As he introduced a segment on the earthquake in China, CNN's Anderson Cooper warned viewers that some of the images to come were harrowing. And so they were, not just the sights of a dead child's hand sticking out from the rubble, but the cries of pain and the devastated faces of those left behind and searching for their loved ones. The power of these images was undeniable. They brought home in such a potent and intimate manner the extent of the human losses, personalizing them even if those people live at the other end of the planet.
It reminded me of the near absolute absence of real images of the daily suffering of the war in Iraq. While we might see the odd video of the aftermath of an explosion, we rarely get to see the devastating images that must exist and that would most certainly turn public opinion (well, the last few people supporting the war) against it. The way the Bush administration banned even the publication of pictures of the coffins coming home draped in the American flag is one of the most shameless acts of manipulation and censorship it has committed. Thank goodness for the tenacity and the courage of people like Russ Kick, the man who challenged the Pentagon under the Freedom of Information Act and managed to publish pictures of the dead soldiers coming home.
Ever since the first Gulf war, the Pentagon has skillfully worked at making the war as abstract as possible, sharing video games-like images of strikes on targets rather than the almost inhuman suffering at the other end of the guns. While I understand the pain that some families may suffer as they see quite vividly the hell that their loved ones have been sent to, I strongly believe that we need to see more violence rather than a sanitized version of what is still a bloody war. Although sometimes it feels like we don't even see any pictures at all, let alone gruesome ones. This war has become almost invisible. While the homes of soldiers are being repossessed in America, their struggle is almost gone from the news reports, displaced by much more viewer-friendly singing contests. I say time to bring back the war - because it's not nearly over yet.