Friday, December 5, 2008

We've Got to Show Respect for the Dead

The words of Robert Fisk:
(Conversations with History. Text. Video.)

We desemanticize and make war more lethal in the same way as television, for example, will not show you the worst scenes that we see. I remember once a crew coming back from Basra in the Iraqi/American war, not embedded -- they were on the Iraqi side of the line -- and they came back to Baghdad with terrible pictures. A kid had its hand blown off, a woman is shrieking with shrapnel sticking out of her stomach, and they sent these pictures across to London, to the Reuters bureau, and I remember this haughty voice coming back, "We can't show these pictures. Don't even bother to send anymore." You know: "We're going to have people puking at breakfast time. We -- we -- this is pornography!" You see? And then the worst quote of all. He said -- and I remember his words, I read about it from Baghdad during the war -- he said, "You know, we've got to show respect for the dead." And I thought, "You bloody well don't show any respect for them when they're alive, but when they're in bits we've got to respect their bodies." Heaven spare me.

I always say to people -- on the road, Basra in '91, I saw women, as well as soldiers and civilians, old men, torn apart by British bombs as well as American. And dogs were tearing them to pieces to eat, it was lunchtime in the desert. I tell you, if you saw what I saw you'd never support a war again. But you won't show that on television. And by not showing that on television we present the world with a bloodless sand pit. We pretend war is not that bad. It's "surgical," always "surgical strikes." Surgery's a place where you're cured in the hospital, not where you're murdered or killed or torn apart. Thus, we make it easier for our leaders -- our generals, our prime ministers, our presidents -- to sell us war, and for us to buy into war and go along with that. That makes us lethally culpable and potentially war criminals in a very moral sense of the word -- or immoral sense, I should say.

Really, would anyone support war if they saw it?

Is it immoral to look away?

(the image is from the Vietnam War '68 -not Basra in '91)

1 comment:

Liz said...

Incredible quote. I'm interested as to whether the initial reaction of disgust at seeing these type of images would be followed by a gradual desensitization, as it is with pornography for many people. We rob them of their value by not showing them, but mightn't we rob them of their value by overexposing them as well?