Monday, May 17, 2004

Documenting War

This morning on NPR there was a segment talking about soldiers returning from Iraq with tons of photographic images of their time "in country". Digital photography has become cheap enough that many of the grunts are carrying cameras around with them and taking "Kodak moments" as they watch the chaos develop around them. When they come home, they burn CDs and post these pictures on the internet.

Listening to this, I couldn't help thinking back to Vietnam and how the American people's support for the war was worn down, in part, by the continuous stream of battlefield images being piped into their living rooms over the years of that conflict. The military has tried to crack down on this "problem" over the last two decades by severely restricting the access of the news media, especially TV, to the battlefield.

But now they have a new "problem" to worry about: the raw images of warfare being produced by the soldiers themselves. And these images are even worse then what was shown by the news media. TV news rarely shows pictures of body parts and burned corpses. But these soldier photos capture war in all of its worst aspects. And they are coming back home and sharing these photos with their families and friends.

I wonder how long it will be before the DOD bans soldiers from carrying cameras.

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