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January 1, 2007

Victory Pictures


I need a synonym for “irony.”  Writing about Iraq these past few years, I’ve worn the word out.

Reading the NYT article marking and statistically analyzing the 3,000 U.S. losses, road side explosive devices have been a primary and ever increasing threat.  The information reminded me of this image that circulated in a few papers following Robert Gate’s recent visit to Iraq.  It shows Gates posing with members of Task Force Troy, a unit specialized in handling these devices, at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq.

Maybe it’s the protective suit making the knelling man look like a creature from another world.  Maybe it’s the fact the photo so intentionally calls out the problem.  Either way, despite best intentions, this pic doesn’t stack up well — particularly this week — with either the milestone or the data.

(image: AP Photo/Cherie A. Thurlby. December. 22, 2006. via YahooNews)

  • PTate in MN

    Why does Monty Python’s “I’m a lumberjack, and I’m okay” routine come to mind?

  • Tomf

    This photograph has the aura of a cast photo from an amatuer theatre production taken on the stage after the performance. If you found it in a second hand store you’d be forever wondering what role the man in the green “theme park” creature suit played, and if the other fellow was Kaptain Kangaroo.

  • Ed Kohler

    I have a lot of respect for the work these guys do. How could you sleep at night knowing you need to go find bombs in the morning set by people who want to kill you? And knowing that if you fail, even more will die?

  • Hubris Sonic

    How could you sleep at night knowing you need to go find bombs in the morning
    usually you are exhausted.

  • weisseharre

    Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten.

  • Darryl Pearce

    What’s in a word?
    Horns of a dilemma… however, the United States is the raging bull whose horns have become entangled in the briar patch. …or stuck in the fence.
    I think the worst part of this is that huge swaths of the American citizenry are having experiences so far and removed from the chattering media caste and the stampeded consumers that words won’t have a common significance any more.

  • tina

    A U.S. soldier with all his gear on is carrying more than 80 lbs. in the 100 degree weather. He looks like the Borg from Star Trek and frightens little children. Also, he can hardly run and (as the soldiers themselves have repeatedly pointed out) he really can’t fight. Try running away from an explosion and a hail of bullets carrying 80 pounds on your chest. Now try climbing over a compound wall to engage an insurgent that way.
    I imagine the experience of being a soldier in Iraq, walking around encased in all that gear, is exhausting and claustrophobic. I imagine they also feel very helpless, tied down by the restricting weight. I’m just guessing, but it seems like the urge to use all of the technology available to the soldiers has trumped common sense in the Iraq war.
    As per the photo, I know the man in the suit is a bomb specialist, but seeing him and reading the “alien” references brought this to mind. Could we see some pictures of ordinary soldiers in their full gear? A lady here (Petoskey, MI) had her hubbi on IM and he put on his full gear for the web cam and he looked…well, just scary. Imagine how he looks to the Afghanis and Iraqis…but mainly he said he hated it because it bogged him down and made him feel like a sitting duck.
    This may all be a result of Powell’s “casualty aversion” doctrine. They don’t want deaths to go so high that public support for the war disappears (even though it has), so they pile on so much body armor that they sacrifice the soldier’s effectiveness and ability to do their jobs. Of course legs, arms and faces have to be somewhat free, because they have to walk and so on, but the vitals and the brain must be covered, hence, as we saw in the previous posts, the fantastic numbers of mutilated who don’t die. Also the reluctance to venture out of compounds, the reliance on bombing from the air, etc.–must occupy and defeat the country without losing our soldiers…it’s not working.
    I’m all for everything that will save the soldier’s lives, don’t get me wrong, but if we are going to impede their ability to function and even defend themselves in a weird contradictory effort to keep them from being killed…going so far in the “casualty aversion” PR tactic as to defeat the purpose of it..why don’t we just do the only really safe thing and bring them home? As Riverbend says in her blog, why are they in Iraq? When a bomb goes off or people are killing each other they don’t show up until hours later, so what’s the point?
    I think the Iraqis would have been all right with the transition to democracy stunt if the Americans had been effective occupiers in the first place, prevented crime, got people back to work, etc. It has been done before, it’s not like there’s no model for it. Now, short of a massive genocide of Iraqis that will result in a punishing international response harmful to the U.S., we cannot do what we (supposedly) went there for. For the cynics who say we went after resources– we can’t even secure the oil. It may have been a fool’s errand from the first but the current scale of the disaster was not inevitable.
    I think there were never enough soldiers to occupy and rebuild and never any plans for it, it was the “boring” stuff that didn’t interest Rummy, who just wanted to see things go boom. I think Rummy was the kind of kid who liked to get out all the toys in his box and scatter them all over the room but not pick them up when he was done playing.
    The picture we are seeing above is of Rummy’s latest playthings. Rummy has been tucked into bed but his toys are still scattered around. The man in the bomb suit who looks like a stuffed Barney dinosaur also brings this to mind. Maybe Gates is supposed to be the adult who will clean up the mess?
    Let’s see.

  • Rafael

    A word…stupid.
    The bad suit on Gates, the weird grin on bomb suit guy, just look at the faces of the other soldiers. They say “This is really, really stupid, Gawd I want to go home!”

  • margaret

    All that paraphenalia is about making money for the war profiteers…if they really wanted to save lives, they wouldn’t go to war.

  • tina

    Margaret–true, very very true, but there has also been an idea in the Bush admn. that a war can be fought effectively without putting very many soldiers on the line, without a lot of “boots on the ground” or whatever you want to call it. As we can see now that’s incorrect, so what are they after now….android, remote control, and/or microwave weaponry. They never change their minds, they just get scarier all the time. They would use a nuke in a minute if there would be no outcry (Anti-war demonstrators who feel discouraged–you DO make a difference!)
    They(Bushco)think they can fight unjust, unpopular wars so long as no Americans are getting killed, so they look for a way to do that. For them its all about what kind of news people hear and they think continuous victory reports will keep them popular. BUT a lot of people I know are also pretty sick at heart about the Iraqis’ suffering, and mad at Bush about that.

  • smallerdemon

    Apparently you people never watch Doctor Who. It’s called a “Sontaran” and holy cow does that guy look like one:

  • Daniel

    My first thought was of a penguin and a frog, from a children’s book perhaps. But I clicked on that Doctor Who link and wow, you are right, smallerdemon.
    Althought I should stress that I know absolutely nothing about soldiering, it has always seemed to me that the gear the US military personnel carry these days is completely over the top. It’s like seeing people who can’t learn how to pack light as they lumber around the airport with twelve bags: ridiculous. Or it’s like the child of an over-protective parent bundling them up like its 20-below every time the mercury dips under 55: pitiable. Each individual piece of gear has its own unique use and is doubtless well-designed, judged on its own merits, but each use is limited and specialized. In preparing for every possible contingency, you leave yourself ill-equipped for the most likely ones.
    They seem like medieval knights in full plate mail armor: very intimidating and well-protected, but also slow-moving, inversatile, and clumsy. Perhaps outfitting our soldiers and marines like ninjas or vietcong would be taking it too far in the opposite direction, but this photo really points up how ridiculous our mission has been from the start: fight a war, but don’t get hurt. If we really wanted to protect the lives and limbs of the soldiers and marines, we wouldn’t put them in harm’s way without a damn good reason.

  • Kitt

    Maybe it’s the protective suit making the knelling man look like a creature from another world…
    Knelling or kneeling?
    Knelling 
    • To ring slowly and solemnly, especially for a funeral; toll.
    • To give forth a mournful or ominous sound
    I know it’s just a typo but the implications are ….. ironic?
    How about mordancy?

  • ummabdulla

    Obviously, the people there didn’t realize how silly this photo would end up looking. The guy in the suit looks like he’s grinning, too, while the soldiers behind him all look pretty serious; that also makes it look sillier.
    Gates and the man in the protective suit are wearing dark clothes, and they’re posed in front of the soldiers with the beige camouflage uniforms. I wonder if that was that done on purpose, to make them stand out better?

  • dontkillwhitey
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