October 7, 2011

War Games

Iran marked it’s defense week at the end of last month with a vast display of units and hardware. Among the photographs of the parade was this rather odd image. I saw it in print in the South China Morning Post, Reuters carried it in their spot news slideshow, and it was also captured in this UPI gallery of the military parade.

None of the captions cast any light on the reason for this units’ striking outfits. Resembling the British television game show “Gladiators,” where participants battled each other with padded implements, these soldiers were very different from their conventionally attired comrades. The picture is testament to the photographer’s eye for the exotic, the distinctive, the unexpected.

One detail that stands out is the Addidas logo on each blue or red vest. Is part of the Iranian army sponsored by the European sports wear company? More than unlikely, but it points nonetheless to the close relationship of sport and war. Think of the military metaphors that permeate sport (such as ‘battles’ over ‘territory)’, and the sport analogies present in the reporting of war (famously including General Schwarzkopf’s ‘hail Mary’ pass in the 1991 Gulf War).

The photograph also prompts a fantasy. What if international conflict was resolved through game shows? Any prospective regional clash with Iran might see ‘the Addidas unit’ take on their opponents over three rounds. It would certainly beat another war.

— David Campbell

(photo: Maryam Rahmania/UPI.  caption: Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade on September 22, 2011 in front of the mausoleum of the Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, Iran. The parade marks the beginning of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.)

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David Campbell
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