THE BLOG

Rummy Scores in San Francisco

09/02/2006 11:44 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There must be some smug chortling going on at the Pentagon following a

recent San Francisco Chronicle article. The propaganda machine there

scored a nice coup in the heart of bluest Califronia. Maybe it takes the

edge off the bad publicity the military is suffering in the wake of Army

Specialist Mark Wilkerson's decision to turn himself in at Fort Hood after

spending a year and half on the run from the Iraq War, AWOL.

Back to San Francisco in a moment, but first this acknowledgement of

Specialist Wilkerson. For over a year I've been tracking and profiling

soldiers opposed to the Iraq War for my book, Mission Rejected. A

continuing question is: How many in the military oppose the war, how many

reject war duty? So far, exact statistics are impossible to compile. But

as Wilkerson said prior to turning himself in, the trends suggest a growing

percentage. More and more soldiers who originally joined, whether out of

an understandable sense of national duty or out of desperation for a job

and health insurance, or something in between, are being politicized -

radicalized - by the Bush Administration's failed Iraq policies. Those,

such as Specialist Wilkerson, who publicly reject this illegal and immoral

war, are doing their part to influence other soldiers to feel empowered to

come forward if they too oppose the war. It is critical that we civilians

who also oppose the war support their brave actions.

Now, back to San Francisco. I urge you to take a look at the front page of

the San Francisco Chronicle from September 1st. Unfortunately you cannot

see the front page reproduced on the paper's web site, so I'll describe it

for those of you who are not in Northern California.

There is an extraordinarily poignant and dramatic photograph of a soldier

leaving home dominating the front page, and its layout is extremely clever.

When the paper sits in a sales box, all you see above the fold is the

caption in upper case letters: A KISS FOR THE ROAD, and a fatigues-clad

torso leaning out of a bus window. Spread out that front page and view

the rest of the photo essay.

Above the shirt pocket on the fatigues are the words, "U.S. Marines." The

soldier's head sports its military buzz cut, and he's protected by a pair

of dark shades. Reaching up to him is that paragon of American womanhood:

a statuesque blonde. Their lips are just touching. She's 17, says the

caption, he's 19, and off for his training in the California desert before

deployment to Iraq.

The image is glorious. Chronicle photographer Darryl Bush undoubtedly has

a prizewinner here. But as used by the newspaper, it is also an obscene

glorification of war, and the Iraq War in particular.

They can write all the anti-war editorials they want in the paper, run all

the anti-war op-eds they can find. But when they splash that elongated

quasi-pornographic image of a lithesome California beach blonde, barely

clothed, giving herself up to G.I. Joe with "A Kiss for the Road," the

newspaper sends a not-so-subtle message to the home front: war = glory =

sex.

It is a seductive and nauseating image, and it screamed out of newsstands

across San Francisco, while Mark Wilkerson was being processed at Fort

Hood, and while bodies in flag-draped coffins are being shipped to Dover

Air Force Base in Delaware from Iraq, a site where Chronicle photographer

Darryl Bush is not allowed to practice such extraordinarily fine skills

with a camera.