America's Invisible Casualties

Download Audio
image not available
image not available

For families whose sons and daughters have died, the reality of war has hit painfully home. But for so many others, America's wars feel very far away.

One reason may be that we don’t see images of the U.S. war dead. In more than five years of war in Iraq, only a handful of images of dead American troops have been published.

To protect families and to be sensitive to the comrades of the fallen, the military restricts what we see. Some critics argue the military also wants to make the war appear less deadly. And they note that historically, Americans have never been so shielded from war's harsh realities.

This hour, we're talking about America's invisible casualties.

You can join the conversation. Is it appropriate to hold back images of dead American soldiers? Does it sanitize a war that has taken thousands of American lives? We hope you'll share your thoughts.Guests:

Joining us first from Baghdad is Sudarsan Raghavan, Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post.

Joining us from New York is Michael Kamber, a photojournalist and reporter working for The New York Times' Baghdad bureau, he has been nominated three times for a Pulitzer Prize, twice for photography and once for reporting. The article "4,000 U.S. Deaths, and a Handful of Images," which he co-wrote, ran on the Times' front page on July 26. You can view collections of his photography at his website.

From Washington, we're joined by James Robbins, former special assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he is director of the Intelligence Center at Trinity Washington University and senior fellow in national security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. He is a contributing editor at National Review Online, where he writes on national security. His wife is a U.S. Army officer who returned in May from a one-year deployment in Iraq.

And joining us from Marais, Minnesota, is William Serrin, professor of journalism at New York University and a former correspondent for The New York Times.More links:

Statement from the Defense Department
The Defense Department provided On Point with this statement on its guidelines for photography of U.S. military casualties.

Photojournalist Zoriah Miller's Blog
Miller, whose difficulties with the U.S. military Michael Kamber and Tim Arango reported in this front-page New York Times article last month, maintains this blog where he chronicles his work in Iraq. On June 26, he witnessed a suicide bombing in Anbar Province, and posted a number of graphics images on his site. You can see them, and read his comments and those of others, here. Warning: the images are extremely graphic.

"The Painful Images of War" (The New York Times)
The Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote about Kamber and Arango's story, and reactions to it, in his column for Sunday, August 3.

This program aired on August 13, 2008.


More from On Point

Listen Live