Spc. Lee Davis
US Army photo 031025-A-357
Seen through a night-vision device, paratroopers conduct a raid on a suspected terrorist's home in Fallujah, Iraq. The Soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airbourne Division's Company B, 1st Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
This photo appeared on www.army.mil
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Smiles and Salutes

21.05.08 | Julian Stallabrass

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Air Force Master Sgt. Steve Cline

October 12, 2006

An Iraqi boy salutes the camera while Pvt. Aaron Croussore, from 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, patrols a street market area in Kirkuk. This photo appeared on www.army.mil.

This is a photograph taken by a US military photographer. It is a typical example of one of the most durable genres of such photography: soldiers getting on well with children in an occupied country. Many such pictures were taken by US Army photographers in Vietnam, and skewed and subversive versions were made by Philip Jones Griffiths, who took photographs of soldiers offering children cigarettes and pornography.

Here in a sunny Iraq, it is a scene of smiles and curiosity, though the boy who stands on the road, in military stance, staring into the scene is a more ambivalent presence. The face of the boy who salutes the photographer is also hard to read: it would be easy to say that the salute directed upwards at the adult soldier who stands before him is a gesture of subservience, and an acknowledgement of the power of life and death that the military holds over Iraqi civilians. Or perhaps it is just a piece of play-acting. Yet there is something in the intensity of the boy’s gaze and his grimace which suggests that he has already seen too much.

Photographs taken by US Army members as part of their duty are government property and thus copyright free (this also applies to the Abu Ghraib images). You can see and use as you like many, many examples of such photography here: http://www4.army.mil/ARMYIMAGES

We know, of course, that kids can be curious and many of them like military equipment. Also that US soldiers often distrust Iraqi children and keep a distance from them because they suspect that they may be spying on behalf of the resistance. Also that the US armed forces have, at best, been extremely careless about inflicting damage on the civilian population, of whatever age. Yet the Army’s photographic arm continues to pour out these images, in which children look up smilingly at the instruments of their destruction.