US censorship of war casualties (a must read)

Posted on July 28, 2011


Censorship of war casualties in the US – Opinion – Al Jazeera English. more and more (though still few and far between) I’m seeing articles that are honestly discussing what is happening in american politics.  This is a pretty long article, and i highly suggest reading it, but here are some of the points i found particularly important and/or interesting:

The United States claims to be a shining beacon of democracy to the world. And many of the citizens of the world believe it. But democracy is about responsiveness and accountability – the responsiveness of political leaders to an engaged and informed electorate, which holds that leadership class accountable for its mistakes and misdeeds. How to explain Americans’ acquiescence in the face of political leaders who repeatedly lead it into illegal, geopolitically disastrous and economically devastating wars of choice?

The dynamics of US public opinion have changed dramatically since the 1960s, when popular opposition to the Vietnam War coalesced into an antiestablishmentarian political and cultural movement that nearly toppled the government – and led to a series of sweeping social reforms whose contemporary ripples include the recent move to legalise marriage between members of the same sex.


US military actions in Libya, Yemen and Somalia barely register. Most in the US aren’t even aware that they exist or, for that matter, where they are. According to a March 2011 poll, only 58 per cent of Americans knew that Libya is in North Africa.

Jonathan Schell, writing in The Nation, recently marvelled at the Obama administration’s argument that it did not need congressional approval for war against Libya because US forces were not substantially at risk in a campaign fought from high in the air and with drones. “War is only war, it seems, when Americans are dying, when we die,” he wrote. “When only they, the Libyans, die, it is something else for which there is as yet apparently no name. When they attack, it is war. When we attack, it is not.”


The Times published only a handful of photos of dead and dying soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Compare that with other countries, where pictures of the war dead routinely appear in print and on the air. The current atmosphere of censorship is unprecedented, even by the comparably squeamish standards of the US media. According to Professor Gail Buckland, who studies and teaches photo history at Cooper Union in New York, far more photos of dead US soldiers appeared in newspapers during the 1861-65 Civil War than have since 2001.


Media consumers saw thousands of images of dead and dying combatants, both American and Vietnamese, 40 years ago. Most were supplied by war photographers embedded with US troop units. But today’s “embeds” are required to submit their work to military censors for approval and transmission. One reporter returned from the 1991 Gulf War to find that none of his photos had been sent to his employer.


American citizens are morally responsible for the wars and the war crimes committed in their name. The sad truth is, however, that they don’t know what’s going on – and they don’t lift a finger to find out.