Ghost Sortie (2001)
So we got al-Zarqawi. Good. By all accounts, he was a despicable, murderous thug. If his death helps spare lives and quickens the end of this disgraceful, idiotic war, I'll be grateful.
But I find all the tsk-tsking and told-you-soing from the right to be absurdly premature. Capturing Saddam -- and killing his sons, and nabbing "Chemical Ali," and frying big indistinguishable #2 fish almost monthly -- has done nothing to stem the violence and civil unrest.
Zarqawi's death does not suddenly validate BushCo policies. A military objective was achieved -- that's all. The circumstances, ideologies, machinations, and deceptions that committed American armed forces to Iraq have not changed one iota. The bumbling Bush does not suddenly become Sun Tzu overnight.
This was a ghost sortie, but the long term haunting is far from over. How many Zarqawi Mini-Me's has our neoconnish misadventure in Iraq created? Already, just this morning, CNN was warning the American public, in sonorous James Earl Jones tones, about the menace from al-Zawahiri -- al-Zarqawi's second-in-command. It seems we cannot go 24 hours without putting a face on this year's (replacement) model poster boy. Meet the new boss.
Speaking of faces, how about this one?
Lewis Hine, this ain't...
The public display aspect of Zarqawi's death photo plays right into Bush's
recently apologized for "bring it on" rhetoric and cowboy swagger. Didn't we once prop up dead outlaws in coffins in front of saloons -- usually with a misspelled HORSE THEIF sign scrawled and pinned to their bullet-riddled chests? Watch Clint Eastwood's The Unforgiven for a good example.
Yes, we want to show Iraqis that Zarqawi's gone, but there's a museum/freakshow quality found the photo above. Note the tasteful if hasty framing and matting -- and the patrons gathered around to study the piece -- as if it had surreal Arbus qualities.
As someone who prints and frames art, I see an interesting metaphor in the "display" of Zarqawi's death shot. I bet the framers did not use acid free paper and archival inks -- nor was the photo framed to museum-quality standards.
So, the photo will gradually degrade and vanish-- just as the "victory" of Zarqawi's assassination will fade from the public mind. However, the atrocities and bloodshed of Bush's mad made-up "long war" will go on and on.
And what of the pictures we won't see? Those we aren't allowed to see? The pictures revealing neat rows of flag-draped coffins bearing our lost loved ones home.
Those coffins won't be propped up to make a point. Apparently, there's no catapulted propaganda plus side or boogeyman photo-op value to be seen within the frames of those transport planes.