Politically Correct Photos

Several years ago I found a book in a flea market the likes of which I’d never seen before. It’s a collection of macabre photos of dead soldiers in the field of battle. They are a faithful representation of the reality of war.

The soldiers had died in the most horrible ways and their bodies were perfect reflections of their last suffering. Heads cut in half, bodies ripped apart, extremities abandoned in the battlefield, panic etched on their faces, uniforms drenched in blood.

This book could never be published nowadays. Nobody would dare to use these photographs in any publication. Today’s war photos have to be aseptic, politically correct. That is, they can’t convey the reality of war.

The book made a big impact on me, but far from thinking that it is inappropriate, I would actually suggest that it should be required reading for any person in favor of sending troops to a war zone. It may be a cliché, but I do believe that it’s often true that if those who declared war had to actually fight in one, without a doubt, there would be fewer wars.

This also applies to the general public. Wars must be the very last option for a nation; however, too often this has not happened. That is why it’s necessary that those who are in favor of going to war clearly see the human cost of these wars, because one thing is to know about it intellectually and a very different one is to see the shattered bodies in a photo.

I wish that those in favor of wars would go to those battlefields to see those corpses in person but, since that isn’t possible, at least they could see the consequences of the war in a photograph. That is the reality faced by the young and brave soldiers that are sent to fight in those conflicts. The least we can do for these patriots is to faithfully convey the extremely difficult situation they are faced with. This would also let us understand much better the problems they face when coming back to their lives after the war.

Sadly, sometimes war is unavoidable, although many times it isn’t and there are many people too eager to shout for war to solve a problem without having the least notion of its implications. Or without caring because neither they nor their relatives will have to fight. Their only contact with that war are the sterilized photos in newspapers and the politically correct videos broadcast in the news. No, we need books like the one I found at the flea market, a true visual slap in the face for readers so they truly understand that war isn’t a video game, but a true tragedy, the worst situation imaginable.

Even though the United States has lost many lives in different conflicts, it hasn’t suffered a war on its territory since its Civil War. The only exception is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which led to the United States fighting in World War II. That is, many families have lost loved ones in the two World Wars as well as in conflicts such as Korea and Vietnam, but for the majority of the population, fortunately, these conflicts have not led to losses in their families. Unless it’s a family with members in the Armed Forces, this leads to the general population often seeing these wars as far off events, not directly affecting their daily lives and the lives of their families.

And now there is a controversy because The Los Angeles Times published photos of some US soldiers posing with the bodies of dead Taliban in Afghanistan. This is a different issue, since even the US Armed Forces have stated that this was inappropriate behavior. However, it also addresses the issue at hand about whether or not the images of war should be shown by the media sanitized or as they truly are.

As I said before, sometimes war is necessary. Diplomatic language and nice words would not have stopped Hitler during World War II. There had to be a war and its cost was enormous: over 50 million dead. Nevertheless, the nation was willing to make the sacrifice and there were millions of volunteers ready to fight and stop Hitler.

The people most opposed to going to war are generally those who have had to fight one previously. The reason is because they understand very well what it means. Sometimes war is necessary, but even if that is the case, I think it’s essential that the public understand as clearly as possible the implications of war for those who must die or be injured in the field of battle, and this doesn’t even address the psychological effects of having to live such a hellish experience. Hopefully every once in a while the photos shown by the media will reflect that reality.

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