This week US forces censored an award winning photojournalist – continuing the efforts to make certain we do not see the real results of our actions in Iraq. Zoriah was embedded with a Marine unit and by sheer chance was a block away with one unit when another was caught up in a suicide bombing in Anbar:
My hands still shake and my heart pounds despite my fatigue. A combination of depression, fear, and adrenaline makes my thoughts race with the realization that a simple decision was the only thing that seperated me from a body count that grows daily. I look at the images I took on the 26th of June, and realize they do nothing to capture the emotion of being an eyewitness to the aftermath of the Al-Qaeda suicide attack in Karmah/Garma… the smell… the sound of screams and crying.
I want you to observe and comprehend what others live through on a daily basis — to see what the Iraqi civilians and foreign soldiers see. I want people who follow my photography to understand that although I am able to bring images of war to the world in a form of art, what actually goes on here is horror. My message is not that war yields great photography. My message is: War yields human misery and suffering.
Zoriah and his unit arrived on the scene shortly after the bombing and he witnessed and photographed the aftermath – including the bodies of 4 US Marines. His photos met all standards set by the agreement embeds sign with the military but he was told to remove the images from his blog . He refused – and he is now being sent out of Iraq. We’ll have a chance to chat live with Zoriah when he returns to the US but in the meantime, his posts about this experience are essential reading. The images are graphic – but this is the reality we have created with our war and occupation of the people of Iraq.
While the military has made excuses that Zoriah’s photo’s first might upset the families and second might give away strategic information, the real reasons are clear – to hide the truth from us.
Hiding truth, making certain we do not see and do not count the realities of Iraq –leads us to become desensitized and diluted in our opposition to this occupation. How little we see – and how little our representatives are called to answer for. And with war presented as a sanitized geopolitical maneuver, we more easily move closer to more horror – this time with Iran.
Along with courageous witnesses like Zoriah, the ACLU is doing their best to uncover the truth. This week they published thousands of pages of NCIS documents – the latest results of their efforts to bring to light the killing of civilians by US forces in Iraq:
"As these files remind us, many charges of war crimes in Iraq have not seen the light of day," said Michael Pheneger, a retired Army intelligence colonel who is also a board member of the ACLU. "There are many discoveries here that should bring pause to any American who cares about this country and hopes to restore the United States’ respected role in the world. It is time to bring the facts about this war into the sunlight and end practices that go against our laws and national values."
The files are available here and the tales they uncover are another reminder of the inhumanity of our treatment of Iraqis covered up daily.
Similar crimes are also occurring in Afghanistan – and once again, the coverup is in full force. On Friday, US forces killed and wounded 15 people – all reported to be civilians – in a missile strike in Nuristan province. Karzai was in the midst of ordering an investigation of that attack when word came that 22 people including 19 women and children in a wedding party were killed by a US missile strike in Nangarhar province:
"The wedding participants were on their way to the groom’s house," Wazir said outside the hospital, his tunic covered in blood after carrying some of those wounded.
"They stopped in a narrow location for rest. The plane came and bombed the area. There were between 80 to 90 people altogether," he said. "We have carried six of the injured to this hospital, and more might be coming. The exact number of casualties is not clear."
The response from our forces:
Coalition media officer Capt Christian Patterson told AFP they had received no reports of civilian casualties.
"It was not a wedding party, there were no women or children present," he said.
Unfortunately for Capt Patterson, several news sources have photos and video of some of the victims arriving at hospital – yet another reminder of how valuable the work of war photographers like Zoriah is – without them, even more of the truth would be hidden.
Photo credit: © Zoriah/www.zoriah.com : blog use permitted
Worth reading: Bringing Ireland to Baghdad: How the Resistance Will Eventually Kick the Americans Out by Gary Brecher and Dahr Jamail’s report on the attack on the brutal attack on Muhammad Omer by Israeli forces when Muhammed was returning home to Palestine after receiving the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London – Yet another reminder of how desperate the forces of inhumanity are to silence those who try to tell the real story.
And don’t miss Laura Doty’s new blog – JustPeaceNow.
H/T+ to MadDog for links and the introduction to Zoriah!