Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
July 17, 2009

Afghanistan: It’s All Good

Helmand blast.jpg

What I don’t understand is the title MSNBC chose for this suspenseful photo in their “Week in Pictures” slideshow. It reads:

Last-second escape

A U.S. Marine of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade runs to safety moments after an IED blast in Garmsir district of Helmand province in Afghanistan on July 13. Two Marines were killed in the explosion, which occurred as they tried to clear a route into the Taliban heartland of southern Helmand province. About 4,000 Marines are battling insurgents in a massive offensive launched in the south in early July to clear Taliban militants out of strongholds.

I get it. The Marine in the foreground escaped.

…But two of them didn’t, which makes me think that the emphasis on the former is an example of the disconnect between these wars we keep getting ourselves into and the all-too-familiar tendency to deny or romanticize. And then, the piece of news evidenced by the photo — threatening the dominance of images of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan dodging anything but bullets — is the vivid demonstration how the I.E.D. threatens to “level the playing field” in spite of our more than overwhelming fire power.

(image: Manpreet Romana / AFP – Getty Images)

  • DennisQ

    The American military will never be anything but an occupying force, a group of outsiders trying to make the locals conform to our political ideas. I almost have to laugh when an American spokesperson neatly divides foreign societies into binary categories of “good guys” and “bad guys.”
    We’re never going to win these overseas wars – there just aren’t enough pixels in our monitor. We don’t see what’s going on, so we round people up and beat the truth out of them.
    Today’s military isn’t substantially different from the forces Gen. Westmoreland commanded in Vietnam. He famously said, “Human life is cheap to the Asian. They don’t feel the same way about death that we do. …”
    General McChrystal at least recognizes that Afghans don’t respond positively to American air strikes. Perhaps he believes, as Bush did, that these foreigners curse us today but they’ll thank us tomorrow.

  • Jeff

    Title and caption don’t accurately describe the photograph.
    I’m sure the Marine either ran or hit the deck after the photo was snapped, but in the photo, he is not running to safety — he is not in a running posture. Also, I’m not sure where “safety” is supposed to be in this photo. Out of frame maybe?
    “Escape” is not the right word for this photo title. Escape suggests the danger is contained and the Marine is now free from it.

  • jtfromBC

    Of course its denial and ….
    This is a dramatic pic, the caption suggests associating with ‘the one that got away ‘, rather than imagine the ‘first second’ evisceration of two Brothers whose body parts are flying through the air obscured by the smoke.
    ‘Joe: There’s a game out there, and the stakes are high. And the guy who runs it figures the averages all day long and all night long. Once in a while he lets you steal a pot. But if you stay in the game long enough, you’ve got to lose. And once you’ve lost there’s no way back, no way at all’
    - Johnny Got His Gun – Dalton Trumbo

  • DennisQ

    After taking a second look at the photo, it appears to be a message from E.T., the Extra Terrestrial. You can clearly make out his eyes in the center of the explosion, and the mushroom-shaped cloud is his apparent warning. E.T. phoned home in the movie, but in real life he’s phoning Earth to warn us away from self-destruction.

  • jtfromBC

    I see an upside down exclamation mark as well.

  • pcalvin

    When I first saw this image I immediately though of W. Eugene Smith’s ‘The Second World War, Iwo Jima, Sticks and Stones’ (1945).
    Here is a link to a blog with the original image and how it was used on the cover of Life. < “>>
    As strong as his combat work was, he felt that he had failed to capture the true nature of war.

  • DennisQ

    And the word S – E – X.

  • yg

    granted it’s a dramatic image but it’s a desensitized presentation. the dead don’t deserve to be named? we got more detail with the GI in pink shorts.

  • yg

    both obama and gates have said this war cannot be won militarily. gates has also acknowledged killing civilians only serves to grow the insurgents.

  • free movie downloads

    Wow..What a good photography. it appears to be a message from E.T., the Extra Terrestrial. You can clearly make out his eyes in the center of the explosion, and the mushroom-shaped cloud is his apparent warning.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes