The discovery of more Abu Ghraib-like images has once again brought to light the question of whether one should publish images of war. Please read the Der Speigel articles including, â€œThe Good Boy and the Kill Team,â€ by Goetz and Hujer and the Rolling Stoneâ€™s, â€œThe Kill Team,â€ by Boal. We recommend these articles because they both give great insight into the nightmare of war, but heed the warnings. The images are graphic.
Our troops are involved in an insurgency war where potential enemies are on every corner, and where comrades are randomly blown apart by IEDs, clearly causing extreme psychological damage that few will ever fully recover from. According to April 2011â€™s Harperâ€™s Index, 455 American soldiers died in combat last year and 407 committed suicide. That fact says volumes. The horror of insurgency wars in no way justifies ambushing innocents, saving carved off digits and holding up bloody heads to pose as the kill team did. They showed off, smiling, as if they had killed a 5 point buck and wanted full credit for it.
Should we hide from what war looks like? Â Should we cover up the hatred, abuse and monstrous behavior some combatants display, or should it be shown in full Technicolor? Â The flood of war images is largely due to the soldierâ€™s ubiquitous cell phones. Â I Â have long concluded that commercial media learned from the Vietnam War that it was impossible to sell products next to napalmed children running down the streets, thousands of caskets, or people being shot at point blank range. Â These images were upsetting and helped foment a massive movement to end war in the late ’60â€™s and ’70â€™s.
The U.S. government, having learned from past mistakes, embedded journalists and tightly controlled all images and news about the Gulf War, to the point of fabricating news stories to help direct public sentiment to favor the war. Â Remember the fraudulent stories of babies being thrown from incubators in Kuwait that helped lead us into the war? Â Coverage of the Gulf War, complete with theme music and logos, looked more akin to a video game, while the horror and devastation caused by bunker busting bomb was almost totally invisible.
The technology of today poses a new threat. Can the military control what armed forces record? People are also turning to Al Jazeera news feeds, which often shows the reality of war, or Russian news (RT.com) which has recently launched an English channel. Will our military, in the not too distant future, remove all recording devices from our armed forces due to the thousands of images that document the reality of war, including what is known as, â€œwar pornâ€?
Joshua Foust brought up a good point on, PBSâ€™s Need to Know. He wrote, â€œHowever, it is extraordinarily rare to see a photo gallery of dead U.S. soldiers, even though more than 5,000 have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade. Two years ago, when the Associated Press ran a photograph of a dead Marine, no less than Defense Secretary Robert Gates lambasted the news organization, at length, for the insensitivity they showed in broadcasting images of the dead Marineâ€™s body over the objections of his family (who, understandably, were hurt by seeing his dead body in the news). I doubt anyone consulted the families of these dead Afghans to see if publishing the images of their lifeless bodies being mutilated for sport by U.S. soldiers would pain them. (In a tiny concession to this idea, the German magazine Der Spiegel blurred the faces of the dead Afghans when it ran photos of this same â€œkill team.â€)â€
War is a failure of civilization and we will repeat the mistake of it until we learn to use our words rather than our fists. Early childhood education for Dummies.