On Reality – Part 4 – Remembering Joe Rosenthal

August 29, 2006

Here is a multimedia War Photo Documentary showing human suffering during war. It is a political, yet real and honest statement of my view of war. The purpose of this very explicit, violent presentation is to show “War Destroys People”. To support this point, I use any technical means available to me. So do other documentary artists. Will you see “Reality”? From a technical view, no, not at all. From a human point of view, yes indeed. War does hurt people.

Joe Rosenthal – with Respect

Joe Rosenthal in the War Joe Rosenthal died at 94 last Sunday. His major fame came from his Pulitzer winning Iwo Jima picture. It is said to be the most printed and copied photo ever. The stories behind this picture have been endlessly discussed. Even I got into the act in a previous “On Reality” essay. No point in adding more to all those discussions.

Except for a brief period during WW II, he was not a war photographer. He was not a Robert Capa, nor a Hemingway.

Yet his one famous picture is a symbol. It stands for the triumph of good over evil. It implies the sacrifice of war is worth it. It shows clean indisputable heroism. The picture suggests hope, optimism, pride and stands for just causes. The American way is the true one. Unfortunately, three of the six people in the photo died in battle within days. That might have been a damper but wasn’t. The picture’s power easily overcame the infinite suffering lodging behind it, unseen.

Rejected by the Army due to poor vision, he worked the Pacific War, as well as other theaters, for AP. He appears to have experienced considerable combat prior to the Iwo Jima invasion. After the war, he returned to San Francisco. He worked for the SF Tribune for some 35 years, to my Joe Rosenthal as an elderlyknowledge never again to seeing combat. Although I know little about his life prior to Iwo Jima and thereafter, his life appears to be peaceful as was his eventual death.

But nothing should be taken away from Joe Rosenthal. He took the picture of a century. His fame is deserved. He will always be remembered for that moment on an obscure mountain in the 1945 Pacific, over sixty years ago and counting.

After hearing about his death, I decided to do a tribute to him, consisting of a sample of his work. Amazingly, I could find very little of his photos beyond endless versions of his, apparently, one picture of fame.

War on a macro level – No Gain at High Cost

But it lead me to another, more ambitious subject. War coverage is not exactly limited to one picture from 1945. Especially since that picture has little to do with real war. It does not show people maimed, killed, driven insane, dislodged, fleeing, tortured, starving, degraded, gassed or imprisoned. War – to real people – is a horrible, dirty, painful business with little or no meaning and a lot of suffering.

Let’s consider a few examples on the higher “macro” level. Here is my point. There is an old saying that “War is too important to be left to Generals”. My take on it is “War is too important to be left to Generals, the President, the Cabinet, Congress or any other crazed fool out to make his reputation or fortune”. How to do it then? Easy: let us just NOT do it. Plenty of others have managed that. Yes, I know. I’m just a simple minded artist with no understanding of the Big Issues. Luckily, we have others, such as Mr. Cheney who knows better and who is an excellent shot as well. Labeled a man of mystery, his incomes from defense oriented businesses and Halliburton are far too complex for a thoughtless photographer to understand. All I can say, it all seems to be closely guarded secrets. The issue, though, is: Who the heck makes money from engaging in War? Certainly not me.

There have been three major invasions of Russia: Sweden’s King Karl XII, Napoleon and Hitler. All met exactly the same fate. They lost. A lot of of the invading people died from starvation, cold, exhaustion, illness and, a few, from battle wounds. The Russians uses the same tactic every time. It’s called Quit And Run. Or perhaps Quit, Burn and Run is a better term. Napoleon was the only invader to actually conquer Moscow. His victory turned hollow when he saw the Russians burn their capital to the grounds. Napoleon conquered nothing but burning debris. No food, little shelter. No surrendering Government. No defeated people. Napoleon realized his victory actually was his final defeat. He turned back to France, defeated. Few of his grand army made it back. The Russians rebuilt the country they had devastated in front of the advancing French army.

Quit and Run, such a simple, devastating tactic if used right. Think about it, George W. Be creative.

World War One, costing tens of millions of lives, led to yet another World War. World War Two led to the Cold War. Korea? After well over 50 years nothing has been accomplished except South Korea is briefly an Asian Economic Tiger. The North is starving while building nuclear bombs with no apparent objection from the rest of the World. Iran eagerly follows the same path, minus the starving.

German soldier shooting mother and childAnyone remembering the Iraqi-Iran war? It went on for years, killing countless people in a death spiral almost without equal. It led to nothing except Iraq was supposed to have real mean, battle hardened troops. I suppose we know better now. The Iraqi did not even achieve that. Probably all the battle hardened, mean troops were killed in some swamp trench, attacking or, possibly defending, Important Targets. Maybe by poison gas, popular at the time.

Europe followed up on an ancient legacy of major wars with revolutions, friendly to the West, in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The West did nothing. The Soviets responded with mass killings, offering nothing but hardship in return. Then they disastrously invaded Afghanistan, costing them their empire. The Russians, wise from that experience, used their diplomatic skills to wipe Chetnya off the map using explosives rather than talk. Surviving Chetnyans responded by blowing up Russian apartment houses, an airliner or two, occupying a theater and a school. Russia again responded with their customary sensitivity. The price was a thousand Russian lives or so against the gain of a handful of Chetnyan lives.

The Vietnam War killed almost 60,000 Americans with no known benefit. Some claim great restaurants run by Vietnamese refugees are a benefit. That’s stretching it. Hanoi Hilton, Da Nang, Tet, the Wall and countless other memories are terrorizing too many good people. Some learnt from it. Lyndon Johnson did. But now we have George W. who did not learn.

Vietcong and the North Vietnam army did learn, ahead of the battles. They used a variation of the age old Russian Quit and Run tactic in a hugely successful manner. They only lost when they abandoned the tactic. Such as they did when launching the disastrous Tet offensive. They still won. The US never caught on and learnt nothing.

The Soviets and the Americans, in a rare act of common aim, shot down civilian airliners full of innocent people. An American fighter jet managed to down a ski lift gondola full of innocent people by bravely flying very low. Unfortunate accidents, no one is to be blamed.

Earlier, Kennedy was handed a Cuban Missile Crisis – he did win that one albeit almost at the price of wiping out the planet. It sure worked better than Eisenhower’s denial of U2 flights over USSR in spite of one just being shot down by the Soviets. Later, Kennedy declared himself to be a “Berliner” and promptly flew back home. Around then, Khrushchev attempted to scare the UN into submission using his shoe as a sort of weapon. Meanwhile, the USSR and the US wildly built nuclear capabilities suitable to destroy not just Earth but parts of the Universe as well. These were the Glory Days of the Cold War. Interestingly though, the Cold War was one with far less casualties and suffering than your average war. In fact, both the main players prospered. Except, of course, USSR eventually went broke, ending the Cold War.

What about Mrs. Thatcher’s Falklands war? It has to be one of the most astonishing wars of all times. The Iron Lady ensured victory through uncompromising stubbornness and by Staying The Course. French made fighters fought British fighters. A British submarine sank a formerly American cruiser. A French made Exojet missile sank a British destroyer. Later, British made, Argentinean owned, bombers sank a number of British ships. Funny how the international arms trade works. The price was about 1,000 dead on both sides, not to mention the loss of ships, airplanes and other hardware. Is that a reasonable price for a set of tiny, desolate, wind blown islands with no strategic value down in the South Atlantic? In particular since both sides demonstrated considerable incompetence, such as having no clue how to operate their hardware? Granted, the freedom of many sheep from the neighbor, vile Argentineans was assured. The pubs in capital Stanley remain on British soil. No doubt, the tales of the victorious and heroic Battle Of Stanley in 1982 remain alive in these establishments. I doubt either of the combatants can point at any hard benefit from this oh so cute, almost romantic war.

In Europe, “ethnic cleansing” developed into major conflicts as it has many times in the past. This time, they focused on a dizzying array of ex-Yugoslavia provinces, cities, countries, counties, villages, blocks, streets and even houses with religious/racial pockets of population suddenly eager to kill each other. America leaped to rescue, but learnt that the Apache helicopters can’t fly in mountainous terrain This dampened the courageous attempt of humanitarian help. Instead, NATO, led by America, bombed the area into dust.Dead German soldiers

We take pride in the successes of Bay of Pigs, Grenada and Panama. We tried exploding cigars on Mr. Castro in the name of the Fair Cause. Now, America and a few token, reluctant “allies” wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We may expand the Good Cause into potentially even worse Near East conflicts. Why not? The recent Near East adventures have cost thousands or even hundreds of thousands lives, not to mention the destruction of nearly a whole continent. Even Reagan had the sense to get out of Lebanon after losing hundreds of sleeping Marines. Clinton got out of Somalia after a massacre.

We lived – most of us – through 9/11 as well as deadly subway attacks in Japan, Spain and the UK. George W. declared War on Terrorism. He did not get out. He jumped in (others) head first. He did not realize that battle is ago old. It has been fought for decades by men far more knowledgeable (let’s be kind) than Mr. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld,

How about the IRA, the Kurds, the Japanese Red Army, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the Basques and the Palestine killers at the Munich Olympics or the Cambodia Killing Fields? Remember the plane hijack crisis in the 70s for an assorted hopeless, obscure causes? How about the handicapped American thrown off a cruise ship to his death? Or the innocent airline passengers killed and thrown onto the runways in an attempt to get free gas for the next hijack flight? I’m not even touching on al-Qaida, the PLO as they once were, PHFL, DFLP, ANO, PLF, DPLF, PKK, DHKP, PMOI, Hamas, the Hitzbullah, GIA, IMU and maybe a few thousand more organizations viewed as terrorists. They come and they go – usually undefeated, often undetected – but mostly, they kill.

I’m even curious to find an American Church of Reality here in the US with the clever motto of “Understanding Reality The Way It Really Is”. Its leader is declared to be a terrorist. He is quite proud of the attention. Good work, Homeland Security. I guess you nailed one. Code Red.

In Asia, India and Pakistan play a game of brinkmanship using nuclear weapons. Wasn’t Kashmir supposed to be a romantic place not so long ago? Ceylon/Sri Lanka seems to accept its place as a dangerous place to visit or live in. Indonesia and other nearby islands aren’t too healthy either. Bali is out of favor thoroughly. Earlier, Mao’s Cultural Revolution used a Little Red Book to turn children into judges, throwing their parents and others to the wolves. Then, later, the Tiananmen Square massacre restored order after a feeble democratic student upheaval. The price? No one knows, nor cares.

Then we have George W. who, in his Texan manner, led us into the Iraq adventure. Within days, the Job Was Done. Well, perhaps not. In fact, the job isn’t done at all. George W, has decided the next President, not him, is responsible for the mess. The cost of this disaster is enormous in, oh, so many ways. Money is no objection. Neither is the casualty rate. Everyone counts the American Sacrifice in an abstract sort of way, but no one really cares about the tens or hundreds of thousand of, say, Iraqi victims.

George W., his cabinet, party and a few “patriots” remain “Optimistic”. Stay the Course. No Quit And Run. Halliburton, the real winner, is doing Great and hugely Profitable Work. Oil is good at any price – just think of the value of those Iraqi reserves at $75 or so a gallon, sorry it’s still a measly barrel. Good investment. American Democracy is Winning albeit still just around the Corner. American Power is Best, not to mention Fair and Honorable. All is Well. Progress is made. No Civil Wars on the Horizon. Those nasty Insurgents are Quitting and Running. Everyone is happy, except for a few soldiers doing bad, bad un-American things. Except for a hundred or so Iraqi killed every day. Small price to some, enormous to others.

Dead Russian soldierSome Democrats and foreign “allies” remain supportive of the Bush War – well almost – well not really – actually not at all. Look at those poll numbers. Where are Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Maria Cantwell, Joseph Biden and John Edwards these days? They might wish they were in one of Cheney’s undisclosed locations. As long as Cheney is properly disarmed at the entrance, of course. Just joking. They are out there being optimistic yet not too optimistic or, suddenly, even pessimistic. They are the ones quitting and running. They do not understand the Russian version of Quit And Run either.

These days we better be careful of perfume and shaving cream getting mixed up whenever we fly. Or explosive shoes. Or combs. Or nail scissors. Or hair wigs. Or anyone with a beard. Not to mention a Dark Complexion. Remember the innocent Brazilian shot to death in London because the police believed – without evidence – he was a Near East bomber?

Now here is the question. Are we better off, given any of the above thrills? Did anyone end up happier, richer, prouder or, at least, less depressed? Not counting government officials, arms dealers and other riff-raff, of course. I think not.

Our real people troops in these wretched and useless foreign countries sure are not running, nor quitting .They are just killed, maimed and despised by all in the “operational theater”. Very few of our real life troops quit and ran in any of the hopeless, and many, conflicts braved by their Chief In Command over time. Many just died or simply went crazy. That’s been the case since the American Revolution. These troops are our kids. They are the ones knowing the facts of war. They should be the future of our country, not dead.

The USA has not seen war domestically for close to 150 years. Take Hiroshima – About 140,000 people died in the 1945 attack, some immediately, some over the next few months. Many more died from delayed causes. That’s out of a pre-attack population of about 310,000. About 50% death rate. A whole city structurally wiped out.

The bombing of Hiroshima was an atrocity. Foreign cities and countries suffered losses on a level unimagined in this country. Very much, lucky us. Just realize that those experiencing such total violence have a different take on war than those that don’t have the experience. I’m sure those involved closely in 9/11 would agree.

9/11 was child’s play compared to what has happened in other countries. Yes, I know. It’s punishable by eternal wire tapping to say something is as bad as 9/11. But 9/11 serves as an excuse for all kinds of undemocratic and illegal acts. So it will for many years to come. That is not good.

Don’t get me wrong. I woke up that September morning, turned on the TV and was changed irrevocably like most of us. The horror of that day will be with me forever. The heroism displayed by so many was, and is, without question, doubt or comparison. America truly is a remarkable country. As long as you exclude the opportunists, the cowards and the incompetent leaders. NY Fire Men and Police with many others spent the day risking and losing their lives, desperately trying to deal with massive horror. George W. spent the day on AirForce One. In almost total silence. Cheney withdraw – in silence – to his first undisclosed hole in the ground.

dare I?

I dare. In spite of all illegal government activities, free speech still is a valued and trusted part of our constitution. Still, who is this guy being – maybe – critical of the honor of the American Way of Life and Its Glorious Past, Present and Future. What right does he have? Well, for one thing, I have the right of Anger.

I’m an immigrant. I’ve lived legally in the US for over thirty years. I enjoy the Freedom, the American Dream and all the Good Things of this country. Not least, the opportunity to change my life from one career to another, much more fulfilling, is an great gift. Today I consider myself to be an artist. Yesterday, I was not. That’s a great freedom, not available in all countries.

I grew up in a country that has not been at war for a few hundred years. It is famous for economic and social stability. In my days, there were no racial issues – today there may be some. Strangely enough, in my high school days, I was part of the school’s Conservative Youth Party. I even spent five years as an officer in their Navy – this was during the days of the last Vietnam war. Of course, for me there was no war – just play. Sort of like it was for George W. Today, they hardly have Armed Forces. They spend their money on other areas. Such as helping people, at home and abroad.

I knew plenty of deserters from the real war at the time. They practically invaded my city. It was in the middle of the glorious (to some) sixties. My country was second to none in the excesses, the free thinking and the rejection of past hypocrisy. All of it eventually left me with a sense of social justice, equality, people awareness and perhaps a revolting tendency. It might have pounded some honesty into me. And a fair degree of anger and a critical, maybe cynical eye.

I went to America and slept through many years of successes – former bosses allowed to disagree. I did not sleep through a number of tragedies, in my health and in that of near ones. More than the average number of tough deals have been handled. That’s what, finally, woke me up and turned me into an artist and an advocate for certain causes.

War is one of those causes. With my background, it should not be surprising that I hold the views I do. War is something to hate. It is not something to be optimistic (”All is Well”) or triumphant (”The Job Is Done”) about. I do not really care about the macro view. I’m reluctant to take sides.

I do, however, care about the poor souls that get in the way of war, one way or another. Which, by the way, does not make me all that different from lots of American, non-American, non-Terrorist, non-Weirdos people here and around the Globe. Many of these people know about War first hand – most Americans do not with the exception of relatively few Soldiers, Marines, Navy and Air Force men and women.

So that is the real subject of this post. The message is “War destroys People”, applying equally to the armed forces and civilians of the various nations involved.

War on a micro level – War Destroys People

This series is supposed to be about reality. My point all along is that reality is something we know very little about. Reality is distorted in all kinds of manners. Some of these distortions are physical in nature – the sun’s cycle and its different lights, light distorted by weather, different light sources’ K value and so on. See “On Reality 1″ for meat. Then there are different sources of distortions – those that are man-made.

Gettysburg deathsSome of these distortions are just for the hell of it or because you can make money off it. Art is a great and socially well accepted example of such deviousness. Then there are many not so noble variations on the theme. Paparazzo. National Enquirer. Certain journalists. Parts of the Justice system. Forgery. Etc.

There are other, perhaps even more serious, offenses. Propaganda. Censorship. Both of these tend to be run by very authoritative and rich agents such as governments. Both are used in war. The American Government – especially, but by no means uniquely, the Bush administration – uses both tactics to an embarrassing degree. I’ll have a lot to say about this in later “Reality” installments.

The two goals of the activities are: 1) to defend the current war to the domestic civilians 2) to hide the terrifying suffering of all involved in the war. I won’t expand in this context. That’s for later. Instead, let’s get to the point of this post.

I’ve prepared an eight minute multimedia presentation intended to illustrate, very explicitly, war as experienced by real live or soon-to-be dead people. This is no “embedded journalism” BS. This is graphically dramatic images of the horror of war on a personal level. It covers conflicts from the last 150 years. It shows several sides in those wars with no opinion of “who is right”. There are no heroes. None of the real people are recognizable. For many horrible reasons.

The presentation may be labeled a piece of propaganda by some, just as may be the case of any documentary. The difference compared to real propaganda is that I tell you what I’m doing. Another difference is that, as an artist, I have creative freedoms that, again are openly acknowledged. I produce documentaries to make a point. In this case, the point is “War Destroys People”. To make that point, I use any available technique to amplify the impact of my message. I gladly doctor the images to clarify the message. In general, the images as shown are even darker and more expressive than the originals. The music – a Contemporary String Quartet – is chosen to support the idea.

I’ve cleaned up old, scratchy, low quality Internet images. Then, they are more believable. Even so, most of the images are of very low quality. But they do make the point. In my opinion. This manipulation of you, dear reader/viewer, by me and probably many others before me explains the nature of this post. The goal is not to deceive you, It is to open your eyes, to consider another point of view, to surface some issue of importance.

Details of the Multimedia Presentation

Do not watch this presentation is you object to pictures of explicit violence and its consequences. Some images are very graphical. Do not watch this is you are too young. Let your parent(s) know. The rating is definitely MA. Protect yourself.

A fast Internet connection is practically a must to watch this show. Although the presentation uses a fairly low quality mpeg 1 format, the download size is from 90 to 140 MB. As you hit the download link, one of two things will happen. First, The video may start almost immediately – actually while Parents at grave of fallen soldierthe file is downloaded. This is a good solution if it works to your satisfaction. Success depends on your setup. IE and Windows Media Player has good support. Firefox as well works well but tend to like Quicktime which in its free form only plays in a tiny window. The video is designed to be viewable full screen.

The second thing that might happen is that the video file is simply downloaded. This may take its time – usually 4-5 minutes with a fast connection. Then it may play itself automatically or you may need to load it into your favorite player – there are many such players available from companies such as Microsoft, RealNetworks and Apple. There is no spamming, advertising, nasty scripts, adware or even any installation or interference with your system whatsoever related to the download. This is true as long as the file is downloaded from Leading Design. Please alert us if others attempt to offer our presentation in any form. Please note, I’m not really able to provide extensive troubleshooting or technical support of your private system.

All of the images are originally downloaded from the Internet. I claim no rights whatsoever to them. I respect all copyrights that may be involved. I do claim a copyright to the design and production of the video itself. Please do not attempt to sell this product. That is plain illegal.Burning building

Finally here are three download links. Just hit the first logo and and you’ll experience an anti-war statement as shot by some very brave and, in some cases, a few very immoral or at least very cynical photographers. The presentation may or may not be streamed. If streamed, you may suffer from buffering and download speed issues resulting in jerky, poor quality. If so, use the second logo which uses a smaller version of the video. Finally, the third option is to download the video file without streaming and run it any way you please.

Any of the download alternatives require a bit of patience. Please hang in there, just as you have to with any Web video program. Even when streaming, your player may take minutes to set up its buffer. Thank you.

Possibly streamed download (Try first – medium quality)

The War Multiimedia Presentation by Leading Design


If the above link and your particular setup causes problems such as poor or jerky playback quality, then use the link below to download a lower quality, smaller version of the file. That may resolve any issues you have with a streamed download.

Possibly streamed download (Try second – lower quality)

The War Multiimedia Presentation by Leading Design


If the above link still causes problems, then use the link below to download a zipped version of the file. Unzip the downloaded file and run it in your favorite video player. That should resolve any issues you might have with a streamed download.

Zipped download (Best quality but not streamable)

The War Multimedia Presentation by Leading Design

This is the safe bet but it takes a few minutes to download the video file. On the other hand, the video file is higher quality than either of the two you get above. You may want to download this file in the first place in spite of the wait and minor hassle involved.

Thanks for your attention and thanks for bringing my hit number to above 30,000 in about six months. Humbled, I hope you get some value out of your visit.


7 Responses to “On Reality – Part 4 – Remembering Joe Rosenthal”

  1. […] The conclusion of this essay is simple and adds to my prior War essay: Ethics and Morals are totally incompatible with any aspect of War or other forms of violence on a nation to nation level. War means utter destruction in all possible ways. […]

  2. […] may count as a benefit but that s stretching it. Hanoi Hilton, Da Nang, Tet, the Wall and countless other memories are terrorizing too many good people. Some learnt from it. … — more — […]

  3. […] Some count great restaurants run by Vietnamese refugees may count as a benefit but that s stretching it. Hanoi Hilton, Da Nang, Tet, the Wall and countless other memories are terrorizing too many good people. Some learnt from it. … — more — […]

  4. […] Some count great restaurants run by Vietnamese refugees may count as a benefit but that s stretching it. Hanoi Hilton, Da Nang, Tet, the Wall and countless other memories are terrorizing too many good people. Some learnt from it. … — more — […]

  5. Karl said

    I look at the extract from my essay made by the Vietnamese Refugee site. “Some count great restaurants run by Vietnamese refugees may count as a benefit but that s stretching it. Hanoi Hilton, Da Nang, Tet, the Wall and countless other memories are terrorizing too many good people.”

    I am concerned the first statement of my statement might be viewed as demeaning and insensitive. It isn’t meant to – I believe Vietnamese immigrants are probably among the most upwards mobile, skilled and valuable people in the US. Many Vietnamese immigrants, their families and perhaps in particular their children enjoy spectacular success in many very diverse fields. I apologize for any ill feelings that my first sentence in the quote may have caused.

    On the other hand, I do stand by the second sentence about Hanoi Hilton etc. War is a horrible thing to too many good people.


  6. […] On Reality – Part 4 – Remembering Joe Rosenthal. On War and Photography […]

  7. […] On Reality – Part 4 – Remembering Joe Rosenthal. On War and Photography […]

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