions were exercised in illegal, immoral, barbaric, fabricated and delusionally ways with hubris: overbearing pride or presumption and arrogance.
    But I commend you for following the suggestions offered by Cactus in ‘What Fifty Interviews And A Dollar Buys You These Days’

  • Darryl Pearce

    President Bush’s quote is intentionally vague: “The enemy cannot defeat us on the battlefield, but what they can do is put horrible images on our TV screens.” Ergo, those who put horrible images on our TV screens are enemies.
    Hey, this is fun. Let me try: Soda-crackers are better than nothing. Nothing is better than steak. Therefore: Soda-crackers are better than steak.”

  • Nezahualimón Johnsettia, Jr.

    Yes. It’s infuriating how Bush keeps trying to make us believe the violence is not real.
    PS thank you to RomanticOtaku for the quote from one of my favorite cult classics, and definitely my favorite Jame Woods flick!

  • donna

    Wouldn’t want to mess up our beautiful minds with horrible images, would we?
    Truly his mother’s son.

  • momly

    While his point may have been well intentioned (hard for many to assume, I know), it needs to be vigourously and repeatedly pointed out that those images are real. they are reality. war is reality. (as is terrorism). sometimes hard for those who have not fought in it to recognize that.
    Sorta like Bush himself?

  • momly

    I was four years old in 1968 when CBS and Walter Cronkite entered the house every evening at suppertime and the words “Phomn Pen”, “Ho Chi Minh Trail”, “Khmer Rogue”, “Laos”, “Cambodia”, “Tet Offensive”, and “Saigon” were consumed with our meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I remember seeing blurry black and white motion pictures of soldiers carrying other soldiers on stretchers through the jungle as explosions rocked the trees. I remember knowing that something very bad was happening in a far off place and that my parents were concerned about it. Mom and Dad may not have realized that I was taking it all in but I was and I am glad. I only wish I could show my teenaged children the pictures of this war so that they would grow up knowing that you get the government you elect.

  • ray

    Thank God for Tee-Vee. It allows us to see, even if through the glass darkly.

  • PTate in MN

    This is exactly analogous to his comments at his press conference last Thursday. Yes, he had made “mistakes” in Iraq! Bush’s mistake was his tough talk that was misinterpreted in some parts of the world: “Saying “bring it on.” Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. But I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner. You know, “wanted dead or alive.” That kind of talk. I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted. And so I learned from that.” Yep, if GWB used more sophisticated language, more people would support the war in Iraq.
    Bushco is all marketing. If the WH can control the media images and the language –emphasize the good, hide the bad–then Americans will “buy” the war.
    In terms of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, it is stage 1 or 2. As long as you can get away with something, it’s okay.
    What strikes me about these images is how very bleak and colorless these places are. In the first picture, the beige desert, beige soldiers, gray vehicles, gray road emphasize the carnage. The second picture reminds me of a B-western–it looks like a construction zone. The violence is summarized by the dusty armed vehicle and the bodies of the men in the foreground, lobbing stuff. The people in the distance add menace.
    The final picture is just painful. Those are bodies in that heap in front of the concrete walls. It’s impersonal, inhumane. We see arms, limbs, an obscured face, in both the living and the dead.

  • Cactus

    One thing I remember about TV coverage of the Vietnam war was the stats. ‘Casualties today 2 marines killed 6 wounded and 367 Viet Cong killed.’ After a few weeks hearing stats like that, one tends to disbelief. I think that was one of the first things that the public/anti-war protestors cited in claiming disbelief of the entire governmental story. I think that’s why we don’t hear any stats from this war; how many US wounded? We don’t know, really. How many Iraqis killed and wounded? If anybody knows, it’s kept a deep secret. How many bodies brought home in flag-draped coffins? Nobody knows. How many REAL deaths, not just those pronounced on Iraqi ground? Nobody knows.
    A newscast back in the 60’s was almost exclusively on the war stories and the anti-war stories. What we get today is 1:15 minutes of ‘war’ coverage, then 2:30 minutes of a bear loose in a suburb, then 1:30 minutes of a fatal traffic accident; then 4 minutes of commercials and back to the latest terror story about bird flu or gang activity or whatever. It all has equal time and equal value. The killing in Iraq is no more important than the bear in Pacoima. The lazy populace sighs, and says, oh, okay then; where’s the popcorn?
    As for the comment by W that leads off this post, that is probably one of the most twisted things I’ve heard him say. Does he really mean that if it’s not on TV it didn’t happen? Does he mean that ‘they’ can’t defeat us on the battlefield unless we SEE them do it on TV? Is he finally admitting that the carnage in Iraq is horrible? Donna’s spot on about W being his mother’s son. He learned early on (age 7 when his sister died and his parents went golfing) that the way to handle tragedies is to ignore them.
    Thank you to the BAG for choosing three powerful images that should have filled our TV screens last week.

  • kay

    The enemy cannot defeat us on the battlefield, but what they can do is put horrible images on our TV screens.

    therefore, the media must be the enemy according to the preznit.

  • ummabdulla

    momly and cactus, I remember that, too… eating dinner with the evening news on, seeing the casualty counts every day and anti-war protests all around. (We were in the D.C. area, and near a university.) I guess the big difference is the draft, which meant that any family could be dragged into it, even if they didn’t volunteer.
    And cactus, don’t forget Britney Spears’ baby or Brangelina’s baby as news headlines seen around the world…
    “Thank you to the BAG for choosing three powerful images that should have filled our TV screens last week.”
    Is this being covered much in the U.S.? What about the Haditha story? (Good piece on that here: )
    When is that English-language Al-Jazeera station supposed to start? It has some very impressive journalists; I wonder how it wil be received by ordinary Americans.

  • jt from BC

    ummabdulla, two years later here’s how the debate ? still drags on in Canada,
    The online cartoons of Aljazeera must be among the best in cyberspace.
    I remember Vietnam MSM photos were so graphic that many parents keep their children from viewing them.

  • JustZisGuy

    “Out intentions have always been honorable”
    Uh… yeah…. right… that’s why the United States invades countries, never pays reparations, and declares itself immune from judgements of international courts.
    Unless by “our” you mean regular USians who are opposed to the actions of their government, of whom I’m sure there are millions.
    “thus, unlike with many other countries, the world knows about our mistakes, our failures”
    Right. That’s why journalists are “embedded” with military units, rather than being free to gather facts for themselves. That’s why the U.S. military makes claims that are clearly false with respect to massacres of civilians. (Basically, anyone the U.S. kills is an insurgent, and somehow magically the United States has the power to see inside houses and know everyone inside is an “insurgent” prior to dropping a 500 pound bomb on it).
    Take your rose-coloured glasses off, please.

  • DogFoNam

    “Bodies of Iraqis reportedly slain in Marine massacre in
    Haditha in November. Breaking story is being compared, in
    potential impact, to Abu Ghraib.”
    And axactly what impact would that have been?
    Every single frackin thing that this admin. has done that is wrong, or against the law, against American morals, bad for our image, immoral, or just plain stupid has headlined today and basically disappeared the next.
    Name one form a payment this president or his cronies have paid for their actions?
    We still have gulags, Guantanamo, an illegal war, terrible admin. henchmen, a horrible UN ambassador, no retributions for the pitiful Katrina response, no brass held to the fire for torture in Iraq, a pathetic Secretary of D, a sorry a** congress that won’t do it’s job, mis-use of our NG,a president who skipped out of his NG duty, the most secretive admin. in our history, a VP that’s it’s looking like is a criminal, the most evil presidential henchman in history (Rove).
    So where’s the consequences? Hey so far so good as far as they’re concerned.

  • ummabdulla

    When American military personnel are found to have done something horrible, there’s all kind of analysis to explain how much pressure they were under, what nice guys they really are, how they snapped, etc.
    Or how they “can’t tell who the enemy is” – as if it might be a baby girl.
    This CNN reporter just gushes about the Marines involved in Haditha:
    When anyone else does this kind of stuff (torture and cold-blooded killing of innocent civilians), I don’t see anyone trying to understand their psychological states and explain that they’re really great guys who are just under too much pressure.
    Usually it’s explained that this is just in their nature, like orangeducks’ “prone to violence” description of Iraqis (or Arabs or Muslims or whatever it was he said).

  • Cactus

    No word on the al jazeera station stateside, but you must remember that it will probably have to be cable and almost all (if not ALL) the cable companies are owned by very right-wing companies/families. I’m sure the knee-jerk reaction by the knee-jerks around here would make it just financially impossible for anyone to run it. That doesn’t even take into consideration the Israel lobby. The left/democratic network, AirAmerica, has been under attack since it’s inception. The ‘right-wing christianists’ have been busily buying up stations that carry AirAmerica and dumping their programming. Free speech may not be dead in the US, but it is definitely in a wheel chair. Amazingly, the satellite company owned by Murdoch/Fox does carry LINKTV which has a lot of mid-east programming, including a news-journal from the mid-east in english. We do get (for now) the online version of al jazeera in english.
    Sunday I was talking with friends about Haditha. We agreed up front that it happened as reported, i.e., they went nuts and shot everyone in sight. I don’t know if this is making excuses for them or trying to understand the psychopathology involved: after Katrina, we saw on TV white men, just north of New Orleans, exclaim that they’d been trying to clean out ‘those people’ for years and now god did it for them. One can only imagine what kind of hatred gets talked about in their homes. Now take kids growing up hearing that constantly, then barely getting out of high school and no jobs anywhere, but lots of promises by the recruiters, and you have an army of hate in the making. Yes, it’s a pathology, but how do you correct it when the dear leader’s mother says that ‘those people’ are probably better off living in the AstroDome? It’s an ignorance of incredible proportions.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes