Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Dead Iraqi Soldier

with 21 comments

The Gulf War had a great deal of TV coverage, but it was heavily restricted. Supposedly this was to protect sensitive information from Iraqi military tuned to CNN but the reality was that the Pentagon feared a repeat of Vietnam. Many in the Pentagon felt Vietnam was lost because of the press’s unrestricted access to the war. To reduce the number of reporters working on ground, the war was conducted under a pool system, where any press organisation that was a member of that pool had access to everyone else’s work. On the other hand, the Pentagon tightly controlled the pools with government approved reporters and provided military escorts for any field reporting.

Just a few hours before the 1991 Gulf war ceasefire, photographer Ken Jarecke was heading back to Kuwait from Southern Iraq. Jarecke came across a single truck burnt out from airstrike in the middle of a highway. Jarecke told his military escort that “If I don’t make pictures like this, people like my mother will think what they see in war is what they see in movies”, and went over to the burnt tank and took the above photo. At that time, it was an image challenged the prevailing notion that the ‘clinical’ attack avoided ‘collateral damage’.

Jarecke’s photo was sent to the AP office in New York. The AP thought that the photo was too sensitive and too graphic even for the editors of the newspapers that are part of the co-op, and that the decision on whether or not to print the photo should not be left for the editors. They pulled it off the wire. Because of AP’s decision, the photo was unseen in America (although AP staffers made copies for themselves and privately distributed it among the photo circles). In the UK, the London Observer and the Guardian published it, and public debate was not only on “Is this something we want to be involved in?” but also on how graphic pictures should be. Jarecke responded: “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Politics, War

Tagged with , ,

21 Responses

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  1. ““If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.””

    Tedious, cliched, bullshit.


    June 17, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    • I’d disagree on all three points of your argument.
      Tedious – perhaps difficult to swallow, but certainly not due to length or dullness
      cliched – perhaps, if facing the consequences of one’s actions, or the nation that one claims, is a cliche.
      bullshit – certainly not, I believe you should shoot your own dog, if it bites too many people. If you have it in you to call for or support the invasion of a sovereign nation, for any reason, you should have it in you to face the grisly evidence of that invasion’s consequences.

      Tao Joannes

      June 17, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    • NRA much?


      June 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

    • This is not tedious, nor is it cliched or bullshit. An opinion linked to a dismissal linked to a lie do not make you correct. Practice your debating style and try harder in future.

      Charles A Hay

      March 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm

  2. “If we’re big enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it.”
    We should – but that is not what he did. He assumed the role of directing us HOW we should look at the War and WHAT we should see; he selected the views for us filtered through his own ideology and fear.

    The info – again – seems to be confusing here. Is the dead guy behind the wheel of the burnt track is indeed an Iraqi soldier? Then why all this talk about “collateral damage”? If he is proved to be a civilian, why the title?


    June 17, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    • That damn Matthew Brady, that is who you are refering to right?


      June 18, 2010 at 8:06 pm

      • I copied quotation from the post. The authorship of the quotation is clearly stated in the post.

        Pay attention.


        June 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    • I don’t even think it matters, since most people don’t even understand the point.

      War is pain, suffering, torment and tears and blood and so on and so on. Distancing from it makes it easy as it is easy to watch a Hollywood movie about it.

      I don’t care if he is a civilian or military. He is a human being burned alive.

      If that is not enough – then I don’t know what is.


      June 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

      • I’m kind of thinking he didn’t sit there upright and choose to be “burned alive”. The initial impact and concussion of an exploding AGM or “dumb” bomb will kill you right quickly. I seriously doubt it he ever saw the air strike coming, or even knew what hit him. Yes, the picture looks nasty, but I’m sure one minute he was picking his nose with his shit-covered hand (aka toilet paper), and the next he was in Hell waiting on the U.S. to send Saddam there.


        June 30, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    • “He assumed the role of directing us HOW we should look at the War and WHAT we should see; he selected the views for us filtered through his own ideology and fear.”

      LOL, as opposed to the completely unfiltered reporting that we’re used to seeing?


      June 24, 2010 at 4:32 am

      • I’d have no problem with his bias – if he presented it as such, openly.
        But he – and whole NYTimes tradition – pretend what they do is objective journalism.

        That’s a lie.


        June 24, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    • Not many civilians drive military trucks in the middle of war zone.


      August 31, 2010 at 9:06 pm

  3. Chomsky called it “Manufacturing Consent”, in the abortive Afghanistan/Iraq invasions, the strategy is all about protecting the will of the people at home. The Pentagon has also discouraged shots of flag-draped coffins going home on transport planes, lest US citizens begin questioning policy.
    Land of the free to do what they’re told to.

    Sean Og

    June 18, 2010 at 6:04 am

  4. Your American General Eisenhower said it of the holocaust, of a million wrangled bodies, take photos and publish them, because one day some son of a bitch wil say it didn’t happen.

    Balanced Truths

    June 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm

  5. It was a joke, or scarcasm if you prefer. I’m not arguing that it was particularly funny, though. Geez.


    June 20, 2010 at 12:11 am

  6. Hitler’s body was burned, too. If this post featured a photo of that instead, would anybody be writing, “If we’re being enough to fight a war, we should be big enough to look at it”?


    June 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

    • It’s not so much the phrase itself, but the mindless categorical pacifism, that’s what disgusting.
      To that phrase I’d answer: yes, and we are big enough. We look at it, at the bodies of our enemies, and rejoice: we protected the world from worse dangers.

      But those “humanists”…they remind me of an old fable: a cat got smashed by a car. A “progressive” vet will cut her damaged leg off in 10 stages, sloooooowly-slooooooowly. Dropping compassionate tears all the way. And congratulating himself on his humanism and empathy.


      June 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm

      • As a humanist I find your strawman laughable.

        Wars should be fought when necessary, but we should never forget the tragedy that those who are lost are often just honest people wanting little more than to live out their lives.

        I saw no ‘categorical pacifism’ here, rather an underlying message about not hiding the truth of war from those being asked to fight it or to send their sons and daughters to fight it. War shouldn’t be easy and it shouldn’t be made to appear clean, to do so is to lie and when we forget the truth of war it becomes far to easy to engage in wars that aren’t necessary and thereby waste the lives of those who serve in the armed forces.

        Reality is a bitch, and we shouldn’t hide our eyes behind our hands because of that.

        Joel Klinepeter

        July 20, 2010 at 5:21 pm

  7. If i dont remember wrongly, American Photo published this photo in USA at the time. If not the cover, then inside the issue. Cant prove my memory, cos i have tossed those magazines away few years back.


    November 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm

  8. […] visualisation of this war stand out was his iconic image of the blackened, incinerated body of an Iraqi soldier bent over a steering wheel, framed by the empty windscreen of a burnt out truck. As well as being […]

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