Photo by Ashley Gilbertson, Nov. 13, 2004

Of all the images that I made in the six years I spent working in Iraq, this is the photograph that best represents my experience of war. The anonymous nature of the picture speaks to how we fight war. The shadow of the Marine on the wall is merely a symbol: of American force and of policies made in Washington and carried out in the Middle East. When insurgents kill U.S. forces, they are not trying to murder Demarkus Brown, a young man from a small town whose parents loved him more than anybody else in the world. They were hoping to kill the symbol, to damage American ideals. The insurgent on the ground with his face covered by a sweater is as impersonal as the Marine’s shadow. When the American military fights their enemy, they become just that: the enemy. Aiming through his rifle’s iron sights, a soldier isn’t seeing Mohammad Rezzaq, a father with four children waiting at home, he only sees AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) or a Mahdi army fighter. To personalize killing would make it far more difficult to pull the trigger and perhaps impossible to wage war on a large scale. Rendering ‘The Other’ anonymous is how we bring ourselves to fight.

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