"[This book] embodies the Buddhist wisdom about change, life, and the
world more than anything written after the events of that day."
Robert Stone

July 2008 Archives

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July 27, 2008


Michael Kamber and Tim Arango filed a front-page story in The New York Times this weekend that should give every journalist a jolt. They described the swift and blanket retribution that the U.S. military brought to bear on a half dozen photographers who dared publish images of American war dead during this five-year fiasco.

While reading their in-depth investigation, I was reminded of the restrictions placed on combat photographers and their assigning publications during World War II up through the Gulf War and realized yet again how little the media consumer sees of palpable reality. If we are to believe the coverage of the current conflict, we are witnessing the damnedest war ever fought: a war without coffins; a war without battlefield casualties; a war fought on the cheap (in which our soldiers have lacked proper equipment and loved ones have had to raise funds to send flak-jackets) that has nonetheless escalated to $1 trillion; a war that has generated 4,000 military funerals – which the war’s commander-in-chief routinely declines to attend. We even have a stage-managed war zone purported to be “safe” by its new cheerleader, John McCain, even as he walks through an Iraqi bazaar surrounded by a cordon of armed attendants, a swarm of helicopters flying overhead. (For an extended essay on Iraq as “A War Waged in Images,” see pages 293-307 of Watching the World Change, a section that expands on an article I wrote for American Photo in 2003 and published online on The Digital Journalist Website.)

In our newspapers, on our websites, throughout our television broadcasts, death’s face is in the shadows, in the numbers, in between the lines. But in victims' nightmares and in soldiers’ gunsites and fever dreams – and in the memories’ viewfinders of every photojournalist who has covered this conflict – death stares back with a gaze as cold and steady as the moon’s.

...And while we're on the subject...please telescope back to March 2008 to read photographer Max Becherer’s chilling account of his five years in Iraq, published in the Times on the fifth anniversary of the start of the war.

...AND SPEAKING OF McCAIN and OBAMA check out these two satricial postings on VanityFair.com.

July 17, 2008


This e-mail from John C. Browne, of St. George, Utah…

“As you point out, everyone has a 9-11 story.

“I was on Capitol Hill that day, having a meeting with the Senate Armed Services committee staff - in the Senate Hart Building (I was Director of Los Alamos National Lab at the time) and after seeing the TV footage of the World Trade Center immediately called my staff at Los Alamos to tell them to increase security levels.

“I then walked across the Capitol grounds just as the word came that another plane had hit the Pentagon. (We could actually see the smoke!) The Capitol police told us another plane was headed toward the Capitol building and directed us toward the subways. Since we were involved in a lot of counter-terrorism technology, I knew that the subway could be a target as well - especially for a bio-attack - so I walked about 10 blocks to the Department of Energy and got involved in some of the CT response.

“….It was one of the most challenging periods of my life - our people at Los Alamos were involved in the over-flights of NYC to determine the hazardous nature of the smoke content and then the analysis of the anthrax samples and the interrogation of DC mail.

“My biggest terrorism concern still surrounds a nuclear device stolen and smuggled into one of the world's capitals - people are working hard on this but it is a very challenging problem.

“…As you said, no one ever forgets that day. I am glad you wrote your book and shared the images of 9-11.”

July 6, 2008


Despite the best-laid plans, the Memorial at Ground Zero will be nowhere near completion by the tenth anniversary of the attacks, in 2011. Read it and weep.


...Are we slowly making inroads against al-Qaeda in the tribal areas on the Afghan-Pakistan border or is al-Qaeda growing more secure and empowered? Over the past week or two, I’ve read several diametrically opposed stories on this subject.

Which brings to mind dueling articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times which ask, in effect, is al-Qaeda winning over hearts and minds with an escalating presence on the Internet (as Craig Whitlock suggests in the Post) or is the terrorist group’s online offensive tired and anachronistic (as Daniel Kimmage writes in the Times)?


Two Hunter Thompson epics out this weekend –

The new documentary, Gonzo, bursing with insight and energy, is now in theaters. CLICK HERE to see the killer trailer.

And William McKeen, chair of the journalism department at the University of Florida, Gailesville, has just published, Outlaw Journalist. Gonzo and Outlaw make a great, spiked one-two punch for Independence Day.