It seems that our mainstream media is obsessed with mangled bodies, blood, gore, and death. How else do you explain this article from the New York Times? David Carr spends two pages whining about how unfair it is that the Army makes it hard to take photos of wounded and dead American soldiers.
Since last year, the military's embedding rules require that journalists obtain a signed consent from a wounded soldier before the image can be published. Images that put a face on the dead, that make them identifiable, are simply prohibited.
Ashley Gilbertson, a veteran freelance photographer who has been to Iraq seven times and has worked for The New York Times, (along with Time and Newsweek among others), said the policy, as enforced, is coercive and unworkable.
"They are basically asking me to stand in front of a unit before I go out with them and say that in the event that they are wounded, I would like their consent," he said. "We are already viewed by some as bloodsucking vultures, and making that kind of announcement would make you an immediate bad luck charm."
I think this shows where Mr. Gilbertson's priorities lie. He's far more interested in photos of dead and dying soldiers than he is in photos of combat, photos of soldiers on patrol, photos of Iraqi children, Iraqi marketplaces, Iraqi schools, or anything else. He comes across as a man interested only in portraying the death and destruction in Iraq. There is death and destruction in Iraq. But there is much more as well. Photographers like Michael Yon and Michael Fumento manage to capture that. The mainstream media seems uninterested in the effort.
Journalists are frustrated with the new regulations in part because, as this current surge has progressed, there have been further pinches on information. On May 13, the Iraq Interior Ministry said bombing sites would be off limits for an hour after an event; just days later, Iraqi police forces fired shots over the heads of working press to enforce the decree.
The Iraqi police want time to investigate a bomb scene -- in a war zone -- before reporters trample all over it. That the reporters think this is an egregious violation of their rights says far more about them than it does about the Iraqi police. None of it good.
Meanwhile Peter Collier (at the Wall Street Journal editorial page) laments the way the media has ignored recent Medal of Honor winners.
Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.
Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict--a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent's grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham's Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.
Not long ago I was asked to write the biographical sketches for a book featuring formal photographs of all our living Medal of Honor recipients. As I talked with them, I was, of course, chilled by the primal power of their stories. But I also felt pathos: They had become strangers--honored strangers, but strangers nonetheless--in our midst.
As we celebrate Memorial Day today, let us remember -- not the images of broken bodies, but the heroism, purpose, and valor that inspired that sacrifice. Don't reduce Memorial Day to simply a remembrance that the men and women of our Armed Forces have died in combat. Remember what they fought for, why they fought for it, and what they've accomplished in the process.
Many of the men in Iraq and Afghanistan have re-enlisted multiple times since the wars started. They obviously believe that there is a job worth doing. Honor them for that and quit whining about not being allowed to photograph their injuries.