THE BLOG

Photog Back Home After Getting Kicked Out of Iraq -- For Showing the Real War

07/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ten days ago I wrote about a freelance war photographer who committed the sin of taking war photographs -- and not hiding the graphic ones -- and then lost his embed status in Iraq and getting send packing to Baghdad. Now I've learned that he is back in the U.S.

Zoriah Miller, 32, the U.S. photog who goes by the name "Zoriah," was kicked out of his embed after he published on his blog a photo of a dead U.S. Marine, among other strong images. The military says this violated embed rules. Miller says he took every step possible to guarantee that the Marine could not be identified in any way, and that left him within the rules. The photo was placed with others from a suicide bombing that occurred June 26 in the town of Karmah, near Fallujah.

"I just feel this war has become so sanitized that it was important to show," said Zoriah then. (This angle figures prominently in my book on the media and Iraq.) He posted warnings on his online blog, Zoriah.net, about the graphic content of the photo.

Zoriah was immediately "disembedded" from a Marine unit and barred from working with the military in Anbar, told by the military that he had "provided the enemy with specific information on the effectiveness of the attack and the response of U.S. and Iraqi forces to the attack."

Miller denied he did anything wrong -- and refused to turn over his memory cards and delete the images from his site.

Today, my colleague Daryl Lang (he works at sister magazine Photo District News) posted a story based on his interview with Zoriah, who is now back in Colorado. Here is an excerpt.

They embedded a war photographer, and when I took a photo of war, they disembedded me," Zoriah says. "It's as if it's okay to take pictures of them handing lollipops to kids on the street and providing medical care, but photographing the actual war is unacceptable."

Zoriah says commanders put pressure on public affairs officers to get Zoriah blacklisted so he would lose this embed with the Marines and any future military embeds. "At that point I was hearing it could go up as high in the chain of the command as high as it could go," Zoriah says....

Photographs of dead U.S. servicepeople are seldom published in the American mass media, due to editorial preferences and the rarity of such photos. But the photos occasionally run in the press and have been published in books and displayed at photo exhibitions....

Zoriah says he has been motivated over the past year by "dozens of e-mails from soldiers I've been embedded with and other soldiers from around the world, thanking me because they felt my images would help people understand what they went through."

A full interview with Zoriah Miller took place today on Democracy Now! and is now posted there.
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Greg Mitchell's new book is So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits -- and the President -- Failed on Iraq. He is editor of Editor & Publisher.