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04 Sep

AP Picture Shows Pain of Afghan War


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 12:57 a.m. ET

Article

NEW YORK (AP) — The Associated Press is distributing a photo of a Marine fatally wounded in battle, choosing after a period of reflection to make public an image that conveys the grimness of war and the sacrifice of young men and women fighting it.

Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, 21, of New Portland, Maine, was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush Aug. 14 in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.

The image shows fellow Marines helping Bernard after he suffered severe leg injuries. He was evacuated to a field hospital where he died on the operating table.

The picture was taken by Associated Press photographer Julie Jacobson, who accompanied Marines on the patrol and was in the midst of the ambush during which Bernard was wounded. She had photographed Bernard on patrol earlier, and subsequently covered the memorial service held by his fellow Marines after his death.

”AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is,” said Santiago Lyon, the director of photography for AP.

He said Bernard’s death shows ”his sacrifice for his country. Our story and photos report on him and his last hours respectfully and in accordance with military regulations surrounding journalists embedded with U.S. forces.”

Journalists embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan must sign a statement accepting a series of rules which among other things are designed to protect operational security and lives of the soldiers and Marines who are hosting them.

Critics also maintain some of the rules are aimed at sanitizing the war, minimizing the sacrifice and cruelty which were graphically depicted by images from the Civil War to Vietnam where such restrictions were not in place.

The rule regarding coverage of ”wounded, injured, and ill personnel” states that the ”governing concerns” are ”patient welfare, patient privacy and next of kin/family considerations.”

”Casualties may be covered by embedded media as long as the service member’s identity and unit identification is protected from disclosure until OASD-PA has officially released the name. Photography from a respectful distance or from angles at which a casualty cannot be identified is permissible; however, no recording of ramp ceremonies or remains transfers is permitted.”

Images of U.S. soldiers fallen in combat have been rare in Iraq and Afghanistan, partly because it is unusual for journalists to witness them and partly because military guidelines have barred the showing of photographs until after families have been notified.

Jacobson, who was crouching under fire, took the picture from a distance with a long lens and did not interfere with Marines trying to assist Bernard.

The AP waited until after Bernard’s burial in Madison, Maine, on Aug. 24 to distribute its story and the pictures. An AP reporter met with his parents, allowing them to see the images.

Bernard’s father after seeing the image of his mortally wounded son said he opposed its publication, saying it was disrespectful to his son’s memory. John Bernard reiterated his viewpoint in a telephone call to the AP on Wednesday.

”We understand Mr. Bernard’s anguish. We believe this image is part of the history of this war. The story and photos are in themselves a respectful treatment and recognition of sacrifice,” said AP senior managing editor John Daniszewski.

The photo was in a package that the AP sent to its newspaper, broadcast and online subscribers Thursday morning with an ”embargo,” or scheduled release time, of 12:01 a.m. Friday, Sept. 4. That scheduled release time meant the stories and photos were in the hands of thousands of editors by Thursday morning, giving them the day to make their own decisions about publishing the battlefield photo.

Thursday afternoon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called AP President Tom Curley asking that the news organization respect the wishes of Bernard’s father and not publish the photo. Curley and AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said they understood this was a painful issue for Bernard’s family and that they were sure that factor was being considered by the editors deciding whether or not to publish the photo, just as it had been for the AP editors who decided to distribute it.

Jacobson, in a journal she kept, recalled Bernard’s ordeal as she lay in the dirt while Marines tried to save their comrade with bullets overhead.

”The other guys kept telling him ‘Bernard, you’re doing fine, you’re doing fine. You’re gonna make it. Stay with me Bernard!”’ As one Marine cradled Bernard’s head, fellow Marines rushed forward with a stretcher.

Later, when she learned he had died, Jacobson thought about the pictures she had taken.

”To ignore a moment like that simply … would have been wrong. I was recording his impending death, just as I had recorded his life moments before walking the point in the bazaar,” she said. ”Death is a part of life and most certainly a part of war. Isn’t that why we’re here? To document for now and for history the events of this war?”

Later, she showed members of his squad all the images taken that day and the Marines flipped through them on her computer one by one.

”They did stop when they came to that moment,” she said. ”But none of them complained or grew angry about it. They understood that it was what it was. They understand, despite that he was their friend, it was the reality of things.”

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Kristina

I believe that you should take this picture off. It is not your say if this picture will be published. If the family asked for the picture not to be published then don’t publish it. This is wrong in so many ways. I know I would be extremely upset if there was a picture of my husband like this. Yes, it does show exactly what happens in war but this is not right. I’m glad people are thinking that we need to let the public know everything that is going on but this is way too much. I’m upset that you have published the picture even when the family did not consent to it. Please do take the picture off. Thank you.

Mary

Dear Kristina,

I understand your concern and your deep sorrow when viewing this picture. I weep when I think of the fine, young men and women who, like this young soldier, must bear the terrible burden of our involvement with the world. I would ask you, most sincerely, to think a bit more about the meaning of this picture. I do understand why this picture, if it were a picture of your husband, would be “extremely upsetting” for you, but why would this condition of being “upsetting to you” make the picture “not right” for the American people to view. Do we not need to view such “upsetting” pictures to understand fully the sacrifice our young men and women are making on our behalf; do we not need to be sure this sacrifice is worth the price they are paying; do we not need to think deeply and carefully about what we are asking our young men and women to do on our behalf? Yes, Christina, it is painful; we do not want to view such pictures; we do not want to be aware of the pain, the destruction, the deaths. But we must. For us to ignore what is done in our name would be, truly, in your words, “way too much.”

I, too, think of the family of this soldier. I think of their deep distress at seeing their dear son in such pain and danger, but when their brave young son went forth to represent his country in the arena of America’s involvement with the world, he became more than just their son, he became our son. And we need to know and grieve what happened to our son.

Retired Marine

Mary and Kristine
I can see both of your opinions and respect both…BUT!!!!
I believe that out of respect for human life, and respect for the person in this picture that it should not be published. I am a retired Marine and have seen more then my fair share of death. I currently work in Iraq flying a UAV providing those front line Marines and Soldiers such as Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard with information they need. In my opinion it is way to late to share publicly any pictures of dying people if the world by now does not know the price of war and who pays that price daily then in my opinion the world needs to remove the blinders they are wearing!!! (and that’s being nice)…The Associated Press is not concerned about educating anyone they are a business and the only thing they and possibly the photographer Julie Jacobson are interested in is grabbing the public’s attention to line their pockets with more money…if they were truly worried about showing us how bad war is and the high price our young men and women pay for our freedoms then they first show some respect for the dead and wounded. While Michael Jackson was a great entertainer his death received more news time then all the service members who have paid that ultimate price…in the end to me it about respect and clearly the Associated Press is looking for attention grabbing headlines…nothing more the Associated Press is not some Knight in shining armor trying to do something noble…

Retired Marine

Mary…and Kristine
I can see both of your opinions and respect both…BUT!!!!
I believe that out of respect for human life, and respect for the person in this picture that it should not be published. I am a retired Marine and have seen more then my fair share of death. I currently work in Iraq flying a UAV providing those front line Marines and Soldiers such as Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard with information they need. In my opinion it is way to late to share publicly any pictures of dying people if the world by now does not know the price of war and who pays that price daily then in my opinion the world needs to remove the blinders they are wearing!!! (and that’s being nice)…The Associated Press is not concerned about educating anyone they are a business and the only thing they and possibly the photographer Julie Jacobson are interested in is grabbing the public’s attention to line their pockets with more money…if they were truly worried about showing us how bad war is and the high price our young men and women pay for our freedoms then they first show some respect for the dead and wounded. While Michael Jackson was a great entertainer his death received more news time then all the service members who have paid that ultimate price…in the end to me it about respect and clearly the Associated Press is looking for attention grabbing headlines…nothing more the Associated Press is not some Knight in shining armor trying to do something noble…

A Dad whose brother was killed in Vietnam

Let me start by saying, I lost my brother when he served in Vietnam back in 1968. With all due respect to those who served in Vietnam, living or dead, personally I think it was a waste of his life given the outcome of the war and where the world is today 40+ years later.

Furthermore, I have two daughters in college and would absolutely not be willing to sacrifice their lives for either Iraq or Afghanistan. I don’t believe war can truly resolve centuries old issues, especially when religion is at the heart of the matter.

Having said that, I support showing the pictures as they were taken, to give those who have never been touched by war, to get a sense of what others have sacrificed who are/were impacted by war. I would have approved of distributing similar pictures of my fallen brother if they had been available. If one of my daughters, God forbid, chose to volunteer to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, and was killed in action, I would painfully agree to allow similar pictures to be widely distributed, knowing that they would touch the lives of others, in a way that is not possible by simply reading a daily death count or reading a short article.

Yes I’m sure AP has made money on pictures of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, but while they are in the business of reporting news, who else is able to deliver the news we need to hear? How else can we desiminate information and stories that need to be told? I applaud AP, mostly because they had a conscious and did not release the pictures without some serious soul searching, due diligence and compasion.

mary

To A Dad Whose Brother Was Killed in Vietnam, you have written it all so truthfully, so painfully. As one who publicly protested the war in which your brother served; who, at the same time, honored his service and ached for his return to his family, friends, and country, I stand with you in your desire to protect our young people from the ravishing effects of unending war. We must find a way to end this madness. We will not even begin the quest, if we are not allowed to witness the awful sacrifice we ask of our young (always the young); if we do not fully and painfully realize our failure to ensure their lives, their liberties, and their pursuits of happiness.

Mattg

Since some believe it is their responsibility to show the images if war, where are the photos of the bullet riddled bodies of Iraqi and Afghan women and children?Where are the pix of the 9/11 bodies and body parts? Why is it the one photo that the family requested not be published? When you believe you have the right to step on a military family’s moment of pain you are a terrorist yourself. Again, it has nothing to do with the war and what you think we know and should be taught to us by you. It’s about respecting a family who just gave their sons life to this country. Hello? Any humanity left in journalism? Didn’t think so.

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