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"People don't want to know the Marlboro Man has PTSD"
January 29, 2006 10:04 PM   Subscribe

It was an instant icon, with Dan Rather calling it "the best war photograph in recent years." About 100 newspapers ran the photo, dubbing the anonymous warrior the "Marlboro Man." The photograph hit the world on Nov. 10, 2004: a close-cropped shot of a U.S. Marine in Iraq, his face smeared with blood and dirt, a cigarette dangling from his lips, smoke curling across weary eyes. He's quieter now -- easier to anger. He turns to fight at the sound of a backfire, can't look at fireworks without thinking of fire raining down on a city. He has trouble sleeping, and when he does, his fingers twitch on invisible triggers. The diagnosis: post-traumatic stress disorder. The man in the photograph is James Blake Miller, now 21, and he is an icon, although in ways Rather probably never imagined.

Previously mentioned briefly here
posted by stenseng (27 comments total)

 
A sad story.

To be completely honest, though, I really don't see the appeal for that photo as the "best war photograph in recent years." Not even close.

It's a great portrait -- it's only an OK war photograph.
posted by teece at 10:27 PM on January 29, 2006


Add Homo "sapiens" to the list of creatures that devour their young.
posted by rob511 at 10:28 PM on January 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


It's a nice pic. I'd never seen it before.

In any event, you can get Ecstacy for that these days.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 PM on January 29, 2006


"Miller has reduced his habit to a pack-and-a-half a day, the same as before the military. He increased to two-and-a-half packs right before going to Iraq and more than five in the battle zone." - ref

Holy shit, 5 packs a day?? That's um, quite a lot.
posted by tweak at 11:19 PM on January 29, 2006


It was an instant icon, with Dan Rather calling it "the best war photograph in recent years."

A talking head said it, it must be true...
posted by NewBornHippy at 11:26 PM on January 29, 2006


Dude, that is why they are on the television. All they say is true. Like modern philosopher-kings!
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:14 AM on January 30, 2006


Holy shit, 5 packs a day??

I agree. as a nonsmoker, it sounds like bullshit to me -- 5 packs? do you actually have time to smoke that much? 100+ cigarettes? how long does it take to smoke one, 5 minutes? even if you chain-smoke it's 500+ minutes a day, more than 8 hours a day with a cigarette in your mouth, plus time to open the pack and light the cigarette.

one wonders where did he find the time to fight.

it sounds like bullshit, sorry.
posted by matteo at 12:48 AM on January 30, 2006


Not sure how I know this, but John Mellencamp smoke(d?) 4-5 packs a day. It's possible if you're chaining and/or are often interrupted.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:00 AM on January 30, 2006


it sounds like bullshit, sorry.

Not to me. Two packs was my regular intake, and I'd often do three. Smoking four packs wouldn't have been hard. The constraining factor was cost, not the length of time it took me to smoke them.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:13 AM on January 30, 2006


one wonders where did he find the time to fight. it sounds like bullshit, sorry.

Hell. If I can operate three computers - DJing with them or 'playing' live with them while simultaneously recording - or simply just typing and surfing - while drinking and smoking hand rolls no less, I don't see how it can be much harder to dangle a Marlboro off your lip and shoot at something.

Probably makes the filthy job easier, anyway.

Soldiers get smokes cheap. And there's probably a few million partially smoked smokes over there by now. On combat duty you'd probably have to throw away a lot of unfinished smokes, not to mention giving them away to other soldiers or possibly as barter or gifts with civilians.
posted by loquacious at 1:57 AM on January 30, 2006


The entire text of the FPP is a direct quote from the article linked SFGate article ("The Ware Within") and should be credited as such, or at least nestled in quotation marks. Someone else wrote it, after all, and many readers might not make it to that last link (to the SFGate article).

Nice post though, and plenty of food for thought. These last few years have seen so many examples of people lionized/marketed as "heroes" or "symbols" with darker, more complex truths beneath the surface.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:05 AM on January 30, 2006


The poster boy for victory in Iraq has PSTD.

2242 soldiers don't have any problems at all because they are dead. 16420 have more visible problems - missing arms and legs and stuff. The amputation rate from this war is TWICE as high as in any previous war.

With all due respect to this solider, he's now being sold as the quiet one from a boy band instead of one of thousands of horribly fucked up people returning from Bush's epic foreign policy blunder.
posted by three blind mice at 2:26 AM on January 30, 2006


semi-off topic, sorry:
loquacious: "Soldiers get smokes cheap. And there's probably a few million partially smoked smokes over there by now. On combat duty you'd probably have to throw away a lot of unfinished smokes, not to mention giving them away to other soldiers or possibly as barter or gifts with civilians."

Yep, like in WWII, when soldiers were smoking quite a bit; so much, in fact, that probably more men died from smoking than from bullets.
Ok, I realize that Cecil himself admits that those numbers are probably off by miles, but as a ballpark figure I think it's extremely interesting. Since people under stress tend to smoke and the army obviously allows smoking "on the job" a whole lot of associated costs might be coming down the road in the future.
I don't know if "getting lung cancer through smoking" allows you to get any army disability benefits or is counted as a "war related injury" in the statistics. Shouldn't it?
posted by PontifexPrimus at 2:45 AM on January 30, 2006


It's easy to get through lots of cigarettes when in the army. You do 12-16 hour days as a standard and there's not much else to do on long guard duty details.

Just speaking as someone who served in the Finnish military in peace time. Hell, that's where I started smoking.

On combat duty you'd probably have to throw away a lot of unfinished smokes, not to mention giving them away to other soldiers or possibly as barter or gifts with civilians.
posted by loquacious at 1:57 AM PST on January 30
[!]

I got trained as a part of the Finnish Rapid Deployment Force to go on peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and the like. Our CO actually told us that once you're in the area, it's a good idea to carry around a pack of cigarettes even if you don't smoke yourself. It's a good way to break the ice with the civilians.

Good post.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:59 AM on January 30, 2006


"The poster boy for victory in Iraq has PSTD."

You're forgetting Nick Popaditch, the original smokin' soldier in Iraq, whose tank pulled down Saddam's statue.



During his second tour of duty in Iraq, his tank was hit by an RPG.

Outcome? He lost his right eye, is partially blind in his left eye, lost his sense of smell, suffered permanent hearing loss in his right ear, broke his nose and has undergone several surgeries to remove shrapnel from his head, eye and face.


Moral to the story?! Obviously, smoking's not good for your health.
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:25 AM on January 30, 2006


Er, obviously there's a lot more in the story to focus on, but just want to add to the comments that no, it's not at all impossible to get to 5 packs a day when you're in a stressful situation. And when you smoke that much, it takes a *lot* less than 5 minutes to finish a ciggie. Make it 1 minute. Or less. (Actually it takes a lot less than 5 minutes even if you smoke only half a pack a day. If you take as long as 5 minutes the cigarette goes out by itself.)

At 20, your body can still take *a lot* of crap. Also I imagine he didn't get a lot of sleep, so there would be more than 18 hours a day in which to spread out those 100 cigarettes. Say 20 hours awake - that's an average of 5 cigarettes an hour. Oh yeah that is entirely possible.
posted by funambulist at 4:06 AM on January 30, 2006


As an ex smoker, I could finish smoking a cig in a very short time. During my conscription I chain smoked like they just never was enough, probably because nowhere else I did find myself so alone even if I was surrounded by people.

BUT SMOKING is not the friggin point it's a particular of the story. The one that many would like to avoid is that the guy suffered a lot in that war..he probably can't reconcile his 10 commandments christian teachings with what he did and witnessed and not surprisingly so.

Probably explaining him that he's suffering strong cognitive dissonance isn't going to help as he's apparently still not a cognitively complex person....otherwise he wouldn't have bought into war rethoric to begin with. I guess he's stuck into being between a youngester and a disilluded adult..hopefully he'll not become a bitter one.

She still remembers Miller's call just before the assault on Fallujah, and his terrible question: "How can people go to church and be a Christian and kill people in Iraq?"

They simply can't. Yet as sweet and merciful the image of Jesus may look like and no matter how interesting and wise some of the christian teachings are..something happened

A Marine recruiter offered more: insurance, housing, college money. "I thought, 'Well, damn, that's amazing,' " Miller said. "Hell, here I am, 18 years old -- I can have all this in the palm of my hands just by giving them four years."

Evidently it's not the Marine Recruiter fault if he accepted, right ? No right my ass, the Marine Recruite was the inducer or in christian imagines he was "devil" the seducer. Should have James resisted the devil, knowing that he's so smart he can look like an ordinary patriotic Marine Recruiter ?

He probably expected a guy with a fork doing inexplicable dirty sexual deeds ! A fornicator ? Maybe ! But the jingoistic rethoric of saving the country helped in the coverup
posted by elpapacito at 4:37 AM on January 30, 2006


PTSD? He better not let anyone know, lest he be executed by the army for cowardice. We want you just psychotic enough to kill as many insurgents as possible, but not so psychotic that you don't want to go back out there.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:42 AM on January 30, 2006


I hear there's gonna be a big rah-rah support-the-war gathering of the College Republicans this week with Rummy as keynote speaker.
Think he'll encourage the yellow bellied momma's boys to enlist instead of wanking in the parent's basement?
Maybe they'll just put Santorum stickers on their bumpers and call the patriotic duty done.
posted by nofundy at 5:08 AM on January 30, 2006


From the article Saucy posted - "A soldier in Iraq told his commanding officer that he felt close to a nervous breakdown after seeing the mangled body of an Iraqi. The Army psychologist recommended rest and counseling. Instead, his commander shipped him off to Colorado to face a court-martial for "cowardly conduct" and "misbehavior before the enemy".

Okay, putting aside the fact that they're screwing this kid over real good, what does this say to the rest of the troops?

It seems to say, "Oh, please, if you're suffering from combat stress, guys, by all means, don't cope with it in a rational manner. We'd prefer you went half-psychotic. Ideally, this will eventually result in you killing and torturing the towelheads. But it's also fine with us if you beat and kill your wives when you get home, or club each other to death in the middle of the night on the pretext that one of your bunkmates was flirting with you. These things are fine with the military, and we won't do anything to stop them or punish you afterwards. But if you try to talk to someone about the horrors parading in front of you, we're locking you up and throwing away the key. By the way, here's a little survey we're taking — how's your morale?"


It seems to say all that?

...
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:53 AM on January 30, 2006


An LJ friend of mine who knows James Miller replied to my reposting of this article in my journal.

-----------------------

.......*tears rolling down my face*.......

thank you for posting that.

I dont know if you remember.. or even was reading my lj at the time. but i was attached to the Regimental Combat Team 7. More importantly, the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment was with us....

i knew James Miller. though, I knew him more as LCpl Miller. We played football alot. He and all his other buddies. We had no idea that we would be headed to Fallujah in Nov. Hell, we were initially told it wouldnt ever happen.

The entire couple months we had been there, NO sandstorms had barrely through our area. So the night we had to leave and the countries most massive sandstorm in 18months rolled through, we all kinda figured it was a glimps of what was come in Fallujah...8 hours of sandstorm. So bad we couldnt roll out of our base and towards fallujah. the ride was long and boring... after only a few small ambushes, we reached our place outside the city.

NO SHIT. 5 mins of being there, we were hit with what was about 30 mortars. Ill never forget the first few sounds of close range mortar fire. I cannot express the fear running through my body.

anyways, Nov 10th. Ironically, the Marine Corps Birthday. the photo was taken. I remember going into the COC and seeing small prints of the photo. and the Colonel boasting about the pic. He had my buddy, a TOPO Army Soldier blow the photo up and make posters. We posted them in the COC. and he had smaller ones put into the vehicles, as inspiration to continue fighting. It was posted in the tent where we had our Bday celebration.

I saw the photo on Nov 9th...I think... and gasped. I knew Miller. I was only hoping he wasnt dead. I hadnt seen him in 3 days. I heard his unit, 1/8 was hit hard.

It wasnt for a few more weeks that i found out how popular that photo was. and my GOD i never would have imagined the magnitude of it. nor the magnitude of our attach on Fallujah. To this day, I still cant.

Im from Indiana. Miller, Kentucky. Hell we live pretty close. I heard he got out for being a little "shaken".

1/8 got hit the hardest of almost any ground units out there. losing what i would say is....80% of their men.

I only saw him 2 more times the rest the time i was there and we never discussed the city.

Until today, I never knew that when I recieved the support call...it was more than likely him. No ones voice sounds the same when they request things over a net....

sorry Im rambling now. guess I just needed to read that. guess I just needed to vent a little, I never really talk about fallujah.

and even though I havent seen a DR and I havent been Diagnosed...I too have PTSD. I think we all do. but alot of us are too scared to get any help.

thank you again

Jonnie
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:43 AM on January 30, 2006


War is hell, that's a given. I can't even begin to imagine the effects such atrocities would have on one's mind. But...I don't understand the oft-mentioned lament of young people who signed up for the military because they just wanted the insurance, the college money, etc. Um, they weren't actually duped, were they? Doesn't the word military imply that you might be in a combat situation should the country go to war?
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:41 AM on January 30, 2006


Look at the list of Marine causalites. I get the idea that the most common rank in the Marines is Lance Corporal. Few Pvt or PFC listed. Lots of corporals and sargents. Occasional officers.

Anyone care to comment? Is this because of rank inflation or because of the nature of the conflict? Normally you'd expect 70% of those listed to be privates.
posted by a_trotskyite at 12:39 PM on January 30, 2006


I’ve seen a couple thousand yard stare photos.
There’s one that really gets me. Its a Marine sitting after Peleliu and he’s just not there.

“I can't even begin to imagine the effects such atrocities would have on one's mind.”
- Oriole Adams

Same problem from the other side. People can tell you, you just don’t know unless you’re there. It’s not like the military goes go out of it’s way to let you know. And you figure, how bad can it be?
But there are far to many things to explain that enter into the equation.

For example - explain what it’s like to be a parent for 20 years.
Where do you start?
So you wind up with empty platitudes: war is hell.
Well, yeah. But that explains nothing to anyone who hasn’t been there and doesn’t cover it for those that were.

And military service is still socially prized in many ways. If anything I’d prefer more realistic portrayals of life in the military. But that won’t prevent politicians from misusing it.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:44 PM on January 30, 2006


get the idea that the most common rank in the Marines is Lance Corporal. ... Is this because of rank inflation or because of the nature of the conflict? Normally you'd expect 70% of those listed to be privates.

I don't think it's rank inflation. The most common rank is Specialist (I think that's only an Army rank, and LCpl is the Marine equivalent, but I may be wrong), and I do believe there's more specialization today than in prior conflicts. I'm guessing that reflects, for example, the gunner on top of a Humvee. It's also just possible that insurgents deliberately target anybody senior in order to create disarray -- it's an ancient tactic. That puts platoon leaders at risk. There might be other factors, such as platoon leaders leading by example and doing walkalongs during patrols, or being the ones with the translator trying to get the door open, and so on. Actually, the translator bit would make them pretty conspicuous, if you think about it. Oh, and aren't convoy drivers often Spcs instead of Pvts?

</armchair analysis>

insomnia, thanks once again for your vivid and direct gleanings from real soldiers. I suspect that bit about a guy obviously suffering something but unwilling to seek treatment for it is more of a norm than we think.

don't understand the oft-mentioned lament of young people who signed up for the military because they just wanted the [benefits]

Um, military recruiting is a profession of very low standards, historically (cf. "shanghai", v.). I know when I went through that 20+ years ago, considering the Navy and Air Force, I was given quite a load of bull about my prospects for, say, OCS or a fitting technical specialty. (I was a college early entrant without a HS diploma: they didn't know what to do with me.) Given the pressures on recruiters to keep the numbers up in the face of skyrocketing numbers of declined re-enlistment, and retiring officers, I don't expect that to have gotten much better.
posted by dhartung at 1:35 PM on January 30, 2006


"Few Pvt or PFC listed. Lots of corporals and sargents. Occasional officers. Anyone care to comment?"

I believe it is because of rank inflation. Most of those I know who have served over in Iraq aren't privates. Lots of Spc (specialists) too.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:43 PM on January 30, 2006


Vietnam, 1967
Korea, 1950
Peleliu, 1944
Ypres, 1917
"In no circumstances whatever will the expression 'shell-shock' be used verbally or be recorded in any regimental or other casualty report, or in any hospital or other medical document." — British army General Routine Order No. 2384, issued on 7 June 1917 in France.
More at The Heritage of the Great War.
posted by cenoxo at 10:18 PM on January 30, 2006


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