Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
November 24, 2009

Your Turn: Afghanistan — The Read from the Situation Room

Obama-Nat.-Sec.-Afghan-Mtgs.jpg

(The photos combined are about 2K pixels wide. Click for full detail.)

In the last 13 days, the White House has posted only three photos to its Flickr stream. Two of the three feature the closely-watched meeting between Obama and his national security team as they drill down on an intensively studied, long-anticipated and re-revised Afghanistan strategy. (Word is, the final strategy will be unveiled on December 1.)

The earlier of the two photos, the one on the left, was taken and uploaded back on the 11th. The one on the right was taken and posted just yesterday. (You might want to also compare these two views with the photo this BAG post that Pete Souza and the White House offered of the same process three-and-a-half weeks back.)

To the extent these chosen images intend to communicate this critical process to the American people, and given the angles, the focus and the body language, how do you read where we are, where they’ve been, and what’s going on? By the way, Ben Smith at Politico kicks in this analysis on the latest pic.

(You can also see the two photos here and here.)

(photos: Pete Souza/White House)

  • bystander

    The Ben Smith link you’re referencing should, I think, be this one:
    http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1109/Orszag_in_the_shot.html?showall

  • http://profile.typepad.com/bagnews Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    Fixed it, thanks!

  • http://winstonscat.blogspot.com Johnson

    Why is no one commenting about Hillary making one picture and not the other?
    Discussion on it here:
    http://winstonscat.blogspot.com/2009/11/spot-difference.html

  • lytom

    I get it, no answers. I am sure what is on all of their minds- how it will look for the administration, that wants to please everyone…There may be intensity of listening, lot of white paper and above all seriousness, but right decisions??? I do not believe the empire has the answers, only more repression.
    I do not think you can buy Taliban…or Afghanistan for that matter. There is no American way! and that is the problem for american mind!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00e5523476cc8834 DennisQ

    I’m curious about the name plates – why are they there? Surely all of these people know each other. Maybe the name plates are to establish seating order, like at a formal dinner. But that doesn’t quite work, either. How often do these people meet? And why is it so important that everyone have an assigned seat?
    The name plates suggest an empty, formal function. Attendees sit exactly where they are supposed to, talk when they’re called on. I wonder if they can just wander out of the room to pee.

  • yg

    bill moyers last week replayed tapes of johnson pondering what to do about vietnam. the whole time he was bedeviled by what nixon and goldwater were saying about the matter. johnson wanted to pull out. he said if we put in 30,000, we’ll have to put in 30,000 more to support them. if we put in 150,000, we’ll have put in 150,000 more. and on and on. there’ll be no end. but against his better judgment, common sense got derailed by politics. seeing rahm sitting there makes me think history is about to repeat itself.

  • ggb

    For something really frightening – picture the above photo with Sarah Palin sitting at the head of the table?
    It was scary enough knowing Bush was making life and death decisions (he always opted for death, all the way back to the death row numbers when he was Gov. of Texas).
    I also wondered about the name plates.

  • Withnail

    What I see is that in one picture, Biden is prominent. In the other, it’s Clinton. Two different advisors, two different plans of action. And Obama is at the head of the table, struggling to find the right answer that doesn’t exist.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/bagnews Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    Just did a quick check via time machine to a couple Bush NSC meetings. Seems like they used name plates also (1, 2) — the second shot as late as ‘06 — though I didn’t see one here (March ‘08). Anyway, I agree — seems weird.

  • thirdeye pushpin

    what intrigues me is the linear uniform quality of receptivity to obama in the 2nd picture…in the first everyone seems to be operating at different angles in their seat. In the second they seem to be “in line” with obama’s hand clearly delineating the way down the middle.

  • stevelaudig

    Sorry this is not a “reply” but the only way I can get a comment up on BAGNotes. It is a techincal problem perhaps caused by my using Firefox and a Macbook. Anyway…. “The group is intensely studying alternatives on how to do the Afghanistan project well. They should be studying whether it should be done at all.”

  • jonst

    Tell ya what strikes me, I don’t think there is a single person in the room, other than Obama, who opposed the decision to invade Iraq.

  • pragmatic realist

    In the first image, the President is considering going low, keeping it down. Gates is leaning back.
    In the second he has decided to split the difference and go right down the middle. Gates is buying in, making notes on what to do in the morning.

  • jean

    Same problem here: FireFox and a pc. Works on IE, but I dislike/hate IE and Bing.
    And yeah, Lyndon Johnson’s phone conversations on Vietnam were just heart rending. I have always thought of Johnson as a very smart man, but he just seemed way out of his depth on the war. And his beating heart could be heard on the recording, adding to the poignancy.

  • jtfromBC

    Robert Fisk : Obama will be worse than Bush
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DIO4T-OjGU

  • [email protected]

    My take…. on the second image….look at the two women especially the younger of the two. The men are all ‘up’ or studying and looking like they are following what is said. The women are showing their real feelings and they are not as positive as all of the men.

  • Sandra

    Thanks for the link. I love Robert Fisk. “It’s not our land. We should get out”.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes