Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 6, 2014

Soul Searching Photos Replace “Shock and Awe” as Defense Industry Leads Us into Next Iraq War

One thing that’s interesting about these powerful photos of Camp Al Asad, the scrap yard in Anbar Province for decimated U.S. military hardware, is that we’re only seeing them now. They were taken in 2006 as Iraq, rocked by sectarian violence, was descending into civil war. Produced for Gannett Government Media, publishers of such military and defense publications as: Air Force Times; Armed Forces Journal; Army Time; C4ISR & Networks; Defense News; Federal Times; Marine Corps Times; Military Times; Military Times Edge; Navy Times; This Week in Defense News and Training & Simulation Journal, they apparently never saw the light of day. (At least, no commercial publication history comes up for them on Google search.)

If the photos would have made potent examples back in the day, how do they read now as they appear in this photo spread in Politico Magazine?

In a statement as concerned as the eloquent imagery produced by the fine photographer, M. Scott Mahaskey, embedded on behalf of Gannett Government Media at the time and now Politico’s Director of Photography, the introduction of the photo essay states:

On the brink of another conflict largely stemming from that previous one, the photos are a rare and sobering look back at the immense destruction wrought by a war that turned out to be far more costly—in both blood and treasure—than anyone predicted.

First, let’s not be naive. Plenty of people were raising hackles over the trumped up evidence of WMD or the fact the neocon Bush Administration was chomping at the bit to attack Iraq way before 9/11. Cost was no object. Second, Gannett’s industry publications and Defense News championed a military industrial complex that found itself rolling in treasure from the manufacture of all this now blood-stained materiel.

I’m really struck by the headlight/eyeball and the shrapnel-riddled door, each carcass in the slideshow an echo of those humans that made them go.  And if these images are haunting enough alone, they become even more so when you recall those political firestorms over under-armored Humvees and inadequate body armor.

And as we roll almost mutely into another war, surely the intent of these newly fresh photos is cautionary, the purpose merely to have us take a hard look. At the same time, however, when you consider the source, there is no end of high-priced hardware once more ready to burn.

(photos: M. Scott Mahaskey/Gannett Government Media. caption 1: The military scrapyard at Camp Al Asad. caption 2: Shrapnel rips through a door of a heavily armored U.S. military HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, aka “Humvee.”)

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