In one of the early posts on this blog I asked, what does peace look like? One answer, I suggested, was that peace appears when you start seeing soldiers as kids rather than as warriors. Let me be clear: I don’t mean that you would see grown men and women as if they were small children, only that you would see that many of the soldiers are still very young. Young adults, perhaps, but young. Like this:
This photograph was taken in Baghdad about a month ago. You can’t predict the future from a photo, but this was the first time that I thought real change for the better might be occurring on the ground. The American has let his guard down so much, the Iraqi is so comfortable in his presence, the photographer is able to capture the moment–all of this bodes well as an indication of a sense of security in ordinary life.
Of course, the soldier still is intruding into someone’s home–something protested in the Declaration of Independence–and both the floor and the view through the doorway suggest that war has turned a nice place into a fixer-upper. More generally, the troop levels, expenses, bases, and everything else being negotiated in the draw-down agreement all portend a protracted and costly transition and then continued military engagement in a client state for decades to come.
But still, what a photograph. The American looks like he should be sitting in a classroom waiting for the bell to ring. The pairing with the civilian boy next to him marks his youth, which is accentuated further by being encased in his military carapace. Obviously, they both should be dressed like the boy on the right; everything else is an unnecessary addition there only to serve the interests of an alien machine far larger than either of them.
The flowers on the wall complete the domestic tableau. Everything fits except the uniform and the gun, which is propped uselessly against his leg, barrel down in the dirt. The boy on the left seems to be thinking about what comes next: that when the break ends he’ll have to pick up his gear and walk out of there. The posture and look of the boy on the right say all that and more. He clearly is waiting for the American to leave. After all, it is his house.
More soldiers and more civilians will die before its over, but maybe, just maybe, scenes like this can become more commonplace and more representative of present and future alike. We’ve seen heroes and victims enough; now it is time to see people as they are. After years of war, that might be what peace looks like.
Photograph by Maya Alleguzzo/Associated Press.