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June 29, 2007

Baquba #2

Psalm-92

(click for fuller text)

Here’s more Scott Nelson imagery from Baquba. 

Following yesterday’s shot of a U.S. fair-haired detonation machine, how is this for a follow up? Maybe the military thinks that taunting the enemy is a fair trade off it it fires up our flagging crusaders?

And then, could someone please tell me where The Times is going with this caption:

During the operation, Specialist Paul Goodyear wore a headband bearing a passage from Psalm 91: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

Talk about holy war, sounds like the (online) newspaper of record got sucked in, chapter and verse.

View the rootin’-tootin’ slide show here.

(image: Scott Nelson/World Picture Network, for The New York Times. Baquba, Iraq, June 2007.  nytimes.com)

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

    Last name: GOODYEAR?

  • Irina

    I generally like your comments but you are often too conservative.
    This comment though is despicably ignorant. Read what the verse of the Psalm says and then read the whole Psalm.
    Pasternak, a Jewish Christian, wrote that most of the soldiers during the two World Wars had this Psalm sewn into their clothing by women who loved them. The soldiers from peasant backgrounds whose mothers were barely literate but who remembered this Psalm from readings in the church would write only a few painfully spelled out words of this Psalm and the mothers of the soldiers from wealthier homes wrote in beautiful script on expensive paper.
    It is a prayer for protection, particularly protection of one’s soul and is powerful and beautiful in desparate situations like the 23rd Psalm.
    Your comments are very ignorant and very dirty:
    And then, could someone please tell me where The Times is going with this caption:
    During the operation, Specialist Paul Goodyear wore a headband bearing a passage from Psalm 91: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”
    Talk about holy war, sounds like the (online) newspaper of record got sucked in, chapter and verse.
    People are not in the streets about the endless redeployments, the plastic turkey, the lack of drinkable water or clean food or sometimes any food, the vacine experimentation that is causing hundreds of deaths and horrible sicknesses as Truthout reported this week.
    Go to AnySoldier.com and start writing to a soldier who has no one to care about him or her or whose family cannot afford care packages or armor or ammunitian that our government with pitiful lack of real protest from their fellow Americans is allowed to destroy a generation of young people from the “underclass”.
    You might want to educate yourself about the culture and religion a large number of your countrymen find a help in desparate, desparate need and abandonment by their society.
    http://gocomics.typepad.com/the_sandbox/

  • ummabdulla

    Thanks for the explanation, Irina. I had never heard of this, but I googled “Psalm 91″ with “soldier”, and there are plenty of places offering camouflage bandanas with Psalm 91 printed on them, which is probably what this guy is wearing.

  • http://www.nocaptionneeded.com/ John Lucaites

    Irinia’s point is well taken. And I’m especially taken with her notion that there is a larger
    sense of apathy about (if not passive support for) the war. But it strikes me that this only reinforces Michael’s point about the implications of the Times’ caption. Sure, the Psalm has a history in US military endeavors, including the ‘good war’. But that only enhances the sense in which the moral power of THAT war is being used, however subtly, to endrose this war. I’m especailly struck by (a) how this is the LAST image in the slide show, thusputting something of a “period” to the visual narrative, and (b) how much it reminds me of the sharpshooter from Saving Private Ryan who sacralized all of his kills by quoting from scripture each time. I doubt it was the same passage (though someone could probably check that out), but it did locate that war and the killing that was done in a very Judeo-Christian register … and we should not ignore the implications of that here … perhaps especially here.

  • wmcq

    I think the big story is the impact of islamic culture and sensibilities on our crusaders. Because even soldiers who have spent 3 years in Iraq still can only speak enough arabic to say ‘Hands Up!’, the visual stuff must penetrate first. In an Islamic country decoration does not involve images of people or objects, words, especially Koranic text, become the decoration. Powerful words become both decoration and talisman, worn in clothes, headbands, or turbans. The guy in the picture (and the soldier shown yesterday) is dressed a lot like the people he is fighting.
    People forget that Islam has always been popular with young men who face death every day. If we do what Petraeus wants and put troops in ‘fortified hamlets’, interaction with Islam will increase and as we make more widows in Iraq ‘fraternization’ will also increase.
    Just as exposing our soldiers to the Contras and Juntas of Central America in the 80’s whet the appetite of this generation of genrals for torture and death squads, the Army of the future may be more Jihadi than we ever imagine.

  • davep

    The original entry about this photo is way off the mark, in my view. As other commenters have pointed out, it’s quite common for soldiers to inscribe Biblical passages on their helmets, wear them around their necks, or keep them in their pockets. Doing this usually serves as consolation for the solider, but it can also express bravado. Michael Herr’s masterpiece of reporting from Vietnam, “Dispatches,” has a great scene where he describes what one American soldier wrote on his helmet: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil because I am the baddest motherf*****r in the valley.” My wording of this passage might be inexact (it’s been more than 20 years since I read “Dispatches”), but you get the point.

  • ummabdulla

    Well… for someone with strong religious beliefs to pray (or carry a prayer with him) in a situation like this is not surprising. Those first lines that were quoted are about trusting in God and asking for His protection, which wouldn’t be offensive to anyone who believes in God, I wouldn’t think.
    The prayer itself (at least what’s shown here) shouldn’t offend Muslims, either. Aside from the Quran, a Muslim is required to believe in the revealed scriptures (in their original form, which is not necessarily what we have today): the Torah given to Moses, the Psalms given to David (which are called Zabur in Arabic and are mentioned several times in the Quran) and the message given to Jesus.
    wmcq, you make an interesting point, but I’d be surprised if this custom (of carrying a prayer) is something recent, copied from Muslims.

  • 11dvn

    He doesn’t look much older than the Iranian basiji militiamen during the Iran-Iraq war who were issued a red headband (and not much else) saying “volunteer for martyrdom.”

  • Asta

    While I did not much care for Irina’s vitriolic method of disseminating information, I did search Psalm 91 + soldier as I wanted to read the entire psalm, and I thought maybe it could be a gift to my friend’s 18 yr. old son who is being deployed to Iraq next week.
    What a frightening piece of prose! The imagery is savage, dark, apocalyptic and I don’t think I would want to offer such mental visuals to a young man who should have never joined the Army for the reasons he chose (Make Step- Daddy proud/poor high school performance/dismal job hopes).
    I was also rather dismayed at all the web sites selling bandanas and wallet-sized cards and other personal items inscribed with the psalm. What is this? Capitalists Gone Wild?
    What’s wrong with the Twenty-third Psalm? Not violent enough? Not enough carnage? No body counts with the fallen numbering at a thousand at his side and ten thousand at his right hand? I don’t think I care for that kind of “Christianity.”
    I’m thinking I will give my “adopted nephew” my beaded Tibetan prayer talisman that asks God for Unexpected Miracles. That boy’s going to need some.

  • http://pranna.com Gasho

    Fascinating discussion, but what about the picture?
    I see a deeply troubled kid. He looks like he has a lump in his throat and a heavy heavy heart.
    I appreciate that he’s carrying a prayer, but how is a man judged, by his headband or by his deeds?
    Oh, the vast sorrow of a soldier/fighter/warrior’s misfortune. Was it the 500lb bomb that just went off, the rigged explosive booby traps he’s had to fear today, or the stress of searching house to house for weapons and enemies among a population who’s language he doesn’t speak? What is the look on his face? To me it’s more telling than the psalm you can read on his head.

  • Kyle

    Many people are reading too much into the soldier. I worked in Iraq for three years. Most of the young soldiers just want to “blow away some hajiis” and be done with it. These are not deep thinkers. Upon arriving first in Kuwait and then onto Iraq the most common reaction I heard from the troops was “Goddamn faggots!”. As is common in Middle Eastern cultures, men frequently hold hands as they walk. The troops and the KBR civilians would always react with disgust and continue to spread other cliches that Muslims are boy-buggers and queers. For some reason most people are dead-set in portraying our troops as noble and saintly heroes.

  • manowar9

    Kyle wrote:
    “Many people are reading too much into the soldier. I worked in Iraq for three years. Most of the young soldiers just want to “blow away some hajiis” and be done with it. These are not deep thinkers.”
    Wait till if and when they come back and you’re going to see a lot of deep thinkers.

  • lytom

    Let us not get too sentimental in trying to find connection that is universal to all soldiers fighting for “some good cause”…
    These soldiers are not defending their country, they are invaders.
    I do wonder what thought Scott Nelson had in mind when he shot this picture and what was his message to us?
    The faded red writing on the wall is fathomless…

  • lytom

    Published statement of the Iraqi Islamic Party credits US military in Baquba to have killed 350 people in their effort to kill Al-Qaeda, whoever they are!
    Statement calls it collective punishment by Operation Arrowhead Ripper!
    ‘The forces shelled these neighbourhoods with helicopters, destroying more than 150 houses and killing more than 350 citizens, their bodies still under wreckage, in addition to arresting scores of citizens,’
    Shame, that comes to my mind looking at these “warriors”!

  • http://mcornwell.typepad.com Mike

    That’s all nice and warm and fuzzy about this saying in WWII. First Bush sets Israel as the role model for Mid-East peace. Now it’s officially a Holy War.
    In WWII Europe the US was basically fighting fellow Christians. The Japanese wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between, Christian, Jewish or Muslim. This is for all intents and purposes a Holy War declared by invaders to a sovereign Muslim nation. WTF do these people not understand? How much more us vs them can be tossed into this disaster?
    And, to paraphrase a bit. No I don’t think Christians should be considered Americans.

  • http://mcornwell.typepad.com Mike

    That’s all nice and warm and fuzzy about this saying in WWII. First Bush sets Israel as the role model for Mid-East peace. Now it’s officially a Holy War.
    In WWII Europe the US was basically fighting fellow Christians. The Japanese wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between, Christian, Jewish or Muslim. This is for all intents and purposes a Holy War declared by invaders to a sovereign Muslim nation. WTF do these people not understand? How much more us vs them can be tossed into this disaster?
    And, to paraphrase a bit. No I don’t think Christians should be considered Americans.

  • tenacitus

    Despite irinia’s exagerrted protests the fact is that many americans and their soldiers see this war as a crusade. Why do you think that some of the airborne units have crusader knight patches. What I remember of this paticular psalms is that it has been used by many a christian soldier who going off to hopefully bring death, destruction, desolation & despair to the heathen hordes.

  • Omar Shanks

    Has anyone considered that the bandana has a practical purpose? Like his colleague in the background, Goodyear spends a lot of his day out in the heat wearing a helmet. The bandana keeps the sweat out of his eyes and gives a little extra padding where the band from the helmet liner chafes his forehead.

    When he’s wearing the helmet (like when he’s on patrol), no one can read the bandana. So if it’s an attempt to rile muslims, it’s not a particularly effective one.

    My guess is it’s something from a loved one. It’s something personal that he only shows in, literally, unguarded moments like the one depicted in the photo, where a respite from the combat gives him a chance to take off his helmet.

  • readytoblowagasket

    lytom asks: I do wonder what thought Scott Nelson had in mind when he shot this picture and what was his message to us?
    That the soldiers are vulnerable. This soldier’s head is not protected, save for a prayer written on a piece of cloth.
    Like yesterday’s bare-armed, bare-headed specialist. We seldom see a soldier’s skin. It doesn’t matter what his rank is, he’s flesh and blood.
    They are supposed to be sympathetic images.

  • tina

    been a while since I checked in. great pictures, great comments, nothing to add. Thanks BAG, as always :)

  • ummabdulla

    I was just wondering where you were, Tina. I saw this graphic, which is very interesting, and I remembered you saying something like this…
    Infoporn: Despite the Web, Americans Remain Woefully Ill-Informed

  • readytoblowagasket

    ummabdulla, thanks for the fascinating graphic. I wish in its zeal to be hip Wired had not contributed to our ignorance by withholding the original report name (or publication date), but with some stubborn persistence, I found the study findings on the Pew site for anyone who’s interested.

  • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2007/06/baquba-1.html dave

    BLESSED is the man that loves the Lord and the word of the lord is a safe place…..

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