March 18, 2013

Iraq War + 10: Bridging the Differences (Graphic)

Kuni Takahashi Baghdad 03 Lightbox

I am daunted by the quality of the Lightbox slideshow (“A Decade of War in Iraq: The Images That Moved Them Most“) commemorating the ten year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. I feel a powerful connection to this story having analyzed the media imagery from Iraq from the start as well having published and written about original imagery from the likes of BagNews contributors Alan Chin and Nina Berman, as well as Chris Hondros, Michael Kamber, Ashley Gilbertson, Christoph Bangert, Rita Leistner, Kael Alford, Peter Van Agtmael and many others.

Khalid Mohammed Fallujah bridge Lightbox

As a modest remembrance, I’m interested in two pairs of photos, the first the war’s most ironic bookends, the images capturing the Bush Administration’s manic fantasy, on the one hand, and the bitter awakening about what it had gotten us into, on the other. (I link to the captions/photographer accounts at Lightbox in the credits.) Simply, however, the first photo, by Kuni Takahashi, was taken at a bridge leading into Baghdad near the beginning of the war. The gung ho expressions reflect the optimism, as US troops sailed into the capital, that the war would be a piece of cake.

Its doppelgänger, if that’s an appropriate assignation, is the famous, and fateful image from a year later of military contractors, one an American, charred beyond recognition and hanging from a bridge in Fallujah.

Haviv Firdos Square Lightbox

Kozyrev Logar Leaving Afghanistan

The second pair are bookends, too — at least temporal ones, the first photo being Ron Haviv’s brilliant image pulling back the curtain on America’s hand in pulling down the Saddam statue in Firdos Square. It’s the image we all knew existed but, in light of the propaganda, we knew we weren’t going to see. Ron’s photo is juxtaposed with a shot from another recent Lightbox photo essay, Yuri Kozyrev’s slideshow documenting America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan that was published about two weeks ago. (I analyzed several of the images here.)

Talk about bringing the wars full circle. What I’m interested in is the dialogue between the ropes and chains — how the cabling once used to engineer the justification for an illegal war  is, ten years later, employed in the mundane task of collecting up our concrete barriers.

Afghanistan and Iraq Wars at Bag

(photo 1: Khalid Mohammed—AP March 31, 2004 caption/recollection: here at 2: Kuni Takahashi, April 7, 2003 caption/recollection: here at LightBox. photo 3: Ron Haviv—VII, April 9, 2003 caption/recollection: here at LightBox. photo 4: Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME caption: A soldier from Bull Battery, 4-319th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion loads concrete blocks on a truck in preparation for leaving Forward Operating Altimur, Logar Province, Afghanistan.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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