No Caption Needed is a book and a blog, each dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society. No caption needed, but many are provided. . . .

March 20th, 2008

Iraq War Anniversary: Notes from the Charnel House

Posted by Hariman in no caption needed, visualizing war

“Anniversary” hardly seems like the right word, but that’s what is being used to mark five years of war in Iraq. The New York Times is devoting a lot of print and digital coverage to the start of the sixth year of the war. Their interactive time line is particularly depressing, not least because the Times still isn’t admitting to its complicity in the rush to war. For example, the photo selection suggests that Saddam was a casus belli and that the toppling of his statue was a popular uprising rather than a media event staged by the military in concert with our puppet du jour and international pariah Ahmed Chalabi. Even so, the truth gets through. Like this:


I can barely stand it. Death–stupid, senseless death–is right there in front of us. And mess–the unholy mess of war and especially of this miserable, unnecessary, pathetic war. The whole scene is an allegory: the room obviously is not equipped for the emergency that has developed; the mutilated body (politic) has been bombed and then abandoned, leaving only horror and waste and indignity.

The photograph accompanies notes from the field by the photographer, Max Becherer. The caption reads, “A hospital worker in Kirkuk cleaned up after doctors tried, and failed, to save Mahmood al-Obaidei, a car-bomb victim, in 2005.” What hospital worker? I hardly noticed the orderly, who could as well be a department store mannequin. If you look closely you can see that he is alive but hardly a model of can-do professionalism. Nor can you blame him, as he too is dispirited, pushing a piece of the carnage with his foot like a kid with a mashed toad, not able to leave and not knowing what to do now that nothing really matters any more.

Becherer reports that minutes before the staff had been working furiously to save the bombing victim, who was responding to a defibrillator, only to have the power go out. Mahmood al-Obaidei, Kirkuk, death due to roadside bomb and power failure. The same could be said of the occupation.

Photograph by Max Becherer/Polaris for the New York Times.

6 Responses to ' Iraq War Anniversary: Notes from the Charnel House '

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  1. Michael said,

    on March 20th, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Amen, brother.

  2. a.m. said,

    on March 22nd, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Very well put.

  3. Rob said,

    on October 7th, 2008 at 6:57 am

    For or against the war, absolutely heartbreaking photo. A viable win or get out strategy needs to be found.

  4. deathtoiraq said,

    on October 22nd, 2008 at 11:00 am

    fuck iraqis they all need to die like seriously they fucking took planes and crashed them into the WTC buildings the fucking pentagon and tried to crash it somewhere else and you mother fucking peace lovers want to pull our soldiers out of the war fuck you guys seriously if we pull out that gives them a bigger chance to do something like that again to us and if you dont like what i am saying then fuck you because you arent american if you dont want to defend this country we already had so many other terrorist attempts on us and you still want us to pull out no fuck that i hate peace lovers and plus i am going to be a marine next september and i will kill as many iraqis as they killed americans you people think we are over there for the fucking oil no we are not over there just for that we are taking action against them and were still looking for Binladen every action has an equal and opposite reaction and thats what we are fucking doing reacting to what happened

  5. Hariman said,

    on October 22nd, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Hey, deathtoiraq, you’re being jerked around big time by someone. It was Saudis who rammed the plans into the WTC towers, not Iraqis. And the Bush administration pulled the troops off the hunt for Bin Laden to go into Iraq, which had nothing–and I mean nothing–to do with 9/11. We might as well have invaded Peru.

  6. wxy12 said,

    on January 3rd, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Hey deathtoiraq,

    You sound like an uninformed, unintelligent, uncontrollable psychopath; unfit to be a marine

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