Posted April 19th 2012 at 8:26 am by
in Perspectives on Current Events

When a Soldier's Photos Go Public

The photos of US Troops posing with dead Afghan bodies released by the Los Angeles Times are shocking but they speak the truth, and the truth is subjective in this case. There is a huge gap between those who took the photos and those who have to look at them. This is reality for the soldiers who are trained to fight like killing machines and these photos are perception of their experiences. The average U.S. citizens reading their daily papers at home may not be aware of the realities of the war(s) that their armies are fighting abroad.

These photos bring that war home and serve as a reality check to all those who have looked the other way after doing their bit of marching against the war a few years back. It is clearly not in the interest of the fighting allied governments that their taxpaying citizens see what these governments are doing. There is ‘disciplinary action’ taken if or when such photos reach mass media, but what of all the atrocities that were not recorded with camera? And one wonders if the disciplinary action is to control the urge to take photos, or is their crime the fetishizing of war deaths? The soldiers themselves must be confused, because they obviously have been paid to kill and think that they have done a heroic deed by using their state of the art weapons against their enemies. So what is wrong with using a mobile phone camera for recording the heroism afterwards?

As a filmmaker, although I should, I tend not to watch all the Oscar-nominated films about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is because they are unbearable to watch; I am not interested in the life of the soldier and his adventures abroad. But I prefer to see these raw photos taken by soldiers rather than filmmakers or journalists because they are not attempting half-heartedly to make an unbiased presentation.  Ultimately all these war stories, photos and films are important for the same reasons we learn history; to avoid making the same mistakes again.

These moronic soldiers have probably seen so much death and destruction that they think they are on holiday abroad. Some may be too young to know what they are doing while others are clearly psychotic enough to delve in their violent acts. Why did the soldiers take these photos? So they could share them with their friends and families and show off their heroic pursuits. And why should they not be then shared with their other fellow citizens to see what their governments are up to abroad?

Kabul's Old City wall / Le mur de la vieille ville à Kaboul

Kabul’s old city wall. Photo Credit: Canada in Afghanistan on Flickr.

I often wonder why we don’t see more images of the damage that drones are doing on the Eastern Pak-Afghan border. We are after all living in modern times where every journalist has access to a camera. Is it that journalists don’t go to places where so-called suspected militants and their families are bombed by drones in the sky? What is shown in mainstream media is tightly controlled and the innocent citizens are ‘protected’ from seeing the actual horrors of war.

The photos are as real as any other journalistic account of the war and therefore should be published. What is in the photos may be criminal, but so are the wars that are being fought.  While these photos are an embarrassment to the U.S. Army, they are more importantly a wake-up call for the rest.

Post by Seemab Gul.


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