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December 4, 2010

There Will Be Hugs: Obama In Afghanistan

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Good luck trying to look past “support the troops”; celebrity politics; C.I.C. as father-figure; pride for our women in uniform; and the significant racial role-model to say anything about what’s goes on outside that hanger; why the troops are so rapid for some love; what role Wikileaks played in Obama’s 3 hour drop-in; and the symbolism of traveling 7,000 miles only to have to connect with the wily Karzai by telephone.

(caption: President Barack Obama greets troops at a rally  during an unannounced visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 3, 2010.)

  • black dog barking

    Who else is so familiar from the back? Hell, what other political figure is even photographed from the back, ever? Certainly a different look for “the troops” given their recurring role this century as the somber regimented backdrop for the roll out of the Three Word Slogan du jour.

    These folks seem to having about as a good an Afghan moment as a non-native can hope for.

    • black dog barking

      This photo gives me hope.

    • jonst

      “Hope” for what?

    • cmac

      Hope for our future.

    • black dog barking

      I see genuine happiness in the faces of people stuck in what most of us would consider a pretty grim situation — halfway around the world trying to do an ill-defined job under punishing physical circumstances. Contrast these faces with pics from, say, a congressional caucus or a tea party “rally”. What does this group have? Obviously a different inspiration.

    • jonst

      I prefer to base my hopes, be they foolish, or not, on tangible things done, or said, by a President. But if photo-ops work for you, and this site is, after all, about photo ops, then good for you. I hope you are correct. Personally. I think the man is what he is, a Univ of Chi Professor. I should have known better two years ago, because I knew his resume. That is not his fault. That is my fault. He is a conservative. He governs like one. Albeit a weak one, but a conservative just the same. He is, in other words, same ole, same ole.

    • black dog barking

      We’ve certainly looked at bunches of photo ops here over the years. The Bush White House cranked out some photo op propaganda masterpieces in their time, really took the medium to a different level. (For example, they innovated by staging a (carefully screened and selected, no doubt) part of the audience behind the podium so we see both the audience and the visage of His Dimness in the same shot.)

      To my eye, this image is different. We don’t see the president’s face, we have to reconstruct his identity based on the reactions of those on the ground close to him that do see his face. Something tells me it really is BHO, not a stand in photo double.

      This is the very same audience that the Bush White House used for a lot of their carefully staged announcements but it looks a whole lot different. Imagine it was GWB at Bagram the other day. How would this image be different?

  • Vvoter

    1. Heterogeneity (situated within homogeneity).

    2. Faith Healer.

    3. Hero, savior… what else?

    4. Why do these troops love Obama? Wouldn’t it make more sense if they scowled, demanding BO get them the hell out of Afghanistan?

    5. Top third, center right: notice the white shirt and tie on a non-celebratory what, SS agent?

    • CF2K


      Well-played on #5; one of these things is not like the other. If accurate, that’s quite a dichotomy for Obama to need protection even while basking in the troops’ adoration.

  • matt

    the graininess and greenness of the photo reminds me of old wwii photography, which makes the racial and gender diversity even more striking.

  • acm

    ahem, should “rapid” be “rabid” up there?

  • tinwoman

    With the lighting and shadows it looks like a pile of skulls to me. The eyes look hollow and the skin bone-like.

    • black dog barking

      That was my first reaction too. Then it was “for a bunch of ghouls, they seem to be having a pretty good time”. There’s certainly a dramatic/artistic tension building from those two reactions and the slow realization of what the image really holds.

  • Michael Shaw

    tinwoman’s observation is very interesting.

    There might have been a dozen variations of this shot offered on the newswires and somehow this is the one that ended up on a number of photo galleries (and also jumped out to me). That raises the question: how much was the difference the specific content of the photo and how much of it was the exposure (which is certainly unique — partly, I assume, because it feels antique, as matt points out).

    After reading tinwoman and bdb, I would agree there is an other-worldly, even macabre quality to the photo. I wouldn’t say it was intentional, but it feels like it’s in the mix. Given the potential for death and the fact the mission itself is so ambiguous and, some would say, futile, the exposure does seem to give the photo almost a horror edge. Then, when you start looking around at some specific faces, like the woman extreme lower left with that expression she’s wearing, and the woman (who, in isolation, could be pained, or drowning) just beyond the red-headed woman Obama is making eye contact with…

  • tcarson

    To me the pic is thoroughly depressing. Why are these people smiling? They are thousands of miles and a light year from home, fighting in a country few Americans could find on a map, ditto Afghanis finding the US on a map, the guy who prolonged the travesty is there in the flesh and everyone seems so pumped up by it all.

    It’s a little piece of gung-ho Americana set down in the stone age.

    The question begs of them all: what are you thinking?

    • Amir Goy

      …obviously not that they are all on a criminal mission.

  • David G

    Keep coming back to this photo since it was posted. It is haunting. Only now able to express some comment. Demonstrably, this IS Mr. Obama’s war–embracing the troops. Modern CinCs seem to need this. Apparently there was a long hiatus between Lincoln and FDR.

    When GW or Cheney made this trip, palpable disgust from progressives. Is it different this time? Why does HE keep getting a pass from much of the Left on so many of his acts? Should he?

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