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July 18, 2006

Your Turn: Just A Little Cross Right Now


One man’s M-16 is another man’s AK?  (If I’ve got that right.)

The BAG was quite impressed with this photo-illustration on the latest cover of TIME.  A good image is one that, regardless of familiarity, keeps drawing you back.  I’ve been into this since Sunday.

On first pass, the power differential is blatant.  Yet, there is parity also.  There are other things.  A deeper way to read this is as a gestalt.  In other words, what we have here is the portrait of a relationship.  …And then, what’s with that binding?

I’m very interested to see how you disarm this.

(illustration: unattributed.  TIME.  July 24, 2006.  Cover)

  • mrboma

    I think the “binding” is clearly supposed to be the two barrells tied in a knot. It isn’t very well done, since the diameters of the knot sections don’t match the barrells very well, but the textures and colors make it pretty clear.
    A gun barell twisted like these would not fire, or worse, would explode when fired. So are they saying the conflict essentially disarms both groups? That would be absurd. Maybe the suggestion is that the sides are so tied together via conflict, each side’s identity is so intertwined with fighting the other, that whenever either side does anything, the situation blows up. That seems to fit with the subtitle: “The never-ending conflict between Israel and its enemies takes a dangerous new turn.” I think the other implication is that the situation is stuck. This isn’t a simple shoestring bow that would untie with a simple pull on one lose end. This is a real knot that will be extremely difficult to untie.
    It might have been more effective if the knot was done better, with the barrels not ending up exactly in line with where each gun is pointing.

  • Keir

    Portrays all of Israel’s “enemies” as a single bloc. That’s wrong.
    Portrays Israel’s “enemies” as militarily equal. That’s wrong too.
    Portrays the aggression and destruction as mutual. Wrong again.
    For whatever you may think its formal merits are, this cover is horribly dishonest. It is factually incorrect, as anyone following Israel’s current bombardment of Lebanon knows, to consider the two sides as equals. “Israel and its enemies” at a time like this? Shame on Time.
    (I don’t make much of the “power differential” noted in the post. From what I’ve heard, both guns are damn good at shooting people’s faces off. As for the binding, I think it reveals what most people probably feel, and why the world is not acting on this…”nothing to be done.”)

  • blabby

    The picture gave me the feeling of being stopped by a barrier placed in front of something dreadful, although I was proceeding toward that dreadful something anyway.

  • ummabdulla

    Thanks, mrboma, for pointing out that this is probably supposed to show the two barrels tied in a knot, although as you say, it’s not done very well. I couldn’t figure out what that was supposed to be, but it is in the shape of a cross…I guess one could take that further…
    What’s the blatant power differential? (In the picture, I mean.) Is the M-16 supposed to be much better than the AK-47? I thought the M-16 jammed a lot, especially where there’s a lot of fine sand, and taht even U.S. soldiers like to get ahold of Ak-47s.
    As is the norm, they refer at the top to “The Middle East”, as if it’s all at war, which it’s not (yet). I remember a tour operator saying that if there was an incident in Sudan, Americans would cancel their trips to Jordan. Calling Israel and its neighbors “the Middle East” means that it’s seen as all the same.

  • NrkeyQueer

    I agree, very interesting image. Crossed gun barrels alone would indicate mere conflict. The knotting DOES seem to indicate, on some level, a relationship. A relationship is usually based on a reciprocity of interests. That exsists here amongst the elites of both Israel and other powers in the region. Elites on both sides use the conflicts as a distraction from domestic ills. The Israeli power structure must distract from its shambolic economy and pitiful public services as surely as Arab elites must redirect anger at their opressive regimes towards the regional and cultural ‘other’. The House of Saud maintains power in much the same way as the Party of Sharon. You rarely hear about the peace protests in Israel, which attract massive numbers but are under-reported by media which serves either Zionist (New York Times…owns TIME magazine) or Arab (Reuters) elite interests. But these protests do exsist in Israel and are often reported from unbeholden media such as, just as I am sure movements towards peaceful coexistence are stamped in Arab countries.
    As to the text: “Israel and its enemies” sets up an Israel=protagonist/enemies=antagonist narrative.
    (BTW, I am Jewish and use Zionist as a political designation, not as an anti-semetic slur. I get enough grief from fellow jews for not supporting Isreal’s retrograde policies, so please dont pile on. Nor am I falling back on the “jews own the media” argument. The pro-isreali stance of the NYT is manifest and is a result of an interplay between its ownership, audience, and the current political orthodoxy)

  • Keir

    Another thing occurred to me: the cover portrays a clash between Israel and its Middle Eastern enemies—which as ummabdulla points out could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people (whenever there are forest fires in California I cancel my trips to NYC…)—but the cover is blood red. No Israeli blue and white, no green (which features in a lot of “middle eastern” flags, though I admit ignorance as to its significance). No six-pointed stars, no crescents. Whose problem does Time think this is?

  • mugatea

    Former Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Norman Pearlstine is to join elite private equity firm the Carlyle Group as a senior advisor, reports Keith Kelly. He will leave his current position as senior adviser to Time Warner to which he ascended after leaving the executive editorship of Time Inc.

  • manaotupapau

    Think the title is interesting: Why We Fight just came out on DVD recently, so does this title slyly suggest the interest of our own “military-industrial complex”?

  • limapup

    I am not so much interested in the details of the tied-in-one-knott weapons as I am of the bloddy red cover. Yes, “it is different this time” – there is a bigger, more inhumane war just next door in Iraq with thousands and thousands of innocents killed. The US just stands by and watches because it has set a dangerous precedent in an already dangerous world. It’s red all over.

  • jules

    “They”? “THEY”???? As if our tax dollars weren’t going to the Israelis? Nice.

  • catfood

    I disagree regarding the barrels being tied in a knot. It seems obvious to me that they are merely crossed, bound together by two metal links. While I don’t know the intentions of the artist or Time magazine, I would offer the following observations.
    1. Unless I’m mistaken, Jews and Muslims coexisted in relative harmony prior to the intrusion of European Christians during the crusades.
    2. Since that time, nearly every instance of meddling by Europeans and their (American) descendants in Middle Eastern affairs has yielded tragic consequences, either resulting in immediate conflict, or sowing the seeds of future conflict.
    3. The shape of a cross appears twice in this graphic, the most obvious example being the crossed gun barrels. Subtle but probably more important is the cross that binds the gun barrels (Jews and Muslims) together (in perpetual conflict).

  • Shaun

    I didn’t read the article but I’ll bet its about how the current conflict is part of the bigger battle for regional dominance between the US and Iran/Syria…So, the most salient characteristic of the image is not only the barrels tied in a knot, but the visably ‘American’ M-16 and the AK juxtaposed to the giant letters “WHY THEY FIGHT.”
    The image is meant to have a fractal-type metaphoric affect (like a yin-yang, etc): the guns themselves are Iran and the US (or ‘militant Islam’ and the ‘West’ respectively) while the small ‘knot’ where they meet is Israel and Hezbollah…
    Furthermore, the tight knot of the conflict keeps both guns pointed directly at it’s adversary’s face–hence a ‘Mexican standoff’ by proxy…

  • jt from BC

    Two killing tools, crossed as *X* marks the spot of MURDER

  • caleb

    as mrboma points out, these guns are no longer weapons. From a perhaps meaningless point of view in structural engineering, these guns together form an enduring structure – as the trusses in a roof, or the wooden members that give a tipi its shape. Does this mean the balanced aggression with deep historical foundations are structured to endure, so long as both sides refuse to disentangle, and thus support the mutual aggression?
    I dunno. That’s what I saw.

  • Cactus

    Shouldn’t the guns be pointing at each other? Or is this intended to indicate that in shooting at each other they are really killing many civilians not involved? ummabdulla’s point that it is not a war involving “The Middle East” is just the point that TIME is making. And the point that all the neocons have been making on the talking-head shows for days. They want to blur the distinctions of individual countries and individual responsibilities to further their plans. The christianists are all agog about signs of the coming rapture. The neocons are joyful because they see this as a way to get Gdub’s poll numbers up.
    A very good article about this is by Robert Dreyfuss at:
    If the link doesn’t work, just go to and ’search’ for Dreyfuss.
    I think the only thing missing from the cover is the U.S. flag as the background instead of the solid red. Whatever Israel does, you can bet the U.S. is behind it.
    NrkeyQueer’s comment: “The pro-isreali stance of the NYT is manifest and is a result of an interplay between its ownership, audience, and the current political orthodoxy”, is something of which we must be more aware. He could have included HRClinton in that statement. We ALL have to separate “being a Jew” from Israeli politics. We can only hope that the rest of the world learns to separate “being an American” from the politics of the Bush administration.

  • Altered Carbon

    I see triangle shapes on the cover. The negative space of red above the two rifles and the negative space of red below. Also on the sides of the rifles and in the letter M in TIME. It is like a mandala of a hexagram that hasn’t come together yet.

  • michaelp

    I also follow an interesting series over at, the Convergences contest, where readers send in photos that are similar in nature. This cover seems to echo a Time Magazine cover of when Zarqawi was killed, and also when Hitler was killed. Look at the link I have posted below. It seems to fit in nicely as a companion piece to the Bagnewsnotes website. Take a look around, its really cool and fun. Plus, has wonderful writers and satire. I love it.
    Here is a link to the latest page:

  • futurebird

    I’ll be honest. I don’t want to know why they fight. I want to know why this is still our problem. It’s the US that should be bound up in that knot. Or maybe put uncle sam’s fingers in the barrels of both guns like chinese handcuffs.
    Seriously, as a girl from ohio I have no idea who to trust when trying to wrap my brain around this issue. It’s the only thing my liberal friends even fight about. My guess is TIME isn’t a great place to start learning about this. But where do I start.
    The thing is: do typical americans even want to know? This thing brings out the isolationist in me BIG TIME– wouldn’t the red-staters tend to feel the same?
    Yeah I know, we have a responsibility to understand history and the world blah blah blah… but, I don’t think we’ll be able to measure this tree till it’s felled.

  • Al

    Israel droppsed 23 tons of bombs on Beirut, just today. This is hardly an equal fight. Lebanese casualties are 10 times Israel’s. 50% of Israelis killed have been military, but only 5% of Lebanese have been Hezbollah or military – 95% are civilians. The graphic is very misleading. One side is destroying the other with F-16s and massive attacks on infrastructure. The other side uses primitive rockets with no guidance. The border area in fact appears quite safe when Israeli parents can send their kids to write messages on shells destined to murder Lebanese on the other side.

  • Shaun

    Al, what does any of that have to do with magazine cover? I just don’t see it. By the way, we all read the news so what’s your point?

  • Randolph

    Listening between the lines (words?) on pravda tonight, I just wonder if there is something else going on. Sounds like Hezbollah (sp?) may have some powerful weaponry from somewhere that the Israelis are not too happy about. MSNBC said they (Hezbollah) seemed very organized. I just wonder if Israel might be considering backing down a bit instead of confronting unknown weapons from, where, Russia? Pakistan? Bin Laden?
    Another thing I noticed. Seems all the fighting is between Israel and Lebanon. Yet on our pravda, the talking heads keep bringing in Syria and Iran. Can someone tell me why?

  • Mad_nVT

    Looks like the knot is made of a couple of chain links.
    The rifles and the aggressors are chained together.
    Perhaps it is one of those knots where if both sides relax, the rifles can be removed from the tangle.
    Would they then put the rifles down, or use them more accurately to kill civilians?

  • ummabdulla

    I just got around to reading that cover story. What a one-sided piece of garbage.
    Randolph, Hezbollah seems to have demonstrated that it has more powerful weapons than Israel realized they had. They’re still nothing compared to what Israel has (thanks to the U.S. taxpayer), although you wouldn’t know that from most of the media coverage.
    Everyone knows that they’re organized and disciplined; Hezbollah was created in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and when Israel finally left 18 years later, it was thanks to Hezbollah. By the way, in all those years, Israel wasn’t able to defeat or disarm them, so it’s hard to see how they’re going to do it now (or how the weak Lebanese government could be expected to do it). They’re not an alien force that dropped out of the sky; they have widespread support among the Shia especially, so Israel would have to basically wipe out the population of Southern Lebanon, which seems like what they’re trying to do.
    But not to worry. As soon as Israel gives her permission, Condi will fly in and do and say whatever they tell her. @@

  • Keir

    Shaun, what a respectable mainstream, middle-of-the-road American weekly (which Time ostensibly sees itself as) ought to juxtapose on its cover, rather than an AK and an M16, is the by-now well known photos of the murdered Lebanese girl and the smiling Israeli girls inscribing bombs. If the magazine wanted to editorialize on its cover, perhaps the words “Shame on the people funding this” would be appropriate. Maybe that’s the point of Al’s comment (just guessing).
    Futurebird (this is a bit off topic, perhaps) imagine this: US funds the UN instead of Israel (we owe the UN billions of dollars). Empowered UN, with no Security [sic] Council, is able to make a presence in the region, force a cease-fire, bring in a non-aligned peacekeeping force, and initiate disarmament of Israel’s nuclear stockpile and whatever Hezbollah’s carrying. Clean up the mine fields. Have the aggressors pay for rebuilding what they’ve destroyed. We don’t need isolationism in the US. That’s exactly the problem. We have a responsibility to fund the rebuilding of Palestine and Lebanon, since that’s what our proxy army in Israel has destroyed.

  • readytoblowagasket

    This thread is fascinating, but I think we’re giving TIME a lot more credit — by such thoughtful associations — than they deserve.
    I want to know why guns were used at all, since guns aren’t the primary weapons in this “conflict.” The answer may simply be that gun barrels are more graphically interesting, so they were used for practical and aesthetic, not thematic, purposes. Even symbolically the guns don’t translate, to my mind, and, judging by the thread, to others as well. When we see guns, we think of bullets (underscored by the “binding” in the illustration, which looks like two stylized bullets to me), and when we think of a bullet, we think of one death per bullet. Well, that’s literally not the firepower being used in modern warfare anymore, nor is it an accurate representation of the intentionally terrorizing and scattershot-deadly effects of modern warfare, either. TIME’s cover is not only incredibly LAZY, but it completely misrepresents the conflict (so how could they get the issues *OR* the relationships right), and is ultimately totally LAST century. I wouldn’t trust — let alone read — the article, even to prove myself right.
    I’ve noticed that the MSM in this country has a galling habit of reporting on violence in the “Middle East” (by the MSM’s definition) in the abstract. Depicting guns — or any weaponry — is a standard way of avoiding the reality of death and misery of people who are in the way (a.k.a. other human beings like us), as well as the evil in those politicians (a.k.a. world leaders) who either create or permit all of that wanton, self-indulgent, inexcusable destruction. Of course, when we abstract it we are better able to perpetuate it. Which is what TIME’s cover does.

  • jt from BC

    rtbag, very interesting analysis, how might TIME depict 23 tons of bombs dropped, juxtaposed with the rocket number and effectiveness of the other combatant in one 24 hour period.
    The only commonality I understand is *shared civilian fear.* Surely there must be an artist capable of depicting these weapons systems and their consequences for the next cover of TIME perhaps with a heading : One day in the life of…

  • mrboma

    jules- look closer at the “binding.” The AK47 (the gun with the wood stock) has a small metal brace or wire which runs just below and parallel to the barrel. Now look at the knot. It has the barrel and the smaller wire still running parallel. Look at the other barrel, with its seam running the length of the barrel. Now look at the knot. See the seam? No doubt about it… this is supposed to be the two barrels tied together.

  • readytoblowagasket

    jt, I wouldn’t give TIME any sympathy. It’s TIME’s *job* to depict the news, which in this case is 23 tons of bombs dropped, etc. That’s why TIME’s editors, art directors, and cover designers get paid the big NY bucks.
    But I’m also talking about more than coverage of a “shared civilian fear.” I’m talking about the moral issues embedded in the actions of Israel and its allies (a.k.a. the U.S.), not its enemies. That would involve taking a hard look at Israel’s perpetually unsuccessful solution (because it has only one, it seems) to its problems. So what I see in this retro-themed cover is that nothing has changed at the editorial offices of TIME since the last century, and that tells me all I need to know about the content of the article (and the magazine, for that matter).
    This AP article may do a better job of getting at some of the issues than I did, however:
    “Thousands of Israeli bombs have fallen on Lebanese homes, roads, bridges, ports, broadcasting towers and even a lighthouse.
    “Nearly 300 people, mainly civilians, have been killed, Lebanon’s prime minister said.
    “Analysts say Israel’s targeting of civilian and government infrastructure overshadows its strikes on the offices and rocket launchers of Hezbollah guerrillas, whose capture of two Israeli soldiers triggered the attacks.
    ” ‘This is a classic strategic bombing campaign,’ said Stephen Biddle. . . . ‘What the Israelis are trying to do is pressure others into solving their problem for them, hence the targeting of civilian infrastructure.’
    “But the growing list of civilian casualties – despite Israel’s use of U.S.-designed precision-guided bombs – could turn Arabs and others against the Jewish state and its key ally, the U.S., and still not fatally wound Hezbollah, said military analysts.”

  • Cactus

    rtbag’s earlier comments triggered another thought. Did TIME use rifles to evoke the mental image of two soldiers facing each other in battle, as in freedom fighters rather than the Dresden-like reality of fire from the sky. Which would be much harder to depict but much closer to the truth and much more publicly inflammatory.
    OTOH, while I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, the ‘binding’ of the two rifles could symbolically mean that they are old weapons which are now only of iconic use. Today’s weapons are so gruesomely destructive they cannot even be illustrated in polite company. And we all know TIME is polite.
    rtbag: “…..who either create or permit all of that wanton, self-indulgent, inexcusable destruction. Of course, when we abstract it we are better able to perpetuate it. Which is what TIME’s cover does.” AMEN!
    jt from BC: How about Goya?
    Sorry for all the unintentional puns.

  • Richard Silverstein

    The image should really display a Katyusha rocket crossed with one of those Boeing/Lockheed-made missiles (thanks, btw U.S. military contractors) which Israel is showering down over Lebanese skies.
    Guns like those pictured aren’t playing a major role in the current round of fighting. Though if Israel sends in ground troops…(ugh, a thought too depressing to complete).

  • gleex

    Looks like a cross being pulled down to the right – or a cross being propped up from the left.

  • KansasKowboy

    I am quite sure that the designer of the image wanted it to look like the barrels of the weapons were twisted and tied together. But the image doesn’t work that way for me. To me it appears that the barrels are simply crossed and then tied together with bands of metal. One resembling the metal of the AK-47 and the other resembling the metal of the M-16. Of course M-16’s make us think of the U.S.A. and AK-47’s of the former U.S.S.R. Also countries that are sympathetic to U.S.A. policies get M-16’s and Countries backed by the old U.S.S.R. got AK-47’s.. So is this more about gun sales? Or getting the viewer to think that the weapons represent an East vs West conflict? There are multiple cross’s in the image. But I can’t find any crescents. I suppose if you worked real, real hard you might consider the knot where the barrels are joined as the Star of David but I realy don’t think there is anything subliminal like that here. I think basically the designer was just trying to say that Isreal is locked in a continuous battle with the Arabs. The barrels are not knotted so the weapons can fire. I suppose it is a modern expression of the saying “Crossed Swords” but we use bullets and bombs in battle now. Anyway I think the image may appear to have a gestalt if I used and spelled that word correctly. But it in fact does not. I think the artwork is actually weak. For one I do not believe that Isreal military uses M-16’s, they have their own automatic rifles that they make that actually I believe are more superior than the M-16 or AK-47.
    Here is a list of the Israel weapons of choice:
    Galil assault rifle
    Israeli Military Industries Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistol
    Israeli Military Industries Jericho 941 semi-automatic pistol (aka Uzi Eagle, Baby Desert Eagle)
    Israeli Military Industries Negev light machine gun
    Israeli Military Industries Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle
    Uzi submachine gun
    I couldn’t find anything listed for Lebenon or Syria.
    Anyway I think this cover image is weak. The tricky metal knot unsucessful at looking actually tied. And inacurate with the weapons used to depict the Israel and Arabs in battle.

  • KansasKowboy

    First I write my comments and then I read others. Lots of people have made comments that rockets and bombs should be on the cover instead of rifles. I agree with that too, but I kept my comments to the actual image. I do however feel it would have been more appriate if the cover was something like dark ominus clouds at the top of the page. Israeli bombs and rockets raing from the skies. With Lebonnese adults and children running in panic below covering their heads as they look up running to nowhere in fear.

  • Bob

    Time Magazine is simply telling all you provincials that it’s a New York thing.
    The cover takes off from the “twisted revolver” sculpture at the UN Headquarters’ Sculpture Garden in New York by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reutersward. One source says it was designed as a tribute to John Lennon and stands as a peace symbol.
    The pollyannish cover story goes right along with this theme. It’s a good thing people are killing each other, Time reports, because that means eventually it will have to stop.
    Scroll down a few photos at

  • Adam

    I’m fascinated that an M-16 should be used to represent Israel. While its certain that Israel receives massive financial and military support from the US, including vitally needed fuel and bombs in the current crisis, the one thing they don’t get is an assault rifle.
    The fact that a US weapon has been chosen is an indication of US support for Israel, no matter what their policies are, but the particular weapon itself isn’t used by Israel. An interesting dichotomy in itself.
    On the other hand the AK-47 is such a simple weapon that one can have it without massive Russian or Chinese backing so it comes without the added baggage of the M-16.
    As a result the eye is drawn to the more complicated M-16 handgrip on the left and the underlying message is that it isn’t a battle of equals.

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