By Punk Johnny Cash
Feb 17, 2011
When I was in the Marine Corps I learned quickly that media, images and information would be tightly controlled. I worked in a U.S.M.C. Public Affairs office as well as the "Combat Visual Information Center". There were images and footage that was not to be seen by the general public because they would make the U.S.M.C. look bad. I first learned of this when a camera crew came in to film a documentary on Parris Island. The footage was not allowed off the island until it was viewed by the general and he was to determine what footage was allowed to be used. I addressed some of this dialogue in context to the larger media and cultural discussion recently in my post Propaganda and Language of the State.
There were two pictures in particular that stand out in my memory in all of this. I would receive CD's full of videos and images from Afghanistan and Iraq. We would go through them and decide what to do with much of it. Some was saved, some they did not want to exist. I remember seeing countless videos made by Marines playing songs like "let the bodies hit the floor" and other anthems of aggression over top of footage of violence. One of the things that I remember most clearly was the pink mist. You would see a person standing there one moment the next they would be nothing but a pink mist in the air raining down.
I found a batch of images on a disc that were extremely low resolution. I took two to paint. Both struck me as strong images that needed to be seen. As I began the images I was told to stop. I was told there was no place for them, and that it was not the image we wanted to portray of the war.
The first image was a field of rifles stuck in the desert ground muzzle first with a Kevlar helmet hanging off of each one. It was a memorial to the Marines lost in combat. Their M16 A2 service rifles were taken to what looked like a makeshift graveyard. It was vast. This practice made its way back stateside and I later could find images of similar practices, but have had a hard time finding the field of rifles. There could have easily been hundreds of them sprawled out in the red dusk of the desert.
The second image I began was of an Iraqi citizen. He was a gentleman I assume was in his late forties or early fifties. He had a blue and white keffiyeh on his head, his arms were raised behind his head. His family and others stood around in horror and fear. Two marines had their rifles pushed up to his head. The focus of the image was on his face. You could see the fear and terror in his teared up eyes. He was crying for his life.
The popular dialogue would not be tainted with certain images and ideas. The USMC will not allow certain truths to come to light.