Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
July 18, 2007

Cots Of War

Senate-Cots-Iraq

It’s almost 9 AM in New York and I just flipped on C-SPAN 2’s coverage of the Iraq debate.  I keep wondering if Lindsey Graham — who is struggling to keep his eyes open — will actually keel over from exhaustion in the middle of his speech.

So much for impressions with the sound off.

Regarding impressions, Harry Reid’s maneuver to force an overnight session to debate the war– currently in its 15th hour — has produced this surprising image out of the customary roll-out-the-cot ritual.  I actually gasped at first glimpse.  My first association was this one, followed by something along the lines of this, then this.

Was Reid that clever to force such an image? Was it happenstance? Did the photographer, Stephen Crowley, suddenly see it after the customary this?  Or, is the war and the end game and the tip-toeing around by the Senate now creating such poignancy that a room full of cots in the Capitol might as well be Dover — or Arlington?

(image: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.  Washington. July 17/18, 2007.  nytimes.com)

  • http://tekel.wordpress.com tekel

    Sure would be a shame if Lindsey did keel over and hit his head on something on the way down. Something hard. And sharp.
    Yup, that would be a shame. A damn shame.

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

    A surprising move, good to see Reid finally flexing his muscle. More than that he deflated all the terrorism talk coming out of the WH and kept the focus on the real story.
    As for the image above, I know what the Bag is getting at, but if anything, those cots make the room look like a mausoleum rather than a cargo plane. They only thing that died tonight are the neocons dreams conquest, at least for now.

  • Gahso

    It’s solemn and quiet like a morgue. Dead Republican Senate Careers?
    I’m interested in seeing and hearing more about what comes of this all nighter..
    I agree w/ Rafael that Reid made something happen. I’m hoping the spine stiffens and straightens with such exercise.

  • Steve

    Your first association is on. The linked photo was intended for the military class … the above subject brings it home to the upper class … the setting, or room, is one only the wealthy can relate to. The expense of creating a room such as that is greater than the value of an average home.
    It’s all theater, or, theatre.

  • paulimorph

    tern oud th’chandacleer

  • On the Clock

    I definitely see caskets in this composition. Caskets of American dead the Bush White House refuses to let us see.
    This is an elegantly crafted image that won’t be lost on many of the 70 percent who detest this occupation. It will be lost on the 30 percent who cherish it.

  • http://justbetweenstrangers.blogspot.com/ acm

    yeah, it took me a minute to get from the casket images back to cots. I guess keeping the former images off the evening news hasn’t been enough to keep them from our minds…

  • margaret

    The image has a bit of the macabre about it: my first impression was the elegant digs, the humble cots, and the “funeral director” walking away from the camera.

  • snow-moon

    It’s Kubrick-esque.

  • PTate in FR

    I had the same startled reaction–the image conjures death, whether of flag draped coffins, rows of crosses in Arlington cemetary, slabs in a morgue or a funeral parlor.
    But, wow, a photo of cots in the Capitol makes me think of DEATH??? Talk about powerful images that are hovering just out of consciousness.

  • http://tekel.wordpress.com tekel

    PTate: wishful thinking? *wink*

  • Mad_nVT

    Lots of associations that one could wish that these Senators could experience.
    Flying in the cargo hold with the dead soldiers is a good one.
    How about a homeless shelter, in Anycity USA?
    Or maybe a Katrina shelter.
    How about a barracks, don’t think our US Senators have spent enough time there.
    And of course, there are overcrowded jails. And that thought brings one back to those war crimes.
    But the regal surroundings in the photo indicate that the atmosphere won’t be quite the same as these other places.
    Whatever, it would be nice if our “Leaders” got out to see the real world more often.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/quasimodomouse/ quasimodomouse

    Heaven’s Gate! The comet is coming…

  • readytoblowagasket

    The guy who looks like a butler is Chuck Schumer (D-NY). He is walking away from the cots (stretchers, hospital beds).
    I think the picture manipulates beautifully. It reminds us all over again that Democrats want to cut and run. It further evokes the attendant fears:
    If we cut and run, the sectarian violence in Iraq will lead to genocide.
    If we cut and run, the terrorists will follow us home.

  • PuddleDuck in SC

    readytoblowagasket -
    I can understand the images conjured up by others who have responded to this picture, but as hard as I try, I can’t see how you got the following messages, from the photo -
    “I think the picture manipulates beautifully. It reminds us all over again that Democrats want to cut and run. It further evokes the attendant fears:
    If we cut and run, the sectarian violence in Iraq will lead to genocide.
    If we cut and run, the terrorists will follow us home.”
    Have you been force fed hallucinogenic drugs, in the past and then forced to take in ink blot test?

  • readytoblowagasket

    PuddleDuck in SC: I think the photo is suggestive and associative, don’t you? For one thing, it could be any number of settings, and other commenters upthread have noted several symbolic visual associations. But I should have mentioned that I went to nytimes.com and read the caption:
    Senator Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday night walked through a room filled with cots for the weary as the Senate settled in for an all-night session.
    Chuck Schumer is a well-known Democrat. So if Times readers had read the caption (and how could they resist?), they would associate this highly unusual event with the Democrats. Emphasizing the Democrats and the beds rather than the Republicans and their maneuvering gives a spin to the reporting of the event. Now, does an image of a lone slope-shouldered balding man receding into the distance make the Democrats look powerful? No, it reduces and ridicules them, and makes them look like losers.
    But don’t stop with the image. Read the article’s headline, Democrats Lack Support to Force Vote on Pullout, and first sentence, A handful of Republicans who have distanced themselves from President Bush on the war in Iraq refused Tuesday to back a plan to withdraw American troops from the conflict, leaving Senate Democrats short of the support needed to force a vote on their proposal, both of which reinforce the negative associations (x2) with Democrats. All of the NYT’s front-loaded negative-association (Dem-bashing) happens within the first 60 seconds of reading the article. The picture/word message seems pretty clear: There must be something wrong with the Democrats. Even Republicans who no longer support the president refuse to support the Democrats.
    But of course the Times hammers it into our thick skulls in the next two sentences:
    As the Senate headed into an all-night session complete with cots in Capitol meeting rooms and an antiwar vigil across the street, some Republicans who have gone public with their complaints about the war strategy also weighed in against the Democratic withdrawal plan as ill advised and driven mainly by partisan considerations.
    “You wonder if they are more interested in politics than dealing with the substance of this,” said Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio.

    I wish I were hallucinating the last 7 years, PuddleDuck.
    Once again we should pause to thank the New York Times for its unflagging and flagrant support of the Republicans and war. Of course, you can’t make much money on peace (unless you’re creative), so why support that?

Refresh Archives

Random Notes