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September 4, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

"It is a scene from which many of us would naturally recoil, or at least avert our eyes: a grievously injured young man, fallen on a rough patch of earth; his open-mouthed and unseeing stare registering — who can know what? — horror or fear or shock; being tended desperately by two companions in what are the first moments of the final hours of his life."
The New York Times' Lens Blog explores the circumstances and consequences of the Associated Press releasing Julie Jacobsen's photo depicting Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard after he was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush.

more links:
The AP's article about their decision to release the photo.
Death of a Marine, a narrated slideshow from Julie Jacobsen.
posted by heeeraldo (131 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I forgot to add: The NYT and slideshow links both have graphic images of a wounded soldier.

sorry.
posted by heeeraldo at 2:42 PM on September 4, 2009


.
posted by chavenet at 2:48 PM on September 4, 2009


she should be ashamed of herself. shame, shame, shame!
posted by billybobtoo at 2:50 PM on September 4, 2009


While I think photographic depictions of exactly what war is like and what's going on over there are important to release, so people can see it themselves and maybe not forget we are at war, publishing this photo against the wishes of his family seems like a pretty crappy thing to do.
posted by Orb at 2:53 PM on September 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


I dunno. I think our aversion to depicting the dead and dying disguises the far uglier truth: that death is pretty dull and that with enough distance we may discover that we don't actually care about people being killed. There are no angels, no trumpets, there is no swelling orchestral soundtrack. One minute your fellow Marine is working along side you, the next minute he's lost his leg and his life pool on the ground beneath him. To his buddies, it's shocking and sudden. In a photograph, honestly... it's a long way off.

His father, John Bernard, a retired Marine first sergeant, was shown the picture and told the A.P. that “by distributing this photograph, we would be dishonoring the memory of his son,” Mr. Lyon said.

IMO, his fear is that people will look at the photo and not care.

On the flip side, to hide these pictures is worse in my opinion. Because a grave marker seems noble while a dying man seems like a futile waste. I think family members thinks it's disrespectful because it's something they can never hide from and while I've never lost a son in a war, I kinda imagine it as something that I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time thinking about.
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on September 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


. indeed.

And no shame here. This is war journalism. These are the images we should have been seeing for the last several years, had the press been doing their jobs.
posted by JeffK at 2:54 PM on September 4, 2009 [21 favorites]


Why shame? I see nothing wrong with what she did in terms of journalism.

Only thing questionably bad is the publishing of Photos against the families wishes. The blog seems to say the families wishes weren't confirmed.

The military/government would have ulterior motives for not wanting these published.
posted by countzen at 2:56 PM on September 4, 2009


I'm was torn on this issue. I understand the fathers reticence to have such a painful image paraded around by the press, but ultimately I think this statement:

"What it does is show — in a very unequivocal and direct fashion — are the real consequences of war, involving in this case a U.S. Marine,"


Is what crystallizes my opinion. We have spent nearly this entire war with no real view of what was happening to the people over there fighting it. Photographs like this, as horrifying as they are, are a needed reminder what what is happening in our name.

For better or worse, it was images like this that broke Americas spirit with regard to Vietnam, and we shouldn't be spared them now either. If we want to keep fighting, we need reminders that it comes with a price of blood and broken bodies on both sides.
posted by quin at 2:58 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm was
posted by quin at 3:00 PM on September 4, 2009


The sad little bit, to me, is that the family does not want this published. You know, their anguish and all. Of course, had more photos of this sort of thing been published earlier, we probably would have wrapped this little misadventure up earlier in one fashion or another, thereby sparing them the actual anguish of a dead child.

You pay now because someone else didn't feel like paying earlier.

If anything, we need more photos of dead soldiers, and permanently maimed soldiers, so we can remind ourselves that maybe we should only be putting them in harm's way for something important. As long as the consequences remain mostly invisible and indirect to the American public, they'll keep plunking their quarters in the war machine.

Oh, and that little estate Bush has to himself in Texas? They should just ... bury all of the soldiers of the Iraq war right on it. A few thousand little tombstones surrounding him, every time he leaves. Rake the leaves through that, bucko.
posted by adipocere at 3:02 PM on September 4, 2009 [26 favorites]


We absolutely need more image collections like this, published daily on the front page.

The image of mortally wounded Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard isn't nearly as shocking as the last image in the set. His expression is one of duty, bewilderment, and fear, all buttressed by a youthful courage--pretty much everything we expect to see in the face of a 21-year-old soldier. He looks barely old enough to shave, and his slightly-too-large hat sits awkwardly atop his head., all reminders that he's just a kid, and for me, that image is the most haunting of the collection.

.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:02 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have been doing some research recently on the Korean War (police action) and discovered that in that war and in both earlier and later wars the military, or those running the show always tried to keep a wall up between reality and the public. A lot went on, and goes on, that we are never to learn about, or are not supposed to find out about. Now if war photos are "indecent," so too is war itself, and yet we have them endlessly and often for reasons that are very questionable.

Democracies function best when citizens are as fully informed as is possible.
posted by Postroad at 3:10 PM on September 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


We have spent nearly this entire war with no real view of what was happening to the people over there fighting it.

The internet is full of graphic images and video from the current war. You can watch videos online made by insurgents themselves showing IED and sniper attacks on U.S. soldiers. If you want to see that stuff, it's certainly available.

Listening to this Marine's family and respecting their wishes would not have stopped anyone from seeing the many other graphic images that are already available. In fact, since all that other material is already there, that makes the principled argument for publishing these images even weaker.
posted by jsonic at 3:11 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Bush ranch as another Arlington, however it's almost certain conservatives will spin it into a memorial for him.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2009


The internet is full of graphic images and video from the current war.

I would assume there's a different standard for the NY Times versus The Internet. The issue here is what's appropriate for the Times.
posted by GuyZero at 3:16 PM on September 4, 2009


My father, a three tour veteran of the Vietnam War, will tell you this about graphic battle-front war journalism: How can you implement strategic policies or claim to honor sacrifice when you don't even know one-one thousandth of what that sacrifice or that strategy actually is on the ground? The sanitized domestic coverage of the last three American wars is what has directly led to the promotion of failed Chicken-Hawk ideology.

War is killing and it is death. There is no point hiding this fact. There are things in this life worth dying for. There are only a few things in this world ever worth killing for. Turning war into a jingoistic video game will never help you determine what things are worth killing another human being over.
posted by tkchrist at 3:18 PM on September 4, 2009 [25 favorites]


If we don't see it, it's not happening. Right?

Go shopping, America. Move along, nothing to see here.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 3:19 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nothing at all wrong with what she did but the photo is not a good one and for me this debate starts and finishes there. Powerful, meaningful photojournalism needs to be widely published wherever possible however disturbing - but this? It sheds very little light on anything and has no impact as a composition. It's a sad, blurry snap of a man dying in a ditch and it shouldn't have been published.

Ogrish and Liveleak are full of images like this if people feel they haven't been shown "real war." When it comes to portraying the death of servicemen lets at least reserve the times we do publish in the mainstream for the very cream of documentary photography. Images for posterity that might make a difference.
posted by fire&wings at 3:19 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a letter to the AP harshly criticizing its decision: "I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family," the secretary wrote. "Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency."

To give the Defense Secretary his due, he is an authority on grieving parents - having produced so many of them.

Though he really ought to shut the fuck up about "common decency". (8:53 YT - "Cases of deformities in children are escalating at an alarming rate in Fallujah. ")
posted by Joe Beese at 3:20 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


The issue here is what's appropriate for the Times.

No, the argument for publishing these photos against the parent's wishes is that they are important since we would otherwise not see the graphic horrors of war. I can see both sides of this issue, but I think that hurting an already grieving family seems a little unnecessary when images like these are already widely available.
posted by jsonic at 3:23 PM on September 4, 2009


this image of their maimed and stricken child

He makes the soldier sound like Tiny Tim.
posted by GuyZero at 3:23 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Showing pictures of the consequences of war is an important thing to do, but I don't think we need to throw out the ideas of courtesy and sympathy to a grieving family to do so... surely there are other pictures that could be shown.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:24 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


As Sherman said long ago:

“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.”

It is important that the horrors of war pierce our nation's narcissistic bubble, so we don't loose touch of what war is. Sanitizing or censoring its realities makes future reckless war all the more likely.
posted by boubelium at 3:25 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


''Why your organization would purposely defy the family's wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me,'' Gates wrote. ''Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple newspapers is appalling.''

A check on Friday found the story had been used on at least 20 newspaper front pages. None used the picture of a mortally wounded Bernard on the front page, although it was used inside newspapers and on Web sites like the Huffington Post.


I hope you are proud of yourself, Julie, I hope you are proud of yourselves, AP....you put yourselves and the almighty dollar ahead of this fallen soldier's family. You are ghouls.

Shame on every newspaper who published this. Shame on that photographer. Shame on the AP. How dare you do that to that family....how DARE YOU.
We have spent nearly this entire war with no real view of what was happening to the people over there fighting it.

That's not true where I live. We don't need photos to know what is happening. We know the widows. We know the widowers. I have to sell flowers to soldiers who are organizing memorial services for their dead friends, or to loved ones of a young soldier killed before his life really began. They talk to me. We cry.

I don't need a picture to tell me what the hades is going on, thank you very much.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:25 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


i'm glad i didn't have to make the decision. from my brief experience as a journalist, i learned to never show the subject of a story the story before publication. never.

what i find interesting is that the press expected the bernard family to cooperate with them--visited the family for background, followed up with a fact-check phone call--but didn't seem terribly interested in cooperating with the family.

i believe in the power of the press. i believe the press is absolutely a saving grace into the workings of any society. but i also believe we get what we give. in this instance, i'm not sure the ap was playing fairly.
posted by msconduct at 3:26 PM on September 4, 2009


posted by GuyZero I would assume there's a different standard for the NY Times versus The Internet. The issue here is what's appropriate for the Times.

What's appropriate for the Times is to do its job, which is to report the news to us so we can make informed choices about what we, as citizens, should and should not support. As Postroad noted, a democracy functions best when its citizens are as fully informed as possible.
posted by mattdidthat at 3:27 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


His father, John Bernard, a retired Marine first sergeant, was shown the picture and told the A.P. that “by distributing this photograph, we would be dishonoring the memory of his son,” Mr. Lyon said.

I think family members thinks it's disrespectful because it's something they can never hide from and while I've never lost a son in a war, I kinda imagine it as something that I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time thinking about.

While I have no way of knowing the back story for his family, as someone who has discussed this very issue with my partner, I know that he has always said that if something was ever to happen to him he didn't want it to become a political tool for either side.* So you just don't know if it is simply grief, or pride, or maybe there is a lot more nuanced feeling and thought going on than some simple black and white judgement.

And while yes, it is important for the general public to see the reality, it is also important to remember that the Lance Cpl. was someone's son, he was an individual who may be gone, but his family are the ones that live on, and while I can't say what my response would be if someone asked me for the same permission, I know I would be incensed if my wishes were ignored unless the son/daughter/partner in question had already given their permission for such a thing to happen.



*This was while we were in Australia, and at the time politicians of all stripes, from both sides, would rush to be seen at the funeral of every dead soldier. There is a reason this all started, but this is not the thread to go into it.
posted by Megami at 3:27 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it's pretty horrible. All of it.

What i don't understand is why they are doing it. The first picture shows a soldier going into a war-torn place that clearly looks unsafe. As a casual observer I only see two options: Pebbelize everything in the area or don't go there eat all.

Even the first picture looks really scary, burn marks and bullet holes and all. I don't know anything about how it is being a soldier but I dont want to be one.
posted by uandt at 3:28 PM on September 4, 2009


you put yourselves and the almighty dollar ahead of this fallen soldier's family. You are ghouls.

Your assertion is that the Times has a noticeable increase in revenue when they run a photo of a dead soldier? If that's true, be prepared for 20 pages of dead soldiers because the Times needs the money.
posted by GuyZero at 3:31 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Guyzero, my comment was as much if not more directed at the AP and the photographer. Reading more closely at the first link, it is apparent she broke the rules by having a photograph of the wounded soldier that could be identified as him. She knew she'd broken the rule and sent the photo in anyway.

Ghoul.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:34 PM on September 4, 2009


It is important that the horrors of war pierce our nation's narcissistic bubble, so we don't loose touch of what war is. Sanitizing or censoring its realities makes future reckless war all the more likely.

Quite. The visual of war isn't a CG stars-and-stripes/camouflage motif on the cable news channel of your choice. It's a thousand permutations of this picture. It's our duty as citizens to acknowledge that war brings death and destruction.

Should papers of record be publishing such images of mortally wounded soldiers? You bet, and above the fold. Should the newspaper have published this specific photo? No.
posted by Monsters at 3:37 PM on September 4, 2009


GuyZero: "He makes the soldier sound like Tiny Tim."

The Defense Secretary marshaled some nice poetic sweep there. He should bump his speechwriter up a paygrade.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:44 PM on September 4, 2009


What the Times does is make money. If it bleeds, it leads, as they say.

"Pentagon spokesman said Gates followed up with a phone call ''begging'' [AP President and CEO] Curley not to use it." Pretty cold-hearted to take that call and still publish the photo.
posted by Houstonian at 3:45 PM on September 4, 2009


It sheds very little light on anything and has no impact as a composition. It's a sad, blurry snap of a man dying in a ditch and it shouldn't have been published.

But that's exactly where the power of the picture comes from: it's an odd picture, clearly made artlessly in the heat of the moment; and indeed, I don't want to see a beautiful well-composed picture of death. This is the way our soldiers have been dying, and will continue to die: face down gracelessly in the dirt, mouths agape. There is no beauty there, and there shouldn't be -- just unvarnished truth. If there were 100 pictures like this every day perhaps that would be too many; but 0 is too few.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 3:45 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Dear Max, burn everything that hasn't been published."

"Sure, Franz."

Max is held up as some kind of hero in the literary world. I can understand why he published some of his friend's fictional works. The diaries, however, should have been burned. Publishing them was an unforgivable piece of shittiness, an invasion into a defenseless person's most personal space. Dead people should have some rights.
posted by Dumsnill at 3:49 PM on September 4, 2009


What is shameful in all this is the belief either the military or the dead soldier's family have any say on publishing this photo, aka representing truth. That's the higher standard here -- the freedom of the press to report the truth to citizens as they see fit. That's the freedom the military is duty-bound to defend, not the injured feelings of a dead soldier's family. If Mr Gates was truly concerned with that he shouldn't have sent their son to die.
posted by docgonzo at 3:54 PM on September 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


If Mr Gates was truly concerned with that he shouldn't have sent their son to die.

I have a son in the Air Force, in a job which will require him to deploy eventually, and probably in harm's way. I don't recall him asking or needing my permission to go.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:59 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


not the injured feelings of a dead soldier's family. If Mr Gates was truly concerned with that he shouldn't have sent their son to die.

Fuck you and your entire family

(No, not really, but fuck)
posted by Dumsnill at 4:02 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's a question: why now? Plenty of soldiers have died in Afghanistan (and Iraq and elsewhere) and, as noted, there are other pictures out there on the internets. Is this the first one the AP snapped? I highly doubt it. So why, now, the decision to slap this one on the wire?
posted by chavenet at 4:03 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Docgonzo, I misread your statement...presumably Gates does have some imput regarding our military, but I really don't think this is as much about freedom of the press as it is of the photographer wanting to make a name for herself and the AP wanting to make some bucks off the picture. Because freedom of the press doesn't mean you go out of your way to traumatize an already traumatized family when there is no real need to do so.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:05 PM on September 4, 2009


I am a United States Marine. A former Marine, anyway. I served in Iraq in 2003, during the invasion and its immediate aftermath. Like a couple of others above, I am also sorry that the family of this young man did not want these photos published, but I think these photos must be published.

I am angry about this war. I am angry about the reasons for which it was ostensibly fought, I am angry about the way it has been conducted, and - maybe more than anything else - I am angry about the way that the American public has been sheltered from it.

When Americans went to war in the Second World War, GM stopped making cars and started making tanks, sugar disappeared from the markets, and meat went from being a staple to a rationed, once-a-week indulgence. Every American suffered in World War II. When I went to war in 2003, nothing changed in the US. And in a way, that's amazing. America can field the world's finest combat force and the people at home can eat Skittles and Subway sandwiches and buy trucks like nothing out of the ordinary is happening. But that is wrong.

When a republic fights a war, every citizen of that country should feel it. War is horrible. War is disgusting, and we should be reminded of that every day that Americans are carrying arms overseas, so that we may fight as few wars as possible.

I probably sound self-righteous and I am sorry about that. I try not to get on a soapbox about Iraq and I try not to mention it much if I can help it. But the fact that some Americans want to hide from the acts that are being done in their names overseas really upsets me. If you don't want to see Lance Corporal Bernard dying on the front page of the Times, don't complain to the Times. Complain to your Congressman.
posted by CRM114 at 4:11 PM on September 4, 2009 [110 favorites]


Journalists are supposed to make us uncomfortable and show us the nightmares we create, even at the expense of the feelings of those being depicted and their families.

That doesn't mean publishing this photo is "right" on a personal level. It is baffling when one person asks another for something, in the name of grief, and the second person is unwilling to oblige. However, publishing this photo is also not "wrong" considering it is true, worth thousands of words, worth thousands of tears for the soldiers that haven't come home. The war dead may be very real to some towns, but to most of the United States, the war is something in the background, happening very far away. Images like this one bring it home very quickly, in stark and undeniable horror. I think they chose to publish it because that horror is the point. We should be absolutely horrified.

Blaming the AP for publishing this photo is a distraction from the real issue. We should be asking why is this happening? Why are we allowing this to still happen? Rather than, why do I have see this?
posted by whimsicalnymph at 4:11 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


No one can blame the parents for whatever defense mechanism they resort to in the face of such a terrible grief. But I have no hesitation in saying that it was not the publication of the photograph that was the moral atrocity here.

The pounding of the war drums is clearly getting louder. This week, Top Chef - on the gay marketed Bravo network, of all places - became "Top Gun". The "cheftestants" prepared a meal for 300 Air Force members - "some of whom are deploying to Afghanistan..." - and their families. It was a patriotic pageant worthy of Rupert Murdoch's network. (And the fourth such I've seen on different shows over the last month or so.) The American flag was at least 20 feet high, I shit you not.

So of course the Pentagon is going to have to shove back on showing KIAs. Obama's ordering up a few hundred more of them for Christmas.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:19 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


but I think these photos must be published

I pretty much agree with your take on the Iraq war, and everybody should indeed feel it, but no. If someone (or his family) has decided that, no, I don't want to be a symbol of something (no matter how righteous), I don't want my mangled body displayed all over the newspapers and the intertubes, then please respect that.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:21 PM on September 4, 2009


Reading more closely at the first link, it is apparent she broke the rules by having a photograph of the wounded soldier that could be identified as him. She knew she'd broken the rule and sent the photo in anyway.

I'm not sure how you're reading it, but I don't think the second sentence of the policy supersedes the first. That policy, as reported in the first link, is as follows:

"Casualties may be covered by embedded media as long as the service member’s identity and unit identification is protected from disclosure until OASD-PA [Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs] has officially released the name. Photography from a respectful distance or from angles at which a casualty cannot be identified is permissible."

As the photographer herself wrote, "We are allowed to report the name of the casualty as soon as next of kin has been notified."

She followed the rules in shooting the photo. Whether you like what was published as a result is a different question.
posted by limeonaire at 4:21 PM on September 4, 2009


Rather than, why do I have see this?

I don't think that is the issue here. The issue is that the family was shown the picture, and asked for it not to be printed, and their thoughts were not taken into consideration. I am sure there are plenty of families who are angry and hurt and wish that a picture of their dead or dying loved one could be printed across the front page of every newspaper there is, but that opportunity is not there yet. If a family said yes, I would be behind their decision 100%. But that is not what has happened in this case.
posted by Megami at 4:21 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, to be clear, that's an or in the second sentence of the relevant snippet of policy. That means you can take a photo from a respectful distance, regardless of whether it's identifiable, and still be following the rules.
posted by limeonaire at 4:26 PM on September 4, 2009


She followed the rules in shooting the photo. Whether you like what was published as a result is a different question.

She was quoted in the article as saying HERSELF that she knew the photo was against the rules and still sent it in.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:31 PM on September 4, 2009


If you don't want to see Lance Corporal Bernard dying on the front page of the Times, don't complain to the Times.

I don't think the appropriateness of this war has anything to do with this. Two wrongs don't make a right.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:34 PM on September 4, 2009


War is hell.

Of course Sherman also said:

“If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world but I am sure we would be getting reports from hell before breakfast.”
posted by tkchrist at 4:37 PM on September 4, 2009


Americans prefer to not see or hear the realities of death, and especially not the death of the youths they send into the most deadly places for confused and uncertain purposes. Americans revere heroes – heroes who come home in shiny aluminum flag draped caskets, accompanied by ceremony and ritual. Without the honored heroes it would be impossible to continue replacing them with young people who want the same heroic recognition.

Few things would go further to ending these kinds of selective armed conflicts than a full awareness of the reality of the gruesomeness of the sights sounds and stench of death. Publishing photos like this goes toward achieving that awareness.

I am exceedingly glad that my son chose to talk with me about considering enlistment in the military. I didn’t tell him what to do but did tell him about my own experiences. I would have been proud of him if he had chosen to enlist and am equally proud of him for his decision to not enlist.
posted by X4ster at 4:38 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


She was quoted in the article as saying HERSELF that she knew the photo was against the rules and still sent it in.

I think you have pretty high expectations for a war zone photographer. Typically they keep the censor in head office so they can concentrate on that and the photogs can concentrate and doing their job. She was hardly the last person in the chain of events here.
posted by GuyZero at 4:42 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why do we know his name in the first place?
posted by Hammond Rye at 4:43 PM on September 4, 2009


Life magazine's photos of wounded people (soldiers and civilians) during the Vietnam war.

Some images may be NSFW. Some you may wish you could unsee.

Images like this were all over the magazines and newspapers and TV news when I was a kid.

My parents were divorced, and my dad moved far away. I was too young to really write (around 6 and 7), so we would talk into cassette tapes and send them back and forth. One time, I made a radio play for my dad. I got my friends Judy and Lori to pretend to be Vietnamese peasant women whose village had been bombed by US soldiers. I pretended to be Walter Cronkite, interviewing them in the field.

This was in Hawaii. There were a lot of soldiers around. We were not unfamiliar with the war. What do kids play now when they play war? Shoot and die, I guess.
posted by rtha at 4:46 PM on September 4, 2009


She was quoted in the article as saying HERSELF that she knew the photo was against the rules and still sent it in.

These are the two things she said that addressed this question:

1. “I shot images that day well aware that those images could very possibly never see the light of day. In fact I was sure of it. But I still found myself recording them. To ignore a moment like that simply because of a phrase in section 8, paragraph 1 of some 10-page form would have been wrong."

2. "I believe that is why I decided to send the photo in to the N.Y. desk despite what the media rules of engagement said, to start some conversation about it and hope that it will move out there."

There's a difference between saying she sent the photo in "despite what the rules said" and with knowledge of "a phrase in section 8, paragraph 1 of some 10-page form" and saying "I knew this photo was against the rules and I still sent it in." She said the first two things, not the last, suggesting to me that she understands these guidelines are subject to interpretation, and that she interpreted them in a way that others might not have, not that she deliberately broke some hard and fast rule.

It seems to me that that's part of why she sent the photo in, in fact—so that her superiors at the New York desk could see it and make the call as to whether it should be published. Nowhere does she say her photo was against the rules—because, again, it wasn't. She's permitted to send her bureau whatever photos she's taken, and they're permitted, if the photos fall within acceptable parameters, to make a choice as to whether to publish them.
posted by limeonaire at 4:46 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't think the appropriateness of this war has anything to do with this. Two wrongs don't make a right.

You live in a very simple world.
posted by CRM114 at 4:47 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Even the most sophisticated Americans cannot abstain from favoriting a soldier, no matter how trivial his comment is. The need to demonstrate that I - no, I - am truly patriotic, is impressively heroic.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:50 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe I need to step away from the keyboard, but I seem to be under the impression that you are referring to me with that comment, Dumsnill.

What exactly do you find trivial about the notion that all citizens of a democracy should share in the burdens of the wars that it chooses to fight? Do you think it's trivia that the armed forces are disproportionately black and hispanic? Do you think it's trivia that coffins returning from overseas were off-limits to the media until very recently.

You also need to learn that a Marine is not a soldier, by the way.
posted by CRM114 at 4:55 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is poor form to slag other member's comments as "trivial" because I'm fairly sure I can find a few comments more trivial than that one.
posted by GuyZero at 4:57 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hammond Rye: I believe the Pentagon releases the names of fallen soldiers to the media after the next of kin has been notified.
posted by heeeraldo at 4:59 PM on September 4, 2009


I can understand the family's views on this. Or at least I can imagine that I'd understand their views were I to have the bad fortune to be in their position. But that said, the family does not get a veto on this.

The photographer owes a duty to the American people to confront us with the truth of this war. The truth of this war includes good kids dying ugly, stupid deaths in some shitty trash-strewn ditch. We need to confront that, to be forced to face that. It ought to be above the fold on every issue of every paper. And if this war is really worth it, we can keep going in the face of that reality. And if not, well...

The photographer is no ghoul. The ghouls are the ones, who, with flags a-waving, allow us to ignore reality and thereby grease the skids for the next kid to die some stupid horrible death in a ditch.
posted by bepe at 5:02 PM on September 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


No, I wasn't so much referring to you with that comment, more to the people who instantly favorited it. I mostly agree with what you said, but what you said was utterly trivial and has been said thousands of times before. (Not unimportant, just obvious.)
posted by Dumsnill at 5:02 PM on September 4, 2009


You're not exactly Oscar Wilde yourself.
posted by CRM114 at 5:10 PM on September 4, 2009 [15 favorites]


Even the most sophisticated Americans cannot abstain from favoriting a soldier, no matter how trivial his comment is. The need to demonstrate that I - no, I - am truly patriotic, is impressively heroic.

I favorited CRM114 because he actually knows something about the topic at hand. In this thread, he's an authority. And you would be...?
posted by limeonaire at 5:11 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, reading back over CRM114's original comment, I specifically remember nodding at the following passage, because it addresses something I'd often thought about myself.

When Americans went to war in the Second World War, GM stopped making cars and started making tanks, sugar disappeared from the markets, and meat went from being a staple to a rationed, once-a-week indulgence. Every American suffered in World War II. When I went to war in 2003, nothing changed in the US. And in a way, that's amazing. America can field the world's finest combat force and the people at home can eat Skittles and Subway sandwiches and buy trucks like nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

How is it, I've wondered, that we haven't been called upon to bear the privations of war as previous generations were?

So that's another reason I favorited his comment, and it had nothing to do with some misplaced notion of patriotism.
posted by limeonaire at 5:15 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even the most sophisticated Americans cannot abstain from favoriting a soldier, no matter how trivial his comment is. The need to demonstrate that I - no, I - am truly patriotic, is impressively heroic.

Hi, I'm among those who "instantly favorited" that comment by CRM114. I am neither from the US nor a supporter of US militarism. Indeed, I've been wanting to comment myself in this thread, but find it hard to balance how much I detest US foreign policy with what is obviously desperately sorry death of a young man. I favorited the comment because it was pertinent to the discussion and reflected my views on the matter in a reasonable way.
posted by Sova at 5:16 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, those of you who agreed with this publication? Do YOU have the guts or the cojones to look into the eyes of a grieving family member and tell them that not only does their last memory of their loved one get to be THAT PHOTO but that the entire world gets to gawk at the last moments of their son or their daughter or their spouse or their parent? Heck, let's not stop there-let's mandate that from here on out all the war dead have to have open casket funerals-after all, we have to be open and forced to face facts...

People, if the fact people are dying isn't enough, if the fact I can't go to Walmart without seeing an amputee isn't enough, if the fact I cry at least once a week at work isn't enough, I just don't know what to tell you. Are we so lacking in imagination that we can't figure out the damage a bullet or a bomb can do to a person? For that matter, why don't we drag out all the gory photos and videos of people leaping off the Twin Towers or crushed in the rubble or burned in the Pentagon crash-after all, we need to see the horror and reality of war, don't we?
Heck, while we are at it, let's show the victims of drunk driving. When Jim or Sally gets decapitated by their own windshield because Darryn had a few two many and got behind the wheel of his car-oh, we NEED TO SEE THAT. To hades with the grieving families and friends, we want to see every last gut hanging off the fender....
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:20 PM on September 4, 2009


No, I'm not exactly Oscar Wilde.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:21 PM on September 4, 2009



I don't think the appropriateness of this war has anything to do with this. Two wrongs don't make a right.

So. Let me get this straight. A war that has killed tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands— of innocent men, women, and children is as equal "a wrong" (one of the two) in your world view as publishing a graphic photo of that war?

Talk about moral relativism.
posted by tkchrist at 5:25 PM on September 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


No, I apologize. (Yes, I meant it at the time, but what I said was pretty stupid.)
posted by Dumsnill at 5:25 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


if the fact I can't go to Walmart without seeing an amputee isn't enough

Due to numerous base closings and the relative distance of the major military bases from other major population centres, most people don't see war amputees at their local Walmart. Actually I'd be willing to bet more than 50% of the US population actually doesn't know anyone in the military. IMO, the US military goes to elaborate lengths to hide the wounded from public sight, for reasons noble and ignoble.

Do YOU have the guts or the cojones to look into the eyes of a grieving family member...

War is hell but I don't think this is why.
posted by GuyZero at 5:26 PM on September 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Do YOU have the guts or the cojones to look into the eyes of a grieving family that doesn't support this war and tell them you supported the failed policy and the war of occupation that killed their son, and thousands of others just like him, in the first place?
posted by tkchrist at 5:28 PM on September 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Can I ask a genuine question - who is complaining that this photo should not have been printed because it is a graphic depiction of a dead person, rather than based on the fact that family said no?
posted by Megami at 5:30 PM on September 4, 2009


I certainly don't.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:31 PM on September 4, 2009


I am complaining because the family said no.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:32 PM on September 4, 2009


Do YOU have the guts or the cojones to look into the eyes of a grieving family member and tell them that not only does their last memory of their loved one get to be THAT PHOTO but that the entire world gets to gawk at the last moments of their son or their daughter or their spouse or their parent?

I most certainly do.

I'll bet that the family of Nguyen Van Lem objected to the publication of the photograph of his execution. But his death was bigger than a private family matter.
posted by CRM114 at 5:36 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am complaining because the family said no.

Look, I'd understand people being against publishing if the death depicted in this photo was published for prurient or commercial reasons or/and if the death depicted in it was not one tied directly to controversial public policy. A death in war is not a private death, unfortunately.

So what if the publishing of this photo kept a few kids from joining our ALL volunteer Army. And out of those kids it is certain a given percentage would have died or been grievously injured. There for publishing this photo and other photos like this saves lives and saves the horrible grieving these families are going through in the first place.

I have a nephew in Iraq right now. I lay awake nights worrying about that kid. I wish to shit he'd have seen a photo like this so he would've made a fully informed decision before joining. Every time I talk to him all he want's to do is come home. He is sick of the death and killing. He's a medic. He see's it everyday.
posted by tkchrist at 5:49 PM on September 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Do YOU have the guts or the cojones to look into the eyes of a grieving family that doesn't support this war and tell them you supported the failed policy and the war of occupation that killed their son, and thousands of others just like him, in the first place?

If that is directed to me-my feelings regarding this war are very complicated. We were probably very stupid to get into this war but my view has been if we are in it we need to win it.,,but at this point if we pulled every single individual from Afghanistan I'd be more than thrilled.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:49 PM on September 4, 2009


if we are in it we need to win it

A war in Afghanistan can no more be won than you can breathe water. It is the anvil on which empires are broken.
posted by GuyZero at 5:56 PM on September 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


Do YOU have the guts or the cojones to look into the eyes of a grieving family member and tell them that not only does their last memory of their loved one get to be THAT PHOTO but that the entire world gets to gawk at the last moments of their son or their daughter or their spouse or their parent?

I think so, yes. I'm annoyed that they bothered to run this by the family (why?) and then ran it anyhow when the family didn't like the idea.

I'm sorry you're crying and I'm sorry this guy's family is crying and it's a sad miserable time for a lot of people in the US. But, as sad as that is, there's a larger point. An unjust war [in my opinion, and I'm not alone in that feeling] perpetrated for illegal and likely immoral purposes by people who weren't sending their own sons or daughters and were in fact getting rich, incredibly filthy rich, because mainly poor kids with few other options were fighting this war in a far away place, where few of us could visit, and fewer of us could know what was going on behind the scenes. For me, personally, that's the bigger story. And we have people all over Vermont dying in this war and I have family members who have been there, so let's please not play the "this hurts me more than its hurting any of you" game. Everyone's stories are complicated.

We frequently, actually, show the victims of drunk driving to people we're trying to scare away from drunk driving. It's a questionable tactic, but one that has been pretty widely accepted. I don't like it either, but I always think about those drivers ed videos when I'm thinking about having another beer before driving home. I don't want to die in a stupid accident and be videotaped and have people looking at stupid old dead old me.
posted by jessamyn at 5:57 PM on September 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


his death was bigger than a private family matter.

This is the kind of crap that creeps me out.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:57 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


We were probably very stupid to get into this war but my view has been if we are in it we need to win it

This is all well and good. But a little god damned late.

You supported every politician that got us into this war. You supported every failed policy formulated by these politicians that have killed thousands of innocent people.

And now you want to "win" a war it was stupid to get in to? A war you cheered for?

There is no winning. No presidential war of choice has ever been "won." There are only degrees of losing. But your against it now becuase... whe=y exactly. Perhaps it has something to do with a Democrat being in the Whitehouse?

God forbid there will be a next time but if there is you should turn off Fox News and oppose the these stupid wars BEFORE they start, huh?
posted by tkchrist at 5:59 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


We were probably very stupid to get into this war but my view has been if we are in it we need to win it.,,but at this point if we pulled every single individual from Afghanistan I'd be more than thrilled.

That's nice. Then why, in your screeds above, do you insist on assigning the worst motives to the journalists involved?

Certainly you can at least understand those arguing journalism has a responsibility to - sometimes graphically - inform the American public about the real, sometimes tragic consequences of national security policy choices.
posted by lalex at 6:06 PM on September 4, 2009


I don't have cable so I don't have Fox News. What I did have is lots of conversations with folks who were actually involved so to speak.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:07 PM on September 4, 2009


This is the kind of crap that creeps me out.

Why?

Do you view this as morbid? Prurient? Pornographic?

I never watched those Iraqi insurgent videos of beheadings. It was prurient and the worst sort of propaganda. Viewing them would actually encourage MORE murder.

But photos like this? If photos like this, and there were thousands that were suppressed, had come out in 2004 it COULD have influenced policy and saved this very kids life.

Remember. It was only when Rumsfeld finally was chastened by his military and left in disgrace that Bush got to see the REAL reports coming out of Iraq by the actual military less filtered by Neo-Con stooges which allowed them to change tactics to our current "Bribe and Reinforce" strategy. Other wise known as the euphemistic "Surge." Which has worked. If not a hundred thousand lives too late.
posted by tkchrist at 6:09 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


But photos like this? If photos like this, and there were thousands that were suppressed, had come out in 2004 it COULD have influenced policy and saved this very kids life.

I think that's pretty darn optimistic. If those of you who say this war was about money and oil are right, what makes you think pictures of dead soldiers would have gotten in their way? Besides, ours is a generation where young people go watch the "Saw" movies and laugh. Young people in particular who think that nothing bad will ever happen to them anyway. I truly doubt those pictures would have had the effect you think.

But they are having an effect on that young man's family. Sorry, that's all I can really think about. That is concrete, not speculatory.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:12 PM on September 4, 2009


Why?

Oh boy did you misunderstand me.

My sentence referred to this:

his death was bigger than a private family matter.

That's the attitude I find frightening. The need to use an individual's death as a political sledgehammer.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:23 PM on September 4, 2009


I don't have cable so I don't have Fox News. What I did have is lots of conversations with folks who were actually involved so to speak.

Well, you're kind of a special little snowflake in that regard. The question here is whether the publication of such photos might serve the greater good by informing those Americans who have not had as much exposure to the consequences of war.
posted by lalex at 6:24 PM on September 4, 2009


Dead Troops Talk
posted by Flashman at 6:25 PM on September 4, 2009


Meanwhile...

A U.S. jet dropped 500-pound bombs on two tanker trucks hijacked by the Taliban before dawn Friday, triggering a huge explosion that Afghan officials said killed more than 70 people, including insurgents and some civilians who had swarmed around the vehicles to siphon off fuel. ... Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, and villagers buried some in a mass grave. - AP
posted by Joe Beese at 6:28 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, that does put things into perspective, and we should all feel ashamed.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:30 PM on September 4, 2009


The need to use an individual's death as a political sledgehammer.

Are you equally frightened by the supression of pictures like this as a political sledgehammer?

Please stop pretending that you are coming at this subject from some magical and perfectly apolitical point of view. Wars and politics are inexorably intertwined, and pretending otherwise is the height of naïvité.
posted by CRM114 at 6:33 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]



OK, that does put things into perspective, and we should all feel ashamed.


You have completely and utterly failed to grasp the point that I and others here are trying to make.
posted by CRM114 at 6:35 PM on September 4, 2009


Please stop pretending that you are coming at this subject from some magical and perfectly apolitical point of view.

I thought my political point of view was fairly obvious.


Are you equally frightened by the supression of pictures like this as a political sledgehammer

In some cases yes, but socialist that I am, I'm gonna have to say that the individual is, ultimately, more important than society.
posted by Dumsnill at 6:46 PM on September 4, 2009


Alia, you've endlessly supported this pointless war on this site.

You bear great responsibility for that poor young man's death - you and many other irresponsible, warloving people such as you.

If more pictures like this had been published early during the war, it's conceivable that this young man wouldn't have died. Of course, you and yours were so blood-thirsty, so desperate to start a war against people who'd never offered us one bit of harm, that I think a million photos might not have calmed you down.

As someone who has relentlessly supported this war, you have zero moral standing to criticize people who accurately represent the consequences of your terrible actions.

As a supporter of this war, this man's blood is on his hands. You should stop posting, and go and sincerely ask your God for forgiveness for the torrents of blood that you and yours have cause to be shed.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:05 PM on September 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


...this man's blood is on your hands...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:05 PM on September 4, 2009


A war in Afghanistan can no more be won than you can breathe water. It is the anvil on which empires are broken.

Eh, not really. It hasn't been conquered since the 1800s, but it didn't really break empires "It also has been conquered by a host of people, including the Median and Persian Empires, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, the Indo-Greeks, Turks, and Mongols. "

But yeah, since Mongol tactics are no longer in favor, we aren't going to conquer pacify win in Afghanistan.
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2009


If more pictures like this had been published early during the war, it's conceivable that this young man wouldn't have died

Again, I disagree. Nice to believe but I don't think facts support that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:17 PM on September 4, 2009


If more pictures like this had been published early during the war, it's conceivable that this young man wouldn't have died

Again, I disagree. Nice to believe but I don't think facts support that.


Um...clearly it's conceivable. Since lupus_yonderboy conceived of it. That's a fact.
posted by limeonaire at 7:24 PM on September 4, 2009


Again, I disagree. Nice to believe but I don't think facts support that.

Whatever. You've explicitly stated, in discussions of the Iraq war, that you "personally don't care whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction." You'll have to excuse me if I don't think truth and/or the ethical responsibility to dissimate facts play a huge part in your personal value system.
posted by lalex at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I haven't deployed, by the grace of fate, but if I wind up coughing out my last in some ditch somewhere, I want that picture to be published.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:45 PM on September 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


[a few comments removed - please do not turn any one person into your target for everything the US has done. MetaTalk and email are your option.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:09 PM on September 4, 2009


And I just have to reiterate how much I'm against this philosophy:

"You just killed hundreds of thousands of people!"

"Hah, hah! You took it seriously so you're a loser!"

If you don't care about the fact that your country has engaged in pointless, wholesale killing of innocents for the last 50 years or so, at least have the decency to shut up, rather than exposing your complete moral bankruptcy.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:17 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I haven't deployed, by the grace of fate, but if I wind up coughing out my last in some ditch somewhere, I want that picture to be published.

Sir, I would personally see to it that you had one HELL of a funeral.
posted by ColdChef at 9:23 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regarding the photo & its publication, this was the wrong thing for AP to do. The parents were against it. I find it hard to believe that there hasn't been, or conceivably won't be, an opportunity -- ugly as it is to say -- to publish one where the family does not object. I have no sympathy for the decision-makers of AP on this one.

Regarding the rest here... yes, US foreign policy is horribly fucked up, and has been for a long time. And yes, that's what motivated 9/11. It doesn't matter how brave, capable or tough our military is; ultimately, we have to face up to that behavior and change it.

That said: invading Afghanistan and invading Iraq were two very different things, and I'm routinely disgusted by how easily people lump them together these days. Our mistake in Iraq was that we invaded at all. Our mistake in Afghanistan was that, because Bush Co. was saving up for Iraq, Afghanistan wasn't invaded nearly enough.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:52 PM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are we so lacking in imagination that we can't figure out the damage a bullet or a bomb can do to a person?

I think many of us probably are. I think that many who supported this war, did so that it would happen in a bloodless fashion, believing that a handful of righteous God-fearing Americans could take out a handful of retarded, cowardly sand-niggers using drones and Transformers, that no Christian white man would ever have to die, and that the poor savages would rapidly bend over and present their rump as soon as the Great White Massa rolled into town in his tank, bringing pots and mirrors to exchange for oil.

And I wonder how many newspapers asked for the permission of those prisoners who were being tortured in Abu Ghraib before they published? Because it's got to be a shitload of fun seeing pictures of your sexual humiliation at the hand of the enemy displayed in front of the whole world. And yet I don't recall any outcry at the publication of those. There was no 'won't somebody think of the parents' for those poor fuckers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:19 AM on September 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


At least this way, many many people will know his name, and remember him, and his sacrifice.
posted by marble at 12:20 AM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


After going away and thinking about it (I was posting after midnight my time before) I wanted to clarify my position, so I hope a few people indulge me.

If it was my loved one who was in the picture my reaction would be don't print it. Firstly, because it would be something splashed across the news to remind me (and perhaps my child or parents or whoever) of a personal grief. I would not like to see my loved one remembered in such an undignified way (before the flaming about war and dying, bear with me). And I would worry about my child/parents/self having to go through life as 'you are the [whatever relative] of that guy they printed the photo of.'

But I would hope that I would be big enough to get over that reaction and let the photo be printed because as others have said here, there is something more important than a personal grief and opinion that needs to be transcended if people are to know what is going on for the many serving members around the world.

But I also realise that perhaps I would not be that selfless, and really feel for families who are actually caught in this situation rather than thinking about this as an intellectual exercise. And I would hope that if, as I hope never happens, it was me in that situation, people would respect how I feel and realise that while for you this is about a large political and moral need, for the families it is an intensely painful and individual thing.

BTW, thanks to the people who have obviously taken the time to think and frame their reaction to this topic. It makes for much better debate, don't you agree?
posted by Megami at 1:05 AM on September 5, 2009


That's why I favorited CRM114's comment too. Most of us are terribly isolated. I know I am.
posted by Neofelis at 6:05 AM on September 5, 2009


marble: "At least this way, many many people will know his name, and remember him, and his sacrifice."

If they ever do get that pipeline built, maybe the board at ExxonMobil will observe a moment of silence for his contribution to their quarterly profits.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:21 AM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Reading the comments here, there seems to be an odd disconnect with how people demonstrate caring and sympathy. The main argument for printing the photograph, as related in this thread, is that publishing this photo is justified because seeing the horrors of war in action may cause pepole to rethink their support of this war and thus potentially save the lives of X number of potential soldiers moving forward. So on a macro level, we care and are concerned about hypothetical soldiers hypothetically dying and the torment this would cause to their family and friends.

On a micro level, here we have an actual soldier actually dying and his grieving family saying outright, "Please don't add to our grief by splashing our dead son's dying picture across your newspaper". To them, people who could use our sympathy in a real way, the attitude seems to be, "Sorry about your kid, but since his death can be used to promote our political position, fuck what you want."
posted by The Gooch at 9:25 AM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


How is this soldier any less hypothetical or any more real than any of the other people who are being killed in this God-forsaken war, The Gooch?

Unless I've got a personal relationship to him or his family, I'm not following why he's any more or less deserving of consideration than anyone else whose lives are being sacrificed in this pointless bullshit war?

Those people who'll be killed next week, and the week after, and the week after that? Do they not have families? How is it that caring about them and their families is somehow categorized as 'politics', while caring about this particular family somehow counts as a higher moral calling?

I'm just not following here.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:45 AM on September 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, how many people are dead? And we're worrying about photos? Really?

We're going to worry about "emotional anguish" of photos after sending people out to go kill and be killed? With substandard armor? On multiple extended tours? With indefinite recall? And disqualifying vets from their medical support? In wars that we shouldn't really be in, in the first place?

It's really hard for me to take anyone seriously about "disrespecting soldiers lives" more when you have all that standing there and NOW, suddenly, after they're already dead, it's politically inconvenient and NOW they matter.
posted by yeloson at 11:31 AM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Gooch, war actually is horrific. Yes, there's a problem if his family is saying 'don't use his picture', because that's their son, but they don't have jurisdiction over other families' kids.

Publishing the photo, otherwise, is justified. I'm not sure how stating the simple fact that war is horrific and that people are horribly distant from it so maybe need it shoved in their faces from time to time factors much into politics. It's truth. Politics is not the arbiter of truth.
posted by kldickson at 11:32 AM on September 5, 2009


Let me try to (hopefully) articulate my point a little better: One of the key reasons many people are opposed to the war is because thousands of young men and women are dying needlessly for a cause that is suspect at best. So on a macro level, we care deeply about and are concerned with the faceless and nameless people who have died and will die in this conflict (and by extension their family and friends who have suffered and will suffer great pain at their loss).

Yet on a micro level, when we have before us a family who has suffered the worst possible event a family can go through, and they have requested to please not splash a picture of their dead son's corpse across newspapers, instead of extending that same sympathy and understanding, the attitude instead seems to be, "Sucks for them, but if publicizing a picture of their dead kid helps people understand the horrors or war, well, screw what the family wants"

Also, it seems rather patronizing to me to suggest people are so dense that they cannot understand the reality of war unless they have horrifying images shoved in their face. If that's the case, why don't we demand to see photos of Heath Ledger or DJ AM's rotting corpses so we can get our kids to fully comprehend the horror of drug addiction?
posted by The Gooch at 11:40 AM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Gooch, there's a difference between knowing that war kills people and having to see a dead soldier. You don't necessarily know it until you at least see a picture. I shudder to think what anti-war people who have actually been in a war have seen. It probably gave them at least a few nightmares.

I never said they should have published that particular soldier's picture.
posted by kldickson at 11:44 AM on September 5, 2009


And part of the issue is knowing when this kind of experience is helpful and when it's not. Sometimes being exposed to it makes you unable to weigh the issues. Sometimes being exposed to it makes you more able to weigh the situations.
posted by kldickson at 11:46 AM on September 5, 2009


I'm lost as to how the cause of Afghanistan is such a joke.

Yes, horrible people are making a profit on this war. Yes, THAT should be dealt with, and harshly. The American gov't and media do a terrible job (no job at all, really) at portraying war as the awful thing that it really is, and THAT should be dealt with.

However, it is NOT a joke or a scam that brought NATO there in the first place. Very bad people -- and yes, I'm passing judgment on the Taliban and al Qaeda, FUCK those guys -- had taken over that country. Monsters, plain and simple. They were horrible to the people of Afghanistan. They in fact continue to be horrible. Moreover, they reached out beyond Afghanistan to kill thousands more.

Moreover, it was the mistake of the West in leaving Afghanistan hanging after the Soviet pullout that enabled all that.

What the hell good would it do anyone to pull out now?

The problem isn't that our military is fighting against the Taliban, al Qaeda (or whatever's left of them there) and local bandits/criminals. The problem is that there's war profiteering going on simultaneously, and THAT needs to be dealt with. There was torture and other very serious crimes committed by people in American & allied uniforms, and THAT needs to be dealt with.

I usually appreciate Metafilter and the commentary here for its own appreciation of nuance. I'm disappointed that I don't see much of it here now.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:02 PM on September 5, 2009


I've no idea whether people are so dense that they can't conceive of what a dead body looks like or not. What I do know though, is people find it that little bit harder to put that stuff out of their mind if they aren't confronted by the consequences of their decisions. Remember the saying, 'out of sight, out of mind'?

We know about the extent to which graphic images of people being killed ended the war in Vietnam. The military know that as well. That's precisely why they do everything that they can to prevent these pictures from getting out there. Usually, that's taken the form of preventing journalists who aren't pliable from operating in the theatre. In that case, one appears to have slipped through the net. I wouldn't put it past them though, to make sure that they didn't see to it that this kid's commanding officer had a word with this kids parents in an attempt to get them to do their 'patriotic duty'.

Pitched as critical to regimental morale, etc. Your heroic son wouldn't want to let his comrades down, would he? We've all got to do our bit, etc.

And while I've got every sympathy with this kid's family -- I'm still not understanding how their grief trumps the grief of the parents who've yet to lose their children. If publishing a picture like this brings the end of the war one day closer, and saves just one more life, then surely *that* is worth sacrificing the feelings of these parents who, when all said and done, aren't actually being forced to look at these pictures if that's not how they want to remember their son.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:05 PM on September 5, 2009


However, it is NOT a joke or a scam that brought NATO there in the first place.

Given that, it might have been an idea to have dealt with Afghanistan, rather than spending additional trillions deploying the majority of your troops pursuing a simultaneous war in Iraq, mightn't it?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:13 PM on September 5, 2009



Given that, it might have been an idea to have dealt with Afghanistan, rather than spending additional trillions deploying the majority of your troops pursuing a simultaneous war in Iraq, mightn't it?


Yes, Peter. It certainly would've been a better idea. I know I've said that about a million times myself... hell, it's right there in the first comment I made above. (No, I'm not ragging on you for missing it, I certainly don't read every single comment myself.)

The reason we have the problems we've currently got with Afghanistan was because we half-assed it from the beginning. We outsourced much of the early effort to locals who didn't share our interests or our standards. In that, I am not passing judgment on the locals -- I'm simply saying they weren't playing for the same goals we had.

It also might have been a better idea to have elected wiser and more ethical leadership in 2000 and 2004, but hell, Metafilter's gone blue in the face talking about that...
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:23 PM on September 5, 2009


scaryblackdeath, yes, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are horrible, but surely there's a more efficient and less messy way to either kill those radical anti-humanistic fundamentalist assholes than bombing haphazardly!
posted by kldickson at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2009


Kill them or reform them, I mean .
posted by kldickson at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2009


Apropos of nothing, I do know the answer to this:

What do kids play now when they play war?

"President and Terrorists". according to friends of mine.
posted by lysdexic at 1:19 PM on September 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


posted by CRM114 You also need to learn that a Marine is not a soldier

What is the diference? Please explain. (This is not snark, this is a serious question; this is the first time I've heard of a distiction between the two.)
posted by mattdidthat at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2009


kldickson: War's ugly. I'd love to think there's a better way to kill, capture and/or reform these guys... but that doesn't seem to be what's being argued here. Beyond the discussion of the photo of the fallen Marine, the anger seems to be at pursuing this conflict at all.


Mattdidthat: A "soldier" is in the Army. A Marine is a Marine. The Marines like to think of themselves as their own thing (and they really prefer the capital M). It's primarily institutional pride, but it does also get to the differences in their mission, training & purpose.

I've, uh, known a lot of Marines, you see. I was a Coast Guardsman myself, and we were all fine with "Coasties."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 2:26 PM on September 5, 2009


This thread makes me laugh, if only because people think that a blurry photo of a wounded Marine from this distance is facing the reality of war and brings the war home to the public. I stared at the photo for about five minutes, and it is completely alien to me. I spend a lot of time with wounded soldiers.

I wonder what would have happened if the family or Sec Gates didn't make a fuss about the photo, and it had been published online and in newspapers without controversy. How many people would have seen it at all, or said that it is so important?

That said, if I kick the bucket here, feel free to publish a photo. I already envy anyone who believes that it could possibly make any war end sooner.
posted by lullaby at 10:43 PM on September 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hey, lullaby. I remember your askme from before you deployed. I hope you're doing as ok as possible there.

I don't know what the convention was when Life and everybody else was publishing photos of wounded or dying Marines and GIs in Vietnam. Did the families get a say? I know I've seen it asserted, in some book on the history of the US's involvement in Vietnam (don't remember which one), that the seemingly endless publication of such photos had a major effect on ending the war earlier. No idea if, or how much, that's true, though it makes sense.
posted by rtha at 10:59 PM on September 5, 2009


For that matter, why don't we drag out all the gory photos and videos of people leaping off the Twin Towers or crushed in the rubble or burned in the Pentagon crash-after all, we need to see the horror and reality of war, don't we?

All you have to do is wait until Friday or so for the Republicans to do so in an attempt to drum up interest, you know. It's not as though this would be anything new, particularly around this time of year.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:01 AM on September 6, 2009


"I don't need a picture to tell me what the hades is going on, thank you very much."

Everything is wrong with this statement.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 3:27 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, rtha. I'm doing all right over here.

I would be surprised if the families did have any input during Vietnam. However, I don't think photos of the wounded and dying (and flag-draped coffins, for that matter) have quite the same impact today than they may have during Vietnam. With no draft and only a small portion of Americans even knowing someone who is serving overseas, I don't believe sad or bloody photos pack as much of a punch as they may have during a time when the photo's subject was likelier to be your brother, son, etc.

In photos like this, today, I think one of the earlier commenters on this thread nailed it. Few people will care, and war will maintain its distance.

Perhaps saying "any war" in my above comment was too broad, but certainly I can't imagine photos like the one of LCpl Bernard ending these wars.
posted by lullaby at 8:40 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


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