Reading The Pictures: What's REALLY Graphic

05/29/2007 08:36 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


So the military, as reported in yesterday's NYT (yep, the business section), is keen now on blocking the media from depicting U.S. war casualties?

In setting up a false argument about discretion, the Pentagon is pursuing the most fundamental form of censorship. After the first couple years of "gung ho," and the continuing, largely empathic slant on the troops born out of embedding, what now? Blindfolds?

In David Carr's piece in The Times, he calls out one story I can only assume singed some serious feathers with the brass. It was a NYT article from February titled: 'Man Down': When One Bullet Alters Everything. What would have cause the most troubled was the video that accompanied it.

Yes, the camera documents the tragic death of Staff Sgt. Hector Leija. My take on the video, however, which I blogged about back on February 5th, is that it went well beyond any issue of media discretion or supposed graphic content.

As you can see as plain-as-day from this shot of Sgt. Leija in the video, his role -- as was the American's -- was not to be first in the door. The fact Leija and his men were abandoned by Iraqi personnel that day, in the middle of a Shiite-Sunni shooting gallery, hinged on a supposed-level of U.S.-Iraqi cooperation that the video exposes as ridiculous.

If the video is graphic, it is not because it shows Sgt. Leija being killed. It is because of how the video calls out the pretentious politics and the made-up tactical presumptions behind the surge.

Return To Haifa Street video here.

For more of the visual, visit

(screen shot: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty and Ahmad Fadam for The New York Times; produced by Diana Oliva Cave; reported by Damien Cave. Baghdad, Iraq. published January 28, 2007.