Censorship hides impact of war
The cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is constantly touted in debates: the financial debt that will burden our children, the damage to the United States’ image abroad and the growing risk of terrorist blowback. But too many times we forget the human tragedy of war: the 4,000-plus American service men and woman who have died remains an abstract concept. The horror of each individual death seems to be lessened in public discourse when represented with numbers in the form of statistics.
Images seem to have the power to break this barrier. An image shows that what is just a number now was previously a person who lost his or her life. Pictures have the ability to excite, motivate and inform with a power words alone cannot convey. Given this, it makes sense that the government would want to control the images coming out of Iraq.
When Zoriah Miller, a freelance photographer, took images of Marines and Iraqis killed in a June 26 suicide attack and posted them on his Web site, he became the latest target in a censorship campaign that has been raging since this war began. In retaliation, Miller was prohibited from being embedded with U.S. soldiers and was prohibited from traveling in Marine-patrolled areas of Iraq. The New York Times reported that Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the commander in Iraq, attempted to have Miller barred from all U.S. military facilities throughout the world.
There were no embedding rules dictating that a picture of dead servicemen cannot be posted. Miller had checked with the Marines who were on hand, waited until the families were notified and tried to represent the image in a manner that made the bodies not identifiable.
The official reason he was punished was that he had violated his signed embed agreement, which stated not to divulge "any tactics, techniques and procedures witnessed during operations," and not to provide "information on the effectiveness of enemy techniques."
The violation accusation is absurd. The images alone in no way disclosed U.S. tactics, and the "effectiveness of enemy techniques" would have been equally applied to any report of the event. The text news reports alone would have provided more information about the acts, as reports carry information on the casualties of U.S. servicemen and women.
The retaliation against Miller is political. Miller reported something in a manner this government did not want reported, and he was punished. This is yet another sign that it is up to the government to decide what is okay for the American public to see and not to see. The government does not want us to know the full extent of horror this war has brought on the people of Iraq and the servicemen and women who are there.
Do officials fear that if we could truly see the real human cost of this war that public dislike would turn to outrage? Probably. But, in the end, did you really expect anything different?
Gilson, a business sophomore, can be reached via [email protected]