Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Please go to BagNewsNotes

Michael Shaw's outstanding blog, BagNewsNotes, is featuring the work of photojournalist Lori Grinker.

Michael writes:
In response to an inattentive domestic media and the lack of visual documentation, Lori Grinker has been pursuing the story of Iraqi civilians fleeing the war.

In April, and again in September 2007, she traveled to Amman to photograph Iraqis forced to leave their families, homes and livelihoods for a life of cramped, substandard living conditions, inactivity, and waiting for the time when it will be safe to return to Iraq, or hear that they have found sanctuary in another country. And those are the “lucky” ones. Many of her subjects are in Amman to repair their bodies, only to be to be repatriated to a war zone after they are “healed.”

In the case above, the young man (call him Amer) was burned in an explosion while walking past a fuel truck in Baghdad. We see the 16-year old coming out of the recovery room after having surgery to fix the contracted fingers on his right hand. He faced the same surgery on his left hand a couple of month later.

I encourage you to see Lori's work being featured at 'The Bag,' as well as at her own site.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

He Wrote His Own Obituary

I learned about the death of Army Major Andrew Olmsted today in a diary by taylormattd at Daily Kos. Olmsted posted as G'Kar at the blog, Obsidian Wings, contributed to the Rocky Mountain News blog, and for a time maintained his own blog.

I had not heard of him or his work until today.

Olmsted penned his own obituary of sorts, parting words left with a friend to post on his behalf in the event of his death.

Here's one of the things he wrote:
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

I honor Andrew Olmsted's request, because I believe that what he also wrote next is wholly consistent with the purpose of my own small and poorly-traveled blog:
...for those who knew me well enough to be saddened by my death, especially for those who haven't known anyone else lost to this war, perhaps my death can serve as a small reminder of the costs of war. Regardless of the merits of this war, or of any war, I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?

But for those who knew me and feel this pain, I think it's a good thing to realize that this pain has been felt by thousands and thousands (probably millions, actually) of other people all over the world. That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. Because it is pretty clear that the average American would not have supported the Iraq War had they known the costs going in. I am far too cynical to believe that any future debate over war will be any less vitriolic or emotional, but perhaps a few more people will realize just what those costs can be the next time.