Saturday, January 26, 2013
Call of doody
This photo, snapped in Mali by Agence France-Presse photographer Issouf Sanogo, has caused the French military to pitch a fit.
"This is unacceptable behavior," Col. Thierry Burkhard told the French paper Liberation in Paris. "This image is not representative of action by France in Mali."
Because nobody's dying or killing there, see, they're using water balloons and spitballs.
Apparently the brass are working hard to identify and one would imagine, reprimand this soldier.
The photographer, meanwhile, seems to hope he hasn't caused the lad any grief:
"I don’t know the identity of the soldier in the scarf and I’d have a hard time recognising him even if I did see him again....I think -- and I hope -- that it’s impossible to tell who he is. I’m not even sure if he knows what people are saying about him."
In an interview, he stressed that the soldier wasn't posing, but merely protecting himself from dust, which is clearly quite heavy in the air behind him.
What strikes me is that in almost every article I've read on this, in English and French, the mask is said to evoke the character Ghost from the Call of Duty video game....a game that's been in the news quite a bit lately. Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, for example was said to be have played it obsessively.
Interesting that once again the press is linking real and imaginary violence so quickly.
I'm a fairly pacifist guy, so I don't go around glorifying war or soldiers, but hell, their job sucks, they have to kill people. Why not, as William Burroughs explained regarding the title of Naked Lunch, let everyone see exactly what it is on the end of the fork....or rifle, as it were.
What do people think the French doing in Mali, anyway, building latrines and teaching hygiene?
Like an old LoS pal once remarked about the totenkopf on SS uniforms. "Hey, at least they were putting it right out front there." Not comparing the French army to the SS, mind you, but hell, let's not candy-coat the facts. In an age where we've sanitized war reporting, where in the US they tried to ban the images of coffins coming home at Dover for concerns of "sensitivity" and "privacy"--not of course out of the fear people would see concretely what it's all about and start to question why.
The totenkopf, btw, features in a wide variety of military insignia. Wikipedia shows a variety of pre-Nazi (18th, 19, 20th century) uses from France, Spain, Prussia and Poland. Even the USAF 400th Missile Squadron used a totenkopf with crossed missiles as an alternative insignia up until 2005 or so. The photo you can see on the Wikipedia pages even includes a death's head scarf or ascot of some kind.
Why? Cuz it's badass, that's why. Why do you think pirates used it? If you're going into battle, why not look fearsome? Easier than painting yourself blue like some latter-day Pict!
Personally, if the French military are serious about rooting out al-Qaeda fighters, they should probably spend more energy looking for 'em than searching for this guy in a skull scarf. If they're so concerned about their image, I'd suggest re-thinking the stupid raids they do every once in while that either lead to the deaths of their commandos (Somalia, 2013), or the hostages they're supposed to rescue (Niger, 2011).