As an essentially generic photo tossed into the newspaper to illustrate the ongoing effort to train Iraqi forces (this one accompanying a NYT preview of Bush’s Annapolis speech), this picture never rises above the level of propaganda. Because the image is not referenced in the article, and the caption gives few details, it’s basically just one more piece of news wallpaper, right?
Thinking about the image, a number of questions come up that have been circulating widely of late: Just how experienced are these guys? How far does “trained and equipped” take you when its comes to crunch time, or these units need to operate with complete autonomy? How much will these young men fight for a greater Iraq as opposed to the local team? (I just heard Juan Cole on Al Franken’s show this morning talking about how the U.S. used Kurdish Peshmerga in Tall Afar to attack Turkmen villages when the two groups are natural antagonists.) What are we doing about conscripting more of those Iraq veterans out there? Does the fact these guys are training with old Russian Kalashnikov’s mean that we’re operating on the cheap, or do we just not trust them?
Here’s where I really got stuck on this image, however. As I understand it, only about 7 to 10 percent of the population is left-handed. If that’s true, what are the odds that all three of these guys would be lefty?
After sitting with this for a little while, I realized the problem was pretty simple. Obviously, the picture should have been printed like THIS. (If you doubt me, notice the direction of the photo credit.)
In and by itself, I’d be the first to say this was an innocent and minor mistake. Still, the fact The Times would hardly notice and we would hardly notice suggests to me that either we take most visual information for granted (so good for The BAG), or there are a whole lot of other facts, figures and pictures running past us about this war that also barely register a second look.
(image: Patrick Baz/AFP. The New York Times. Bush To Outline Broad Strategy For Victory In Iraq With Focus On Training. November 30, 2005 p. A10. Caption: American marines helping Iraqi troops train last month. American officials say Iraqis have doubled the trained and equipped troops.)