July 2, 2006

Only The Dead (And Right Wing) Have Seen The End Of War


Where’s my copy of Catch-22?

The Administration gets completely smacked down by the Supremes for their terror detention policy and the Repugs crow how that’s a good thing.  The situation in Iraq keeps getting worse, with the country tilting toward civil war, and the Repugs declare how the war is their best issue.

To make a read on a political image, you’ve got to get a fix on the politics itself.

The photo above accompanied a NYT article on June 29th entitled “Iraq War Ends Silently for One American Soldier.”  It shows soldiers — including one on a stretcher — engaged in a somber ritual, offering a final salute to a fallen comrade before the body is sent home.

To appreciate this story, however, you have to see the June 26th Filkin’s piece that preceded it, titled  “U.S. and Iraq Take Ramadi a Neighborhood at a Time.“  That article featured a photo I took issue with last week at HuffPo.  That image, which ran on the front page, showed a soldier walking past a serviceman’s boot.  The caption stated that an American soldier had died on that spot, near Ramadi, the day before.

My problem with the “boot image” and the article had to do with tone.  In both, the death of an American soldier is treated as callously matter-of-fact.  To the credit of Mr. Filkins and photographer Joao Silva, however, the second article (which I’m speculating had to do with the soldier who owned the boot) is as close as you can come to a eulogy with a straight news story.

Which leads back to politics.

This deep into the war, with things going south so fast, you would think a picture like this would reflect terribly on the Administration.  We are literally bleeding from a policy that continues to defy logic, and our presence in the Sunni-Shiite crossfire grows more ambiguous by the day.  Seems clear, right?  Except that the Cheney’s and the Frist’s and the little Lindsey Graham’s now see pictures like this as an excellent endorsement for the war, and as fine raw material for the upcoming election season.

In this latest Republican alternate reality, these soldiers stand (those that can) for platitudes.  Forget the situation on the ground, or what many or any of these men might be thinking in their private thoughts.  Forget the qualified comments of the dead soldier’s commander.  (“I don’t know if this war is worth the life of Terry Lisk, or 10 soldiers, or 2,500 soldiers like him….”)

Because, when the conservatives read this picture, they know exactly what the soldiers think.  You can just see it on those faces, can’t you — the way they declare the cause as just, and the victory as inevitable?

(image: Joao Silva for The New York Times.  June 28, 2006.  Ramadi.  nyt.com)

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Michael Shaw
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