Photographing Casualties

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Zoriah Miller's story captured my attention from the time I read the headline: 4,000 U.S. Deaths, and a Handful of Images. What does 4,000 dead look like? Then I realized, while dozens of images comes to mind when I think about the war in Iraq, the only images I associate with U.S. casualties are flag draped coffins and Arlington cemetery.

Miller is a freelance photographer who took images of Marines killed in a suicide attack in Iraq, and after he posted them on the Internet, he was barred from covering the Marines.

The Marines say the issue is security. Miller says its censorship.

What do you think? What do you want to see? Are security concerns sanitizing our view of the war in Iraq? Or are journalists overstepping their bounds?



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I'd like to hear Mr. Miller's thoughts on his appearance this morning on conservative talk show Laura Ingraham's show?

Sent by Sean | 3:46 PM | 8-4-2008

As a former Marine I appreciate what you are doing. In order for the general public to understand what they have signed these soldiers up for...they need to see the affects of war.
Our nation is not viscerally aware we ARE at war. Thank you for your work.

Sent by grace Sanchez | 3:54 PM | 8-4-2008

When I was a young child, I learned about the reality of war by looking through my father's copy of Life's Picture History of WWII. At that young age, it was clear to me that war is terrible and deadly serious. With those images in my mind, I have never glamorized war. I think it would be good for other people to see such photos if they support this war. At least they should know exactly what they are supporting.

Sent by Carol Stewart | 4:02 PM | 8-4-2008

I was just listening to Mr. Miller on air. And what struck me is that this whole power-struggle is about access to truth. His photographs represent the truth in a way that no oral or written account could do. And as the military well knows, the truth is dangerous.

Sent by M. Lafayette | 4:02 PM | 8-4-2008

Here is a angle that may not have been considered yet. The nature of this type of war is different. This enemy uses terror tactics, which includes the use of the media to cause fear and distress among their enemies population and soldiers. Pictures can have a particularly emotional quality to them. We all want freedom of speech, but in this case, our freedom may be used against us. I think we are still trying to figure out as a culture how to balance our freedoms with those that would use them against us.

For example, it is standard policy to not televise the scene when someone takes over a television station. We could argue that this is a limit of freedom of speech. But, by showing this, we are asking for more of the same, as distressed individuals see this as a way to get attention and a platform for their ideas.

I think this situation may have some similarities in the mind of some in leadership. It is not that they are evil, and trying to hide the truth... they just don't want to help the enemy with its goal of discouraging us.

Sent by Rich | 4:03 PM | 8-4-2008

We as Americans like to put a spotless face on war, and speak about operations in catchy phrases that sound good on news reports. Americans are numb to numbers, they need to see the horror and wake up.

On the other side of the coin, I think I would have a very hard time with this if one of those marines were my brother or my son.

Sent by Jeremy | 4:11 PM | 8-4-2008

We should be showing as much of these types of photos as possible especially to the young boys and girls of high school age who are thinking of joining the fun. It was the graphic pictures on the media in the 1960s that helped bring an end to the Vietnam Outing.

It is not disrespectful to the dead, but to the living and the parents of the living soldiers. The disrespect for the dead was accomplished before they died by their commanders and political leaders who put them in this horrifying situation.

In the U.S. we simple glorify war and all it brings by ignorning the horrors or war. How shameless can you get?

There is no honor in war and no war was ever launched for honorable reasons. Wars are caused by the same reasons as common murder.

Sent by Chris | 4:11 PM | 8-4-2008

Whether you "support the war" or just support our countrymen and women fighting in the war, it seems awfully important to me to understand the cost in human lives of this undertaking. The unconscionable sanitization of what they must live through has been a great disservice to our troops perpetrated by both our media and our military, and is only made worse by the inadequate care we have provided them when they have returned. Mr. Miller's photographs and text seem both honest and respectful, and above all are a poignant human record. I don't know that anyone could or should be a "dispassionate" observer at such an event, but he does very well at pointing out that suffering and conscious sacrifice are human experiences that exist on a plane above politics and image-management. We seem to need photographs to remind us that there are very personal and very human stories behind every individual, American and Iraqi, that appears in these photographs. God bless those that live in this war, those that serve to win peace, and those that record the truth of this experience.

Sent by Daniel Opyd | 4:31 PM | 8-4-2008

My nephew was killed in Iraq. He was grievously wounded and lived for three months as a burned and disfigured torso, suffering unimaginable pain.I wish people, and especially other young men, could have seen him. War for political gain and a puppet press that supports such atrocities by concealing the truth from the public are dangerous and shameful allies.

Sent by Kat Lovato | 4:44 PM | 8-4-2008

Before you were embedded, were you told to not display graphic photos of this nature? If you were, you should be disembedded.

You seem indifferent to how the enemy might use your work to motivate himself to do more such violence to our folks? If you can't appreciate that, you should be disembedded.

You seem indifferent to how seeing these imagages might affect the families and loved ones of the fallen soldiers and marines. You seem to have rationalized their feelings in a way that absolves you of any responsibility for the dergree of their grief and horror. If any of that is true, even in the slightest, you should be disembedded.

Did you ask the men you were embedded with for their permission/approval to publisize these images? Did you even give them a heads-up? If not, you should be disembedded.

I suspect you were motivated to publish these images by a mixture of your own politics and arrogance. I'm glad you were disembedded.

Sent by Joe | 5:14 PM | 8-4-2008

When did investigative journalism die?
Thousands of Americans are dead, billions of dollars spent - and you are asking your audience if your lack of reporting is a story?
No, the story is the story, not what reporters are doing and certainly not what we think about it.

How many Americans would have died and recieved life altering wounds as a result of terrorism between March 2003 and now? Would it have been more than 4,000 dead and a hundered thousand cases of PTSD? Would they have wrecked the econommy, the housing market and caused four trillion dollars in damage?

Any takers?

Sent by Christopher M. Brown | 7:52 PM | 8-4-2008

Pictures speak lounder than words...just as this one does. Remember, at the begining of this war flag draped coffins in Arlington were also censored...

Sent by T. Janssen | 9:09 PM | 8-4-2008

Definitely censorship! However, if you compare American News to European news censorship is the norm in America.

Sloth leads to lemming behavior . . .

Sent by Sue | 9:52 PM | 8-4-2008

I am worried by the bloggers who say this is a "different" type of war and showing the actual cost of suicide bombs and combat aids our enemies. This is the same mindset as the Bush government saying that everything changed on 9/11/01. War is war and it is a serious and brutal endeavor. The populace needs to understand these costs to be informedand make wise decisions. Censorship of this type is not acceptable in a democratic government.
For those who say that no one outside of the military has the right to make these decisions, I can only say that is the description of a military dictatorship.

Sent by JKB | 11:59 AM | 8-5-2008

Who among us regret Matthew Brady's decision to preserve a photographic record of the Civil War? His photographs have always filled me with reverence, awe, and musings about human inhumanity to humans. Although his graphic images of "corpses" stacked like cordwood following many now-famous battles have been revealed to be rather artfully arranged, their horror carries through the centuries and makes some of us think that war is an undertaking that should not be lightly conceived or blithely carried out. I think the photographic record of war honors the dead -- if it shames the living numbskulls who got us into this mess by lies, treachery, and deceitthen so be it. Honestly, had Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz (et al -- too many to name) ever seen a theater of war firsthand, perhaps the outcome in Afghanistan and Iraq would be different. Wise up, people! Real warriors don't wish war on anybody, nor do they shrink from its effects. All of this death and destruction has been done in our names. Look upon it.

Sent by Kate Scrivener | 12:35 PM | 8-5-2008