Wednesday, July 02, 2008

a hard rain's a-gonna fall

we interrupt this steady stream of escapism to sound a more serious note.

once upon a time, way long ago, a young intern named kit roane arrived at the old weekly paper the l.a. reader, where i worked back in the last century. he was from texas, sent my way by my sister deb, who at the time was TA-ing a philosophy class at UT in austin. kit was a scrappy young fella who wrote poetry, chewed tobacco, and generally wanted to be where the action was at all times. when the first gulf war happened, he lined up some assignments and made a beeline for the frontlines.

he become a serious photojournalist/reporter, having worked for such esteemed pubs as u.s. news & world report and the new york times. you can see some of his stuff on his website. i've heard from him on occasion over the years, and today i got a couple of notices about a fellow photog who posts to the collective warshooter website -- "a portal for photojournalists covering conflict, crisis & disaster."

the first notice was about the post this photographer, zoriah, a seasoned disaster documentarian, made on the aftermath of a suicide bombing in anbar last thursday that killed 20 iraqi civilians and 3 u.s. marines. you can see it here, BUT DON'T LOOK IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE GRAPHIC IMAGES, BLOOD, AND BODY PARTS.

zoriah's accompanying text tells the story of what he saw and shot that day. (but the photo above is the AP shot that accompanied the new york times report i linked to above. it shows the body of the mayor of the town of garma, in anbar, who was killed in the bombing. the story by alissa j. rubin, a great reporter and formerly of the l.a. times, provides a different kind of context.)

I don’t want my message to be that war yields great photography; I want my message to be that war yields human misery and suffering. --zoriah

anyway, it's powerful stuff. so, naturally, the marine corps demanded he remove the post. when he refused, they revoked his embed status and sent him on his way back to the green zone. the reason given was that rules state that photos can't show any identifying features (name tags, etc.) of dead/injured troops. he said he was careful not to do that, and even reassured himself by showing the shots to several marines to make sure he hadn't before posting them. so then:

I was told that the Marine Corps would not allow even the pants or shoes of a injured or killed Marine to be depicted in images, This was a rule I had never been told or even heard of and I refused to remove the blog post. It seemed insane to me that the Marines would embed a war photographer and then be upset when photographs were taken of war.

can't argue with the guy's logic -- except, i suppose, to say that this whole damn war is insane, so a little bit of arbitrary access-yanking is practically to be expected. which doesn't make it any less disturbing.

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