January 23, 2006

The Don Of A New Iraq


In the “family,” he’s referred to as the “capo di tutti capi.”

This image, accompanying the NYT Week In Review’s summary of Iraq’s election (Iraq Is in a Race Against Time as Congress Grows Restless – link ) is a telling depiction of the current power arrangement.

Introduced by his “in country” handle, the story gives every indication that American Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad — suddenly known as “Zal” — remains Iraq’s go-to guy.  In one of those wonderfully blatant statements he is known for, the Ambassador proclaims: “The United States did not expend its blood and treasure to go coy at this critical time.”

(If the image pulls for comparison to a mafia don, the swagger and the name do nothing to discourages the association.  As well know mob hit man Joe Pistone (a.k.a. “Donnie Brasco”) said:  “With wiseguys, you don’t know a guy by his name, only by his nickname.”)

Christoph Bangert’s images have a way of capturing the underlying character of Iraqi politics at key moments.  Even more so in the black-and-white print version, the sunglasses, the palm trees and the accompanying “protection” gives this shot the feeling of a cinematic mob moment, evoking Miami or Las Vegas in the ’60’s.

I couldn’t identify who gives Zal the kiss — but then, isn’t that the point?  Given the article’s context, Zal’s orientation to the camera, and his centrality and height differential, the inference is that Iraq’s newly elected leaders have no choice but to show fealty because, ultimately, it’s our boss who sanctions the local marriages.

(image: Christoph Bangert/Polaris. January 22, 2006. Baghdad, Iraq. nyt.com)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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