Ignoring the Obvious: Tragedy Begets Tragedy

Just a quick take on pickup photo coverage in the wake of the American soldier shooting 16 unarmed Afghans.

Placing this image by Ahmad Nadeem (Reuters) at the end of their photo coverage, the NYT clearly saw the visual metaphor present in this otherwise routine news image. Without the context of the tragedy, we recognize again the image we’ve seen for 11 years: camouflaged soldiers, small arms, and a crowd milling about on the scene of mind-numbing (and often groundless) tragedy.

But looking at what this familiar scene represents, do we ignore what’s being depicted visually? The caption couldn’t be simpler: “Afghan soldiers keep watch from inside the American base.” The ANA soldiers’ helmets are beaten and weathered; their uniforms don’t match—starkly contrasting the modern, idealized American military we’re used to seeing. Below them, a crowd of Afghans waits around. No US troops are seen in the photo (not to say they aren’t present, though).

This seems like an easy one.

Violence perpetuates in war, but as this conflict continues to drag through the sand, ever-present collateral damage spreads even further, especially as we focus on homefront politics and what this extended engagement has come to mean for American reality today. History repeats itself, and the visual metaphor here couldn’t be more clear, so one has to wonder: what’s it going to take to read the signs?


We can’t stomach this. Tragedy begets tragedy.


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