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May 14, 2007

There Are Shootings And There Are Shootings: The Scene From Kandahar


(click for full size)

That’s one clever image of slain Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah the NYT offered up this morning.  (Story link.)

Featuring a snapshot of the snapshot and its documentation as “the news,” what it affirms (because the audience, by now, is plenty savvy) is that this is as much (or more) a touchdown scored for the perceptual war as a strategic achievement on the military playing field. 

(If time is patience; patience for the Administration’s terror war is wearing out; and a vivid trophy can earn its five seconds — if not, fifteen minutes — then voilà.)

As to the color dynamics, or any thoughts on the rare portrait of the picture takers in the Afghanistan theater, I defer to you.

(image: Hamed Zalmy/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images.  Kandahar, Afghanistan. May 13, 2007. via caption: The body of Mullah Dadullah, thought to be the Taliban’s top operational commander, was shown in Kandahar on Sunday.)

  • weisseharre


  • see you

    this picture may turn into a mistake! remember the one of Che Guevara!

  • stanco

    Gee… I don’t know. I kinda miss the official portrait and custom frame a la Zarqawi.

  • jtfromBC

    yikes, as this subject is shroud-ed in color, I’m guessing it must mean, PINK is for high valued Taliban corpses.

  • ummabdulla

    They couldn’t go all the way and show his missing leg and all, like this photo? Are they trying to maintain the pretense that they’re not really showing the body, they’re showing the situation where photographers are photographing the body?
    I have no idea what the pink is supposed to mean – are they saying he’s a sissy? Or did pink bring out the color of his wounds the best?
    There are U.S. soldiers now missing in Iraq; I wonder how the U.S. government would react if the insurgents were to kill them and then pose their corpses like this and invite in photographers, so that pictures of their dead bodies could be shown on news broadcasts and in newspapers all over the world.
    This guy does seem to have been a significant figure, but he’ll be replaced. (Actually, I think his brother has already replaced him.) I don’t know why the media always goes along with this idea that when they kill a significant figure, there will be a big hole where he used to be. These guys expect to die every day, and others will replace them.

  • Kitt

    Welll, his ‘missing’ leg is a well-healed stump which would lead me to believe he had a prosthesis. Is that pertinent as a way of identifying him?
    And – what ummabdulla said: “I don’t know why the media always goes along with this idea that when they kill a significant figure, there will be a big hole where he used to be. These guys expect to die every day, and others will replace them.”
    And what’s with the PINK?!!! I work at a ‘hip’ hospital but I swear we have no sheets THIS color. Like someone up front said: it must be a special sheet for high-profile deaths.

  • Rafael

    Their hoping that success in Afghanistan will translate into an uptick of support for Iraq which will not happen. Also, I wonder what the reaction will be if we see a similar picture of a dead American GI in some website somewhere or in al-Jazera?

  • lowly grunt

    Pink = Valentine’s Day. It’s a sweetheart of a deal, no?

  • tina

    Dadullah was one legged before. Replaced or not, we can be glad he’s gone. He was well poised to lead a significant Taliban revival. Sometimes the removal of a single charismatic leader does kill the movement, sometimes not. It can go either way.
    Ummabdullah, I’m glad you don’t spend your time on the insurgent/terrorist websites, but believe me “the other side” does their posturing and has their trophy shots as well, let’s not forget the contractor corpses strung out on the Fallajuh bridge shall we. Or filmed beheading of live prisoners, or recruitment videos of U.S. troops being picked off, or….shall I go on?
    We are very likely to see those kidnapped troops beheaded live for all to see.
    Really really rich of you to suggest that “they” don’t do this. Usually the double standard under which you operate is not so obvious.

  • tina

    As far as I am concerned they can take as many pictures of dadullah as they want in any venue they want, like any other common criminal killed in a shootout.

  • jtfromBC

    How does an informed person answer the question raised by Eric Margolis in this article, some extracts
    “What we are really seeing is a war by Western powers seeking to dominate the strategic oil corridor of Afghanistan, directed against the Pashtun people who comprise half that nation’s population. Another 15 million live just across the border in Pakistan. What we call the “Taliban” is actually a loose alliance of Pashtun tribes and clans, joined by nationalist forces and former mujahedin from the 1980s anti-Soviet struggle.
    Afghanistan’s figurehead Hamid Karzai regime controls only the capitol. The rest of the country is under the Taliban, or warlords who run the surging narcotics trade that has made NATO the main defender of the world’s leading narco state.
    If 160,000 Soviet troops and 240,000 Afghan Communist soldiers could not defeat the Pashtuns in ten years, how can 50,000 U.S. and NATO troops do better?”

  • ummabdulla

    Tina: “Really really rich of you to suggest that ‘they’ don’t do this.”
    Where did I suggest that? You’re right; I don’t spend any time on “the insurgent/terrorist websites”, but I didn’t say that the other side doesn’t kill people and publish photographs or video clips of it. My point was about how the U.S. reacts when it’s done to their own people; it’s considered barbaric, to say the least. And since the Iraqi insurgents may be holding U.S. soldiers right now, it’s certainly possible that this will happen.
    (Anyway, the reason they need to have this dead body be seen is because they’ve claimed to kill this guy so many times that no one would believe it without some proof.)

  • ummabdulla

    “He was well poised to lead a significant Taliban revival. Sometimes the removal of a single charismatic leader does kill the movement, sometimes not. It can go either way.”
    By the way, the Taliban has already retaken some areas. And from what I’ve read, quite a few of them were uncomfortable with Mullah Dadullah’s ways, so I doubt that his death will kill the movement. As long as Afghan civilians are getting killed, as they are all the time, there will be Afghans willing to fight the latest invaders.

  • tina

    I am not sure what your question has to do with my comment, JT, but to answer….
    It is true that we use the term “Taliban” in an umbrella sense, often without knowing precisely whom we are talking about.
    The oil corridor theory is an old one, dating back to the Soviet invasion, and there’s a natural gas pipeline that is fueling (no pun intended) an insurgency in Pakistani/Irani Baluchistan that is being largely ignored by the outside world presently.
    If there is either a significant development of resources in this region or resources being transported through it, then those who live there who are disenfranchised are of course going to struggle for their share, rather than sitting back and watching a foreign power enrich itself at their expense. Giving them their share ends the problem.
    The terrorism thing is a canard, of course. “War on Terror” is, semantically, like a “War on Poverty” or a “War on Drugs”. It is not like “War with Japan”, etc. See the difference? It is impossible to define winning and losing in what is really a metaphorical war, which is the beauty of it as far as the neocons are concerned.
    I’m not sure that oil corridor is as big a strategic need as conspiracy theorists make it out to be–a concrete truth is that the Pashtuns are disenfranchised in the current, poorly accepted government, Mr. Karzai aside, and Kazakhs and Uzbeks are empowered out of proportion to their numbers/cultural importance. The high ranking in the government of war criminal (and Uzbek) Dostum and others further weakens its legitimacy. In simple terms this administration will never know any peace until it is gone.
    Ultimately I believe the Chinese will fill the power vacuum that is left (not directly but behind the scenes); the days of the U.S. are numbered because the U.S. enjoys no more regional authority than Russia did. It’s different with China.
    As for the Pashtun tribes, it is this tribal/village way of life that is under threat from the outside world, and once it is unsustainable, they will move to the cities and you will see the tribal structure weaken, as has happened in Africa. In the big cities of Peshawer, Karachi, and even further away they will either cause social problems or integrate to a degree.
    The riots in in the nightmare-city-of-the-future Karachi two days ago took an ethnic turn with MQM muhajirs getting into gun battles with Pashtun migrants. There will be more of this as time wears on.
    Again it compares to tribal groups in Africa. Here is a group of millions and millions of people, no skills, low literacy, the women almost entirely illiterate and none of them allowed to earn money (that’s 51% of the population not engaged in any gainful economic activity). Growth rate stands at almost 3%. Half the children are undernourished, high retardation and mental developmental problems as a result. As they desert the countryside they crowd into the city, they can only be labourers, but there is no labour shortage, quite the opposite. In their slums they will either starve or succumb to some disease. They are among the world’s 2 billion extraneous, unnecessary humans.
    What’s my answer? If I had one I’d be Jesus Christ, but I’m not. The only thing that comes close to a solution is open borders so people can move to countries where there is work available, that is, the Western world, but that is NOT likely to happen any time soon.

  • margaret

    I find these pictures of dead terrorists pornographic in a non-sexual sense: I mean, spiritual pornography. It is meant to deaden our senses and our sympathy, or compassion for a human being, if anyone has any left in this country. Shameful, and useless, except for showing the barbarism of our cause.

  • lytom

    So fingerprints are not enough, DNA testing neither, biometrics is not sufficient…it is a victory, that needs to be visual on front pages of newspapers… Who are they trying to convince and what are they trying to convince the viewers of?
    The pink accent, the color of the opium poppy, seems inappropriate…Why not black sheets?…but nevertheless pink makes for a soft touch…probably to convince of a gentler side of the killers of this man!
    The missing part of the limb conveys suffering in life, no matter how much of an evil man he has been portrayed as…
    Dadullah lost a leg when fighting with the Mujahideen against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and that fact would make him in some Afghan eyes a hero…and at that time he would have been supported by the US government.

  • Johanna

    There’s a huge difference between showing a corpse, however distasteful that is to us, and showing a someone BEING KILLED –that’s the real death pornography and the honor of that is all theirs.

  • lytom

    Johanna “…that’s the real death pornography and the honor of that is all theirs.”
    I beg to differ.
    I would not call that pornography but monstrosity, though I must add:
    To me the air bombings of weddings, Fallujah and other cities in Iraq, the torture at US held prisons in Iraq, firings at unarmed civilians, occupation of a country and all that goes with it, the unseen, is all monstrosity and that can only be claimed by the US!!!

  • g

    I find it ridiculous that we’re arguing about whose war porn is worse. People are still dead, by the scores.
    OTOH, what the Bush administration wants is to have a nice, clean, sanitary war; Shock ‘n Awe style but no coffins shown, please, no “violence seen on our TV screens” – for them its OK if the death occurs invisibly.

  • travy

    perhaps he was shot while participating in the baghdad breast cancer walk?

  • travy

    i saw this photo on the front of the times from afar while riding the subway monday and thought it was perhaps an installation piece over in chlesea. the setting looks like a gallery and the bold flash of pink that cuts through the man–who looks sorta fake–is quite striking and even beautiful.
    further, if it were a fine art piece, the meaning for me would come from the juxtaposition of a dead and gnarled terrorist wrapped in a flowing pink blanket on mother’s day while a dutiful, machinelike press records it all for posterity or youtube. a brief snapshot of our priorities on a beautiful day in may ‘07…

  • LIMA

    Grotesque. Simply grotesque, a la American Beauty grotesque.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Maybe CODEPINK provided the sheet.

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