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February 13, 2010

The Largest Assault of the Afghan War (as Far as Anyone Can See)

Hicks Marjah.jpg

This shot by Tyler Hicks demonstrates the profound ambiguity of the much ballyhooed “new style” offensive in Marjah in Helmand province.

The question is: how does anybody really know if this guy — who wasn’t detained — is one of the civilians we are bending-over-backward to protect, or whether he’s Taliban? (According to the Pentagon, 75% of the insurgent force happen to be local residents.)

Afghan Offensive CNN DOD pics.jpg

And then, as far as the coverage itself is concerned, give credit to the NYT for having a reporter and photographer there at all — given how other media (CNN and the BBC, for example) are relying heavily on the Pentagon and Britian’s MOD for “news” images.

‘Operation Moshtarak’ Begins: NYT Slideshow. CNN video.

(photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times. caption: Company K, accompanied by an Afghan army platoon, set down in three landing zones to gain a foothold in territory long under insurgent control. Here, an Afghan villager, who was not detained, was confronted at the first compound that the Marines seized)

  • Stella

    What a perfect pair of photos! I must say the DOD sure knows how to do a sales job.
    That poor barefoot man is saying “Let’s get real, boys.”
    Thanks for this post. I remember that Pentagon line from back in the Vietnam era. We sure do have a problem with indigenous people.

  • jtfromBC

    ‘And so it goes’ – Kurt Vonnegut.

  • DennisQ

    The figure in the top picture resembles the famous Abu Ghraib picture, except that this one’s not hooded. Maybe that’s the result of the new policy. No need to blindfold them if they can’t see you anyhow.
    The Bush years were marked by a disdain for intelligence. Remember how he used to brag about governing from the gut? He didn’t want to be bothered with doing homework; every day was one recess period after the other. We’re seeing a nostalgic look back at that with the rise of Sarah Palin.
    The rejection of intelligence guides our military policy. We don’t know what’s going on in Afghanistan. We don’t speak the language; we don’t know the culture. We have no idea who’s who in terms of local politics. Bush would shrug, The only way we get the bad guys is to kill a few good guys too.
    Voluntary stupidity brings its own risks; it means that outcomes can’t be accurately predicted. Sarah Palin has a ready answer for that, namely discernment of God’s plan. In reality this is no way to run a war, because it amounts to killing a lot of people and hoping for the best.
    Another risk of voluntary stupidity is that you lose control over your destiny; you never know what’s going to happen next. The top picture shows the existential dilemma of stupid people, but the roles are reversed. The Americans are the shadowy figures in the background; and the shoeless Afghan beseeches their clemency.
    Sarah Palin’s endorsement of stupidity is relevant here. We need a commander-in-chief; not some perfesser standing at a lectern.

  • lytom

    I don’t understand why you bring up Palin to this or even Bush.
    It is 2010 and the decisions are made by Obama and he certainly made decisions that will result in more people getting killed, more suffering of the Afghan population and for that matter anywhere in that region. More of the same!
    Seems to me all the protests have died out and instead there is a silence, and that can only be interpreted as support…how convenient that some intelligence can result in such bloody outcome!

  • botailed flooshy

    “nothin’ but blue skies from now on…”

  • Photocritic

    These photos are interesting for what they are not. But they are: photos of troops huddled around a commanding officer like a football team before a game; troops lying around on cots; troops suited up in aircraft; troops napping, troops playing cards, troops squinting into the sun. Three photos of troops speaking to barefooted persons at night. Operation Moshtarak? What operation? Poor Tyler. As an embedded photojournalist, these are the kinds of sanitized photos he’s allowed to show. Are there others?

  • To War or Not to War

    Images taken in isolation only present a small part of the picture. Should we continue to be there? How do we stop terrorism when we are unsure who is our enemy and who is our ally? What would full access media coverage show us? I would like to have conversations about what should we should be doing to effectively end this war. Let?s stop taking individual images and use them to support our point of view. How does that help?

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