Magazine article Reason

The Truth about War: Photojournalists Capture the Brutal Consequences of When America Attacks

Magazine article Reason

The Truth about War: Photojournalists Capture the Brutal Consequences of When America Attacks

Article excerpt

"We were supposed to go into Iraq, hold elections, turn over the keys, and get out," says photographer Michael Kamber, editor of the new book, Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq (University of Texas Press). "That's not how it works, and we need to think about that next time we get involved in a military adventure."

Lots of marvelous things were supposed to happen in Iraq. Shock and awe would quickly cripple the resistance. Iraqi citizens would welcome American troops as liberators. Weapons of mass destruction would be found. It would all be over by 2003. Mission accomplished.


The 39 photographers featured in Photojournalists on War have a different story to tell. In one shot, the burned bodies of slaughtered American contractors hang from a bridge over the Euphrates. In an image that conveys how violence became integrated into the daily lives of Iraqi children, a boy hopscotches over corpses exhumed from a mass gravesite. Some of the book's 160 photographs have been widely distributed already, their impact indelibly marked in the American mind. Others are being published for the first time.

"The first rule of war is chaos," Kamber told Reason TV. "The first rule of war is you make a plan, and it goes right out the window."

A harrowing work of anti-mythology, the images in Photojournalists on War look nothing like the understated, bloodless snapshots provided by daily newspapers. As the war deteriorated, American and British forces started requiring prior written consent from the military to capture images of wounded soldiers, and they placed an outright ban on photographing dead soldiers. These rules, which were strictly enforced, furthered the hawkish narrative of a remote conflict punctuated by "surgical strikes" and the inevitable march to victory.

It is almost impossible to read Kamber's new book without reflecting on how many of its images were captured by photographers who were later killed, severely injured, or taken captive during the conflict. …

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