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July 9, 2008

The Case Of The Invisible American War Machine

Amara-Us-Soldier

Amara Home Raids Amara Housetohouse

Amara-Staircase Amara Bedroom

Iraqi Humvees

(click smaller images for full size)

Last week, I thought there was something fishy about the photos from Amara, and now a new TIME article bears it out.

First, some background: In nearly every account of the push two weeks ago to clear out the Mahdi army from the southern city of Amara, the operation was described as an initiative of "Iraqi forces backed by US troops."  Yet, in combing through the newswire images of the Amara action, I found a striking absence of involvement on the part of the Yanks.

…With one exception — involving the first photo above, as part of that standard portrait of the "captured enemy weapons haul."

The fact the remote presence of an American GI commands first notice in the Getty caption seems almost too telling to ignore.  It reads:

A US soldier stands in the background (L) as Iraqi police display a captured weapon in the southern city of Amara in Maysan province, 365 kilometers south of Baghdad, on June 18, 2008. Dozens of Shiite militiamen surrendered to Iraqi forces Today, hours before the expiry of a four-day deadline set by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for them to lay down their arms ahead of a new crackdown on militia in the south.

And the TIME article?

Well, stashed near the end of Monday's otherwise routine story about the Amara clean out ("Baghdad's Grasp on Iraq's South") was this passage on the American role, including a little nugget about the campaign's photo policy:

The offensive has been tough, Amara's commanders say, but they're not going it alone. Shortly after the morning's mission, four American soldiers visited al-Moussawi's station to inquire about progress made in dismantling an office used by the Sadrists. One of the soldiers, who said they were under orders to prohibit the press from photographing them, put the number of American troops brought into the area since last month at around 1,000. They are also building a new forward operating base in the area.

Indeed, despite a low profile, Harbia says the support provided by the U.S. forces has been a key component in Amara's success.

That General Petraeus, he's a PR genius.

Gone is all that nasty documentation of American soldiers imposing themselves on either innocent or opposition-sympathizing Iraqi civilians as embedded photographers were known to relay two or three years back.  (In a particularly egregious example, you might even recall the raid in February '07 where the Iraqis — who were supposed to lead the mission by barely showed up — caused American Staff Sgt. Hector Leija to pay with his life … further leading the military to flip out that the NYT dared even document the whole obscene mess.)

If you go back even further, you'll see examples (1, 2) from the good old days — of Americans rummaging through people's bedrooms, or Americans storming residential staircases or Americans demanding access to people's courtyards — and appreciate, as in shots 2-5 above (#6 framing a convoy of Iraqi vehicles approaching Amara), how those images have been replaced with these photos of the Iraqis doing the dirty work.

The only problem is, there is no way of knowing (based on this photo policy, or what we used to call "censorship") if the American aren't doing that stuff anymore, or the military has just figured out a way to cover it up with the Iraqi lackeys finally conforming to the script.

In fact, if it wasn't for the GI who found himself standing in the background of the captured booty picture, it would be hard to tell if the Americans had anything militarily to do with the Amara operation at all.

(image 1, 2, 5 & 6:  Essam Al-Sudani/AFP.  June 19,  2008. (#5 is June 14th.) images 3 & 4: Ali Yussef/AFP.  Amara. Maysan province, 365 kms south of Baghdad)

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    A photo policy of no photos. Brilliant!
    This whole asymmetric warfare thing is so confusing — the population we’re there to liberate is also the enemy. Not all of ‘em, just the ones whose domiciles we happen to be tossing at a given moment. Making sense of it is like listening to someone try to explain postmodernism. It requires a certain, shall we say, flexibility.
    Will we ever be big enough, strong enough, shocking and awesome enough to tell the truth?

  • Books Alive

    McCain thanks a “brilliant” Gen Petraeus! The military backslapping rolls onward.

  • Gasho

    Again, I go back to the picture a few days ago in the palace.. that was 1200 soldiers. That was approximately the number of troops who were “supporting” this mission according to that TIME article. Take a look at that photo again. Picture them all with machine guns.. that’s a lot of firepower. Amazing that only one dude got his picture snapped in the background of a photo.
    The way we’ve come to accept deception as a standard element of the debate is amazing. This censorship occurs and we know it, vaguely, but then we’ll use these images to discuss the events – “See, look at these photos – the Iraqis are standing up – it’s working!” “But, the photos were censored..” “Nevermind that, look at the evidence, man, it’s right there in the photos!”
    We are doing this in all sorts of ways. The Administrations deleted emails with the attending statement – there’s no proof of wrongdoing! The destroyed torture tapes and the ‘we don’t torture’ statements. Refusal to testify before congress is basically the same as being found innocent. Refusing to hear the Telcom/wiretapping cases means that everything is just fine.
    This is madness.

  • catfood

    As the Iraqis step up, we’ll step down. That means we’ll bring the troops home, right? Wrong, it simply means American forces won’t pose for as many photos.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    Can’t take pictures of our soldiers being killed either, as one embedded blogger found out this week.
    The war is being kept out of the American press. But it goes on anyway.
    http://icasualties.org/oif/BY_DOD.aspx
    Reported Deaths: 4115 Confirmed 4113 Pending Confirmation 1
    07/08/08 NAME NOT RELEASED YET Pending Hostile – hostile fire – IED attack Baghdad (west of)
    07/05/08 Woodham, Anthony Lynn DoD Confirmation Non-hostile – electrocution Tallil (Camp Adder)
    06/26/08 Preudhomme, Marcus W. DoD Confirmation Hostile – hostile fire – suicide bomber Al Anbar Province
    06/26/08 Dykeman, Philip J. DoD Confirmation Hostile – hostile fire Al Anbar Province
    06/26/08 Galeai, Max A. DoD Confirmation Hostile – hostile fire Al Anbar Province …..

  • http://www.wrathofmcgrath.com Jim McGrath

    Ironically and as sadly, this reeks of Saddam’s information minister scoffing how U.S. troops in Baghdad are a Hollywood production. When the house of cards falls in, the administration will not avoid history’s judgment because the ultimate collapse did not occur within their desperate Jan. 20th deadline. Rather, history will view them harsher because they doctored everything they could for their goals, beginning with intelligence, aluminum tubes, and here making it look like the Iraqis are doing it all.
    This is all part of buying time so they can pass this mess on once out of office, but the blame will not shift, not from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, and not from the top military who have helped make this mess and promote such disinformation. This photo cover-up echoes totalitarian regimes, now much more, coming on the heels of the story that the U.S. took their interrogation methods straight from a study of Chinese communist torture methods. Where was the military brass speaking truth to power, even behind the scenes at policy discussions or reviews? Many shirked their moral duty. For more on the military’s malfeasance in the Iraq war fiasco, see my blog, http://www.wrathofmcgrath.com

  • lytom

    Given the recent vote by democrats in Congress voting as a block with republicans, what other surprises can the public expect?
    Where is the free press and the great inquiry worthy of the news profession?
    50+ US high tech military bases in Iraq, at what stages are they in?
    US Oil corporations in charge of oil fields in Iraq.
    Political prisoners silent in prisons all over Iraq and forgotten.
    Tightly controlled population, going through x-rays, eye scans, and other high tech biometrics intimidations.
    MSM keeping up the veil over the empire colony on the rise in Iraq!

  • http://www.iraqwarheroes.org/reali.htm Ed

    About that first photo, or the “remote presence of an American GI.” That soldier is in no US military uniform I’m familiar with. I’d do a bit more of fact checking on that.

  • ken

    hes not in GI uniform at all. The closest uniform he would resembles is a Marine….which ironically the tan digital pattern was copied and it in current use by local security forces in Iraq and Kuwait

  • jackson five

    Yeah righteo lmao…..you got no idea how the us works lol dickhead, these pics prove not a thing except you trying to sway people into hating American soldiers you wanka lol even got proven wrong didn’t you hahahhah…stop trying to blow your own underground horn you two faced hypocrit

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