Was publishing photo of wounded US Marine irresponsible?

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog
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In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard is tended to by fellow U.S. Marines after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade during a firefight against the Taliban in the village of Dahaneh in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Bernard was transported by helicopter to Camp Leatherneck where he later died of his wounds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard is tended to by fellow U.S. Marines after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade during a firefight against the Taliban in the village of Dahaneh in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Bernard was transported by helicopter to Camp Leatherneck where he later died of his wounds. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Photo of Dying Marine Draws Fire from Pentagon
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has condemned the Associated Press decision to release a photograph of a US Marine wounded during a battle in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan. The Marine, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard of New Portland, Maine, was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush on Aug. 14. He later died of his wounds.

Death of a Marine in Afghanistan
NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press is distributing a photo of a Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.

AP picture of wounded Marine sparks debate
Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed disappointment Friday at news outlets that used a picture taken and distributed by The Associated Press depicting a U.S. Marine mortally wounded in combat in Afghanistan.

Gates wrote a strongly worded letter to AP President and CEO Tom Curley on Thursday, saying it was a matter of “judgment and common decency” not to use the photo. A Pentagon spokesman said Gates followed up with a phone call “begging” Curley not to use it.

Gates wrote that use of the photo of a wounded Bernard would mark an “unconscionable departure” from the restraint that most journalists have shown in covering the military since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The AP did not change its decision.

“Why your organization would purposely defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me,” Gates wrote. “Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple newspapers is appalling.”
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6 Responses to “Was publishing photo of wounded US Marine irresponsible?”


  • The picture, as published above, is distinctly different from that of the dead baby for which Newsday has been roundly lambasted. In this case, the Associated Press apparently asked the parents if it was OK, and the father objected. They waited until the marine was buried,and then published it anyway
    .
    In the US we routinely see pictures of the dead from the other side, including the executed head of the Tamil Tigers,in Sri Lanka, and hundreds of Iraqi and Afghani wounded and dead. I have never read of a single person in the US objecting to that. Then too, the infamous picture of an asassination, at point blank range, of a person in Vietnam, by a North Vietnamese official, supposedly, is still in everyone’s mind, as is the picture of the Vietnamese girl, her clothes ripped away by napalm, running screaming towards the camera. The iconic picture of the small boy, held in the arms of therunning firefighter who tried to save him, blood streaming into the wind at the Oklahoma City bombing, is unforgettable. A new series uses pictures like that.
    So, the US media has many precedents for this picture.

    Americans are sensitive about their war dead, and are comfortable showing the horror committed by the “others”. If you ask a parent first, and he asks you not to, you should listen and not publish,or you could have gone on to show the horrors of war, without asking.

    The picture is not a close-up, as was the case of the dead baby. If we had to see the amputated limb up close, or blood gushing from hi mouth, that would be a different matter. The Associated Press could have simply labelled it a picture of a wounded marine, without adding his name. It is the naming that is painful.

  • This issue is certainly generating a lot of comments in the foreign press.

    Personally, I think the media was right to publish the picture, even if their motive was to increase circulation (profit), notwithstanding the family’s request not to publish it. It is good that many people get to see the reality of the wars they support. The family’s right to privacy went out the window when their son joined the military.

    I doubt that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is concerned about the family; he is more likely concerned about more Americans viewing that image and turning against the war.
    “Polling Shows Public Is Turning Against Afghan War”

    Below is a small sample of online comments about the publication of this picture. Many seem to think that the family’s request to not have the picture published should have been honuored.

    Roger Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 10:43 am

    It’s an utter disgrace that Ms. Jacobson would hide behind journalism freedom to publish photos the surviving family requested to remain private. That’s how she chose to honor him and thank the battalian that was tasked to keep her alive. What’s her real motivation? GREED! How disgraceful.

    Matthew Branson Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I’m so sorry.
    I’m crying now and all I want is for you to say:
    I proud of you.

    May G-d continue to bless our men and women in uniform.

    Patti Baird-Fields Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I believe that the posting of a dying Marine is tastless and only used to up sales of a publication. The family requested to not have that photo published and their wishes should have been honored. My brother is a Marine as well as his best friend from high school, who is like a brother to me. One of them will be deploying to Afganistan next month and the other is scheduled for next year. I could not imagine the amout of grief and pain this family is dealing with already and to have their son’s final moments plastered all over newspapers in America can only compound their agony. Every Marine and their families accept the possiblities of them not returning home but it would be unbearable to have my little brothers’ final moments splattered across the US in photos. What a disrespect to the Marine that went to serve you. What if it was your son, brother, father…….

    Frank DiLauro Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Thank you for showing these photos. I have a grandson in Afghanistan. People need to see this. People are gung-ho for war unless you have seen it yourself, which I did in WWII. These young men and women are dying for this country. Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard served bravely and died bravely. We shouldn’t turn our eyes from his life or his death because his death is in our names, as Americans.

    K. Parris Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Regardless of you stance on the current conflicts. The family asked the photo not to be published. The photo clearly shows the injury and the young Marines face.
    Would any of the publishing editors, from AP on down, agree to publish a such a clear photo of their loved one dying in a ditch next to a DUI accident?
    Just goes to show to what levels reports will stoop just to make a buck.
    Where are the good news stories about the lives our service members touch and change?

    Candice Says:
    September 4th, 2009 at 11:44 am

    This is war. As ugly and horrible as it is, this is what war brings. It is very unfortunate that our young men and women are dying in a war that has no meaning. My son will ask me when he gets older; why did we fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and I will tell him no one really knows. May God Bless our Men and Women who serve us proudly. Please bring them home!

    Comments from: http://blogs.denverpost.com

  • I have a niece in the US army, a beautiful young woman for whom I pray constantly. Should some harm come to her, I would be horrified to see her wounded, lying on the ground. Should that be the misfortune of this family, I would never read a single newspaper, internet or otherwise, again.

    Years ago, in TnT, a man fell off his bike, and died on the sidewalk on Abercromby Street, just in front of the old firehouse. I was the first on the scene.When the reporter from the Express wanted to take a picture, I was able to persuade her not to publish, as the family may not have yet known that he was dead. She acceeded to my request. Standards were different in 1987. This reporter went on to make quite a name for herself.I am glad she did not do it on the back of that dead man, who lay in the street for five hours before his body was moved. As I said, standards have changed, regretfully.Incidentally I do not support ANY war, but I respect my niece’s right to sign up.

  • Service men and women are tools for the government. They enlist knowing that they may be sent off to a far away place with a name they may have never heard before or cared to properly pronounce to fight over political issues for which they may not understand. I have no problem with pictures of dead military personnel.
    I do not believe that an innocent baby should be photographed dead to sell papers and promote an agenda.

  • US Hypocrisy Astonishes the World

    By Paul Craig Roberts
    September 07, 2009 – counterpunch.org

    Americans have lost their ability for introspection, thereby revealing their astounding hypocrisy to the world.

    US War Secretary Robert Gates has condemned the Associated Press and a reporter, Julie Jacobson, embedded with US troops in Afghanistan, for taking and releasing a photo of a US Marine who was wounded in action and died from his injury.

    The photographer was on patrol with the Marines when they came under fire. She found the courage and presence of mind to do her job. Her reward is to be condemned by the warmonger Gates as “insensitive.” Gates says her employer, the Associated Press, lacks “judgment and common decency.”

    The American Legion jumped in and denounced the Associated Press for a “stunning lack of compassion and common decency.”

    To stem opposition to its wars, the War Department hides signs of American casualties from the public. Angry that evidence escaped the censor, the War Secretary and the American Legion attacked with politically correct jargon: “insensitive,” “offended,” and the “anguish,” “pain and suffering” inflicted upon the Marine’s family. The War Department sounds like it is preparing a harassment tort.

    Isn’t this passing the buck? The Marine lost his life not because of the Associated Press and a photographer, but because of the war criminals–Gates, Bush, Cheney, Obama, and the US Congress that supports wars of naked aggression that serve no American purpose, but which keeps campaign coffers filled with contributions from the armaments companies.

    Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard is dead because the US government and a significant percentage of the US population believe that the US has the right to invade, bomb, and occupy other peoples who have raised no hand against us but are demonized with lies and propaganda.

    For the American War Secretary it is a photo that is insensitive, not America’s assertion of the right to determine the fate of Afghanistan with bombs and soldiers.

    The exceptional “virtuous nation” does not think it is insensitive for America’s bombs to blow innocent villagers to pieces. On September 4, the day before Gates’ outburst over the “insensitive” photo, Agence France Presse reported from Afghanistan that a US/Nato air strike had killed large numbers of villagers who had come to get fuel from two tankers that had been hijacked from negligent and inattentive occupation forces:

    “‘Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt,’ said 32-year-old Mohammad Daud, depicting a scene from hell. The burned-out shells of the tankers, still smoking in marooned wrecks on the riverbank, were surrounded by the charred-meat remains of villagers from Chahar Dara district in Kunduz province, near the Tajik border. Dr. Farid Rahid, a spokesperson in Kabul for the ministry of health, said up to 250 villagers had been near the tankers when the air strike was called in.”

    What does the world think of the United States? The American War Secretary and a US military veterans association think a photo of an injured and dying American soldier is insensitive, but not the wipeout of an Afghan village that came to get needed fuel.

    The US government is like a criminal who accuses the police of his crime when he is arrested or a sociopathic abuser who blames the victim. It is a known fact that the CIA has violated US law and international law with its assassinations, kidnappings and torture. But it is not this criminal agency that will be held accountable. Instead, those who will be punished will be those moral beings who, appalled at the illegality and inhumanity of the CIA, leaked the evidence of the agency’s crimes. The CIA has asked the US Justice (sic) Department to investigate what the CIA alleges is the “criminal disclosure” of its secret program to murder suspected foreign terrorist leaders abroad. As we learned from Gitmo, those suspected by America are overwhelmingly innocent.

    The CIA program is so indefensible that when CIA director Leon Panetta found out about it six months after being in office, he cancelled the program (assuming those running the program obeyed) and informed Congress.

    Yet, the CIA wants the person who revealed its crime to be punished for revealing secret information. A secret agency this unmoored from moral and legal standards is a greater threat to our country than are terrorists. Who knows what false flag operation it will pull off in order to provide justification and support for its agenda. An agency that is more liability than benefit should be abolished.

    The agency’s program of assassinating terrorist leaders is itself fraught with contradictions and dangers. The hatred created by the US and Israel is independent of any leader. If one is killed, others take his place. The most likely outcome of the CIA assassination program is that the agency will be manipulated by rivals, just as the FBI was used by one mafia family to eliminate another. In order to establish credibility with groups that they are attempting to penetrate, CIA agents will be drawn into participating in violent acts against the US and its allies.

    Accusing the truth-teller instead of the evil-doer is the position that the neoconservatives took against the New York Times when after one year’s delay, which gave George W. Bush time to get reelected, the Times published the NSA leak that revealed that the Bush administration was committing felonies by violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The neocons, especially those associated with Commentary magazine, wanted the New York Times indicted for treason. To the evil neocon mind, anything that interferes with their diabolical agenda is treason.

    This is the way many Americans think. America uber alles! No one counts but us (and Israel). The deaths we inflict and the pain and suffering we bring to others are merely collateral damage on the bloody path to American hegemony.

    The attitude of the “freedom and democracy” US government is that anyone who complains of illegality or immorality or inhumanity is a traitor. The Republican Senator Christopher S. Bond is a recent example. Bond got on his high horse about “irreparable damage” to the CIA from the disclosures of its criminal activities. Bond wants those “back stabbers” who revealed the CIA’s wrongdoings to be held accountable. Bond is unable to grasp that it is the criminal activities, not their disclosure, that is the source of the problem. Obviously, the whistleblower protection act has no support from Senator Bond, who sees it as just another law to plough under.

    This is where the US government stands today: Ignoring and covering up government crimes is the patriotic thing to do. To reveal the government’s crimes is an act of treason. Many Americans on both sides of the aisle agree.

    Yet, they still think that they are The Virtuous Nation, the exceptional nation, the salt of the earth.

    Paul Craig Roberts [paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.

    Source: counterpunch.org

  • Well said, Newsday; very well said. I still think that if they asked the father if he minded, and he said yes, they either should not have asked him, or acceeded to his wishes. Nothing you say about the war in Afghanistan is too harsh. Now I want Agence France Presse to go document what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians, and I want to see, hope to see, and equally tere editorial on that aparthied.

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