August 4, 2003, (near) Tikrit, Iraq
© Geert van Kesteren
Courtesy the artist
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Iraq Through the Lens of Vietnam

13.10.08 | Julian Stallabrass

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Add your comments on the exhibition below.

There have already been many lengthy, thoughtful and engaged responses written into the gallery comments book.

One asked: why are there no Vietnamese images critical of their regime or any Iraqi images critical of Al Qaeda?

We do show Vietnamese images that the North Vietnamese government would have been uncomfortable showing, as some of the captions make clear. These show dead US servicemen, and also Vietnamese casualites of the bombing. I have not come across Vietnamese images that are overtly critical of the war effort; that they are very are should not be a surprise. Of course, the Vietnamese government censored the output of the press; but also such a view would have been very rare among Vietnamese at the time, who would have seen the war against the US as just another episode in a longer conflict to rid themselves of their colonial oppressors. More critical views did emerge later, after the war had finished, particularly in literature, and some have been published in Vietnam.

There are Iraqi photographers who are critical of Al Qaeda, whose murderous and highly sectarian strategies have been very controversial, and have now produced a backlash against the movement. This does not equate, of course, with support for the occupation or lack of symathy with the resistance.