Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Keeping the public out of touch

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From ThinkProgress:

On June 26, a suicide bomber attacked a meeting of tribal sheikhs in Iraq’s Anbar province and killed 20 people, including three U.S. Marines. The episode was widely reported by U.S. media. Zoriah Miller, a photojournalist and blogger embedded with U.S. Marines in Iraq, took pictures of the attack’s grisly aftermath, including one of the fallen soldiers.

The U.S. military, however, was incensed at Miller’s portrayal of the horrors of war and immediately “disembedded” him from his Marine unit. IPS reports on the fall-out:

“Tuesday [Jul. 1] I awoke to a call in their combat operations centre, and the person on the phone told me they were a PAO (Public Affairs Officer) at Camp Fallujah, and he wanted me to take my blog down right away,” Miller told IPS. “I asked them why, and was told then called back after five minutes by a higher ranking PAO who claimed I had broken my contract by showing photos of dead Americans with U.S. uniforms and boots.”

Miller said the PAO claimed he was not allowed, by the embed contract, to show dead or wounded U.S. citizens or soldiers in the field. “I never signed any contract for that,” Miller said.

Miller also told the Ventura County Star that he believed he was within the rules because the victim was unidentifiable. Additionally, he waited to post the pictures until four days after the attack. Miller said that he received strong support from the lower-ranking Marines, who “were on [his] side.”

The military may have realized its case was weak. Two days later, on July 3, Miller received an official letter with a new reason for his dismissal: He had posted “detailed information of the effectiveness of the attack” and therefore “put all U.S. forces in Iraq at greater risk for harm.” Miller explains the military’s spinning:

“The bottom line is that the thing they cited as the reason for my dismissal was ‘information the enemy could use against you’. They realised, probably from keeping track of my blog, that I was not showing identifiable features of a soldier…and they couldn’t find a reason to kick me out. Because it was a high ranking person who got killed, they were all fired up.”

Miller concluded, “Up to that point they said it was because I showed pictures of bodies with pieces of uniform and boots. The letter, though, doesn’t mention that at all. I checked the document I had about ground rules for media embeds, and I followed them.”

Miller now plans on returning to the United States and appealing the military’s decision. “You’re a war photographer, but once you take a picture of what war is like then you get into trouble,” he said.

And from Crooks & Liars, on the same story:

This week US Marines censored an award winning photojournalist – continuing the efforts to make certain we do not see the real results of our actions in Iraq. Zoriah was embedded with a Marine unit documenting the reasons so many soldiers are suffering from PTSD. He was only a block away when another Marine unit was caught up in a suicide bombing in Anbar province:

My hands still shake and my heart pounds despite my fatigue. A combination of depression, fear, and adrenaline makes my thoughts race with the realization that a simple decision was the only thing that seperated me from a body count that grows daily. I look at the images I took on the 26th of June, and realize they do nothing to capture the emotion of being an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Al-Qaeda suicide attack in Karmah/Garma… the smell… the sound of screams and crying.

Zoriah and his unit arrived on the scene shortly after the bombing and he witnessed and photographed the aftermath – including the corpses of 3 US Marines. His photos met all standards set by the agreement embeds sign with the military but he was told to remove the images from his blog. He refused – and he is now being sent out of Iraq.

I truly labored with the decision to post these images and I still do. But in my heart of hearts I know that people need to see and feel the reality of this horrible situation. How can things change if all that comes out of Iraq are sanitized, white-washed images of war designed for mainstream media outlets who focus on making money, not on the quality and truth in what they report?

To the families of the Marines, the interpreters, the Iraqi police, and the civilians killed in the attack: you have my deepest condolences. These men were attending a city council meeting and working together to better their community. Something terrible happened to them when they were in the midst of doing a good thing.

Zoriah’s photographs are graphic – but this is the reality we have created with our war and occupation of the people of Iraq. If we do not see even this small glimpse of the reality of Iraq, how can we, as citizens, understand the actions our government is taking in our names? As he wrote immediately after the bombing:

I want you to observe and comprehend what others live through on a daily basis — to see what the Iraqi civilians and foreign soldiers see. I want people who follow my photography to understand that although I am able to bring images of war to the world in a form of art, what actually goes on here is horror. My message is not that war yields great photography. My message is: War yields human misery and suffering.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2008 at 3:07 pm

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