Feature

We need to see war’s horrors

If Americans saw the nauseating images of war, they’d be better equipped to decide whether to undertake another foreign intervention.

Christian CarylForeignPolicy.com

“Do Americans really understand what war is?” asked Christian Caryl. Sadly, “the answer, almost certainly, is no.” How can we, when our news media shelter us from all but the most sanitized images of armed conflict? During the nine-year Iraq War, you could watch the news for days without seeing a dead or wounded U.S. service member; the government even banned photos of the returning coffins. Now, when the U.S. is considering military action in Syria, most TV networks and major news sites are once again engaging in excessive self-censorship. Few Americans have seen video of victims of the chemical attack foaming at the mouth, or the dying children twitching on the ground. Nor have they seen the video of rebel troops coldly executing government soldiers with a shot to the head and dumping their bodies in a sewer. In war, “unimaginably horrible things” are done to human bodies—things words cannot truly convey. Soldiers and civilians “are riddled by shrapnel, shredded by blast waves, burned to a crisp.” If Americans could see these nauseating images, they’d be better equipped to decide whether to undertake another foreign intervention.

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