As more and more information spills out about the deception and double dealing involved in the selling of the Iraq war, you have a paper trail and you have a pictorial trail.
Of course, the two are profoundly different. With the former, you get the factual goods, while the latter is largely impressionistic. However, I would argue that particular images — especially when supported by facts — represent a rather robust source of clues regarding attitudes, strategies, motives, social alliances and the like. Even if we do not yet possess the techniques or methodologies to more effectively decrypt and decipher this information, we should still — with a careful outlook — be able to extract considerable potential meaning.
Because only so many photos are distributed by the White House, we can take special note of those provided to the public and press at moments under dispute. The caption for this image reads as follows:
Vice President Dick Cheney meets with Iraqi Americans and Iraqi Expatriates in the Roosevelt Room.
Well, that’s a wonderful caption.
According to the State Department, however, the people on the left are members of an organization called Women for a Free Iraq, a disparate band which has strangely disappeared by now (and was originally created by a government backed, pro-war liberation group which has been drawing funds from the U.S. government to procure Iraqi state documents for the prosecution of Saddam Hussein). If you check the specific State Department web page, you can find their names and affiliations in a caption under a photo they took with Secretary Powell. (Apparently, the same day they met with Cheney — two weeks before the war started — the group also met with Condi Rice, briefed members of Congress and gave a briefing at the National Press Club.)
To more fully understand the curiosity of this picture, however, you should take it at the most simple face value. In an otherwise innocent situation, it would be understandable for a relatively minor group of dissidents to get their picture taken with one, maybe two figures on the right. It might even make sense for the Iraqis to earn a couple minutes of sit down time with maybe one of these overly busy government heavyweights. However, for this relatively weightless delegation to participate in what looks like a mini-summit with Senator Levin, as well as the trioka of Cheney, Wolfy and Libby (in terms of the power differential, notice how the Iraq delegation literally hugs that table; in terms of time, notice that the Iraqis have the occasion to break into consultative material), you’ve got to wonder how they’ve been afforded such a platform.
(updated: 10/29/05. 9:48 am PST)
(image: David Bohrer/White House. March 6, 2003. www.whitehouse.gov)