January 23, 2005

Let's See That Glue Stick, Soldier!

So, the neocons have regained their ascendency and George Bush is pledging to bring freedom and democracy to practically every corner of the world. 

If that’s so, we had better hope that the next couple campaigns are more successful that the one we’re now attempting to wash our hands of in Iraq.  Even though we’ve caused the country to fragment into ethnic and religious factions, and most Iraqi’s who plan to vote don’t know who represents the faction they’re voting for, to Washington, it’s all good. 

If we’re so confident about the election, however, and we’ve got so much work to do fighting the insurgents and training Iraqi soldiers, how come the big assignment from Central Command is to "get out the vote?"

Generally, it’s almost impossible to know how much to read in to a particular newswire photo.  In could be, for example, that a photographer happened to capture a soldier taking a minute to put up a campaign poster in his downtime. In this case, however, it seems that the story is bigger than that.  I say this because these pictures of soldiers circulating campaign literature depict three different units in at least two different cities on at least three different days over more than a week span. 

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In this first shot, an Army Sgt. is handing out leaflets on January 20th in Ramadi, in Anbar Province.

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In this second shot, U.S. Army soldiers from Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Division, are hanging posters in Mosul on January 21st.

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In this third shot, also in Mosul, a soldier from Alfa 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, is hanging a poster.  Also, the date (January 14th) is a week earlier than the previous picture.

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This shot, apparently showing the same soldier as directly above (also in Mosul on January 14th, but one minute later — at 9:07 AM versus 9:06), seems to add more to the story.  If you notice, you can see that he’s got a large stack of posters in one hand, and some kind of printout in the other.  With his halting walk and his attention to the paper, his hand looks to be tracking a list, possibly running down locations for distributing the posters.

Given the apparent widespread electioneering effort on the part of the military, it suggests — in spite of the confidence voiced by the Administration  — that there is a sense of desperation about this election and it’s perceived legitimacy.

It also suggests a few other things. 

It points out how much the U.S. is stage managing this election.  (Aren’t you curious, by the way, who designed and printed this nice poster?) 

Also, it illustrates the stranglehold the Pentagon continues to maintain over foreign policy.  In the old days, wouldn’t the State Department (not to mention, the U.N. and the N.G.O.’s) have had something to do with the nation building side of things?

(image 1: Joe Raedle/Getty Images in NYTimes; image 2, 3 & 4: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters in YahooNews)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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