Dead Iraqi Soldier
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.”