The Unseen Gulf War

| March 5, 2003

For those still negotiating an opinion about U.S. involvement in Iraq, a reminder of the realities of war is not just timely, it is essential. Photojournalist Peter Turnley provides such a reminder in his recent Digital Journalist pictorial, ?The Unseen Gulf War.? Here, photographs of the so-called ?Mile of Death,? an area north of Kuwait City bombed by allied forces in 1991, show the effects of war in all its brutal glory. Scenes displaying carbonized bodies, imprisoned soldiers, and mourning Iraqi women wrench viewers into a fuller understanding of the consequences of military action?an understanding too often denied the public by Pentagon media handlers and a compliant press.

Interestingly, though Turnley?s work may seem to demand a particular response to U.S. foreign policy, his goal is not merely to impose his political views upon his audience. In a letter attached to the Digital Journalist article, he explains that his photographs ?do not, in themselves, represent [his] personal political judgment or point of view with respect to politics and the right or wrong of the first Gulf War.? Instead, they should help viewers develop a ?more accurate picture of what really does happen in war,? meaning that, ideally, they will ?give one the opportunity to witness and reflect more fully on [its] realities.?

That said, after seeing what conflict looks like through Turnley?s lens, even dedicated ??hawks? will have a difficult time disregarding war?s oft-horrific consequences. His images of, as he says, ?cars and trucks with wheels still turning, radios still playing . . . and bodies scattered along the road? are impossible to ignore. In the end, his photographs do have a definite persuasive effect, which may indeed have been Turnley?s goal all along.
-Amelia Bauerly

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