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April 7, 2009

I Was In The Neighborhood

Obama Iraq 4:09.jpg

After a new-flawless Europe trip, I’ve got problems with this photo op from Obama’s anti-climatic stop in Baghdad.

I thought I read somewhere Camp Victory was not the originally-planned location. Holding this “rally the troops” event in Saddam’s former palace, however– conflicting with the modest, equinanimous, “all for one/one for all” tone sewn throughout the Europe trip, especially in Turkey — smacks visually of triumphalism. Further, the rock star/celebrity/paparazzi vibe — also largely absent this past week, despite the large crowds in Europe — is a meme the President doesn’t really need.

Remember this post, and discussion?

Sometimes, less is more.

(image: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images. caption: US President Barack Obama greets troops during a visit on April 7, 2009, to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq.US President Barack Obama said on a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday that the next 18 months could be “critical” and told the war-torn country that it would soon have to look after itself. Obama, who has called for an end to US combat operations in Iraq by August next year, flew in to Baghdad aboard Air Force One on his first trip since taking office three months ago)

  • mcc

    I’m wanting to say something about comparing this to your april 7 photo, another photo showing Obama interacting with someone viewed from Obama’s back.
    But I don’t know what.

  • dada

    Bag, this is American troops and that’s different from a civilian crowd.

  • rob

    He is their Commander in Chief, they love him…

  • Goober Peas

    And after all the Republican muttering about him being disliked by the troops for calling for an end to the wars, I think this pic hits just about the right note of “oh, really?”

  • Blue Shark

    The reason you are wrong in your analysis with this photo is that…
    …the Democrats have had the (erroneous) knock that they are not sufficiently “Pro-Troops” like…forever.
    …Although I understand your hesitation to embrace the rah-rah leadership on display here, I believe it is more than offset by a picture which shows not only the military, but all of America and the world that this is a Democrat, and he is loved by the troops. And it is O.K.
    …That is huge.

  • mon_oeil

    Obama is their president as well, however they have only been able to connect with him from a distance, via television. And even though the majority of Americans do not have the opportunity to experience him face to face, theirs is coupled with the distance and the foreignness of place. And of course, Iraq, unlike, for instance, an expatriate in Europe–is not a very stimulating environment under the circumstances. So I sense the emotion of the moment, to see their president–and an anti-Iraq war one at that. The black soldier hugging Obama is very touching. His visit and their response is very appropriate.

  • Books Alive

    I once asked my nephew, a 20-year enlisted man with high rank and responsibilities, about the swimming pool in one of Sadam’s palaces. He was emphatic that he’d never be seen there, as it was officers’ territory. In this case, the troops must find comfort in the numbers attending. Of course the event is rather special, more than filling free time.

  • Antonio

    Well, it’s been said. Your reading of the picture seems off. He’s with the military personnel; they seem happy; they look friendly; they’re “behind” him.
    Additionally, in previous visuals of Mr. Obama in similar settings, it seemed that black faces dominated the framing. Here I can count 9 very white heads, faces or hands.
    We all need for him to have credibility in this category if the just announced Gates (Obama) plan to restructure the entire military structure is to survive in any meaningful form. This helps.

  • Whomever

    The other photo you link to is a completely different feel. The other was sublimation of the individual to the regimented mass, no faces, the giant and looming flag. Here we’ve ranks broken, a crowd yes but a variety of eager and individual expressions, the camera poised to show the faces of those individuals, their emotion, yet the tone isn’t one of rock star/celebrity worship, not with the President on an even level of exchange, giving and receiving a hug.

  • demit

    I can’t imagine anyone will compare soldiers wanting a snapshot of their new CinC to paparazzi. I’d like to see them try.

  • vcInCA

    –after reading no comments or initial explanations, just seeing pic– i see this crazy set of torsos, glued together with modge podge or paper mache, kinda like a being with multiple foci (not like an octopus, kinda grasping here for exactly what it is, beyond being a body with multiple units, and one central mainframe ‘head’. kinda like the buggers (metaphorically) that ender defeats (metaphorically b/c these guys are physically connected, while the buggers had a mental connection)
    OK, now, having read the caption by michael, i agree, it doesn’t evoke an all for one/one for all vibe–instead, a triumph of some singular (but big) thing. military, given the latest military cutting statements? i will have to think on how ‘triumph’ can or cannot work for both groups (the paper mache’d mass vs. many individuals), but yes, i agree, it does not feel ‘triumphant,’ and instead feels (to me) like success for some particular body that excludes me.

  • vcInCA

    having just posted (below), i will retract some, given this point. these peoples’ feelings–as military who likely signed up b4 obama, but who may not fully agree with bush’s doctrine for involvement once they experienced it, or may simply agree, but wish for an ‘exit strategy’ among millions of other wishes–anyhow, these people, enrolled military, haven’t quite been spotlighted to the same degree as other populations after the election. So, yes, perhaps what we are seeing here is similar to what was happening in the US on 11/4 and 1/20-21, now that they have a place to express their feelings about elections. perhaps their (required) matched clothing offers more than is really there, and doesn’t express shared sentimentally and instead, required physical homogeneity.
    but also, having looked at a number of troop photos, i’m a little shocked (pleased, really) at how mixed this population is–it would be interesting to look at what shots of troops were publicized under bush, and which ones are, not only to see the racial/gender contrast differences, but also to see how race & gender are (and aren’t) forefronted in such publicity shots before vs. after.
    –i’m not saying the military isn’t mixed, just saying that we, as viewers of media, have no clue how mixed it is or isn’t, based on the shots that have been circulated.

  • nightbird

    It is a mutual embrace. He’s getting us back together again despite those who wish his failure. It’s fresh air. At minimum he is bringing some needed oxygen back into this world of ours hopefully effecting clearer thinking along the way. His visit to the troops doesn’t diminish any of that. Iraq is still a reality. He was in the neighborhood and said hello to Americans easily forgotten who are still there working a world away on our behalf. He didn’t have to do this. This wasn’t a flawed move it was just a really decent if not uplifting thing to do.
    A post awhile back said something very astute about looking at BNN photos…”I’m beginning to think that many of the photos we ‘analyze’ are really Rorschach tests and reveal more about us than the subjects portrayed.”
    Keeping this in mind, it makes this site ever more fascinating to visit. Thanks

  • jtfromBC

    I see this visit as a practice run for shooting hoops with his troops in Afghanistan. When this surprise visit occurs it will be followed with Photo ops in Pakistan and India. Now that’s what I call a tricky agenda !

  • yg


  • yg

    i also worry by appearances that show obama as being almost preternaturally too popular. i worry this will only add fuel to the “obama is the anti-christ” contingent and that this will shoot the so called rapture index sky high. but you can’t live defensively like that and allow the loony fringe to determine how you act. no matter what obama does or any level of success he achieves, critics on the right will always throw cold water on it. and if they can’t find valid reasons to nitpick, they will invent them. see teleprompter-gate.
    while visually, i can see how this could be read as triumphalism, but i don’t recall his rhetoric being triumphant. if i remember correctly, he went out of his way to avoid declaring victory.
    watching this footage, troops punctuated obama’s remarks with hooahs. made me recall how troops were cheerleaders too whenever bush spoke. imagine if they had stood stone silent and stone faced instead. what would have happened if the military had displayed a unified lack of support for bush? nothing disrepectful, just remained non-emotive. would that have influenced public support at home? or would corporate media just avoided showing the tape? i don’t know. so much of the country has deterioated. i keep thinking how much of the damage might have been ameliorated had bush lost the election in 2004?
    p.s. whatever happened to that guy who challenged rumskull about the lack of armor, and to their being reduced to scrounging for scrap metal to help fortify their humvees?

  • jtfromBC

    The good news, Army Spc. Thomas Wilson is not listed has killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. (4914 total to date)
    ‘Rumsfeld inquisitor not one to bite his tongue.’
    “Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?” he asked
    Only Rumsfeld’s .51 second response has been posted on

  • Sergei Andropov

    I think that it is high time the Left began to reclaim patriotism and the military. The fact that these things have been abused by those on the Right has nothing to do with the things themselves. In particular, militaries do more things than invade oil-rich countries on false pretenses. I am proud of our military for much the same reasons that Chileans are proud of theirs.

  • Fearguth

    Anti-climatic? George Will must have distracted you.

  • Paula
    “On his last visit, Bush had to duck as a local journalist threw his shoes at the former president during a news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The videotape continues to play repeatedly on cable television, interspersed for contrast with Obama working the crowd of 600 troops who assembled for a warmest of welcomes for a president who is sending them home.”

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