June 13, 2005

What Am I Doing?


Apparently, the story (and the picture of the story) the BAG has been following since last week about the joint U.S./Iraqi raid in Mahmudiya, Iraq just keeps getting more interesting.

If you followed our comment thread on the original picture (Punching Up The Orangelink), you’ll know that BAGreaders had a number of questions about the appearance of this soldier, as well as the nature and outcome of the operation.

In a front page article in today’s NYT, Sabrina Tavernise and John Burns shed new light on that mission.   

According to the article (As Iraqi Army Trains, Word in the Field Is It May Take Years – link) , many of the Iraqi troops that participated in the original “cordon-and-search operation” were barely up to the job.  As an example, the article describes how a group of Iraqi soldiers rushing to board a troop carrier left their detainee behind.  (They did go back and get him.)  The story also recounts how, a few days before the Mahmudiya raids, Iraqi soldiers fell asleep at a checkpoint in the early morning and were ambushed by insurgents. In the attack, American soldiers report that eight of the Iraqis died.  Since then, American troops say that they have been conducting nighttime patrols just to insure that the Iraqis stay awake.

Does the Iraqi soldier in this picture look awkward and a little clueless because he really is? 

Those of you who have been following this story on the BAG know that the photographer who took the picture, Alan Chin, has been participating with us in discussing this image, as well as others.  In the discussion under the original story, Alan indicated that he wasn’t privy to the accuracy of the intelligence behind the operation, or it’s outcome.  Obviously, his role was simply to document the action as an embed.  Looking back though, Alan said that time was a premium in getting in and out of these homes.  Maybe its not fair or possible to make inferences based on body language  — especially in the instant one would pose for a picture.  From this shot though, it’s hard to believe this guy is used to moving at a moments notice.

In my original post (link), my primary complaint with this photo was that the article that it accompanied (U.S. Uncovers Vast Hide-Out of Iraqi Rebels –(link) was about a completely different military operation  — one that took place ten miles away from where this raid occurred.     

Maybe the fact the team was so shaky is partly why.

(image: Alan Chin/The New York Times.  June 5, 2005 in The New York Times, p. A13)

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Michael Shaw
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