Together the re-enactment photos and the training photos meditate on how reality and fiction get muddled when we plan for war, when we remember war. This, of course, is the issue at the center of debates over the origin of our Iraq activity. Speaking in Chicago July 7, President Bush again said that we were forced into Iraq because Saddam Hussein didn’t comply with weapons inspections: “He could have welcomed the world in. He could have told us what was going on.” Hussein was a mass murderer and a scoundrel, but how was he fooling us when he let weapons inspectors in and released a 12,000-page report to the UN denying the possession of weapons of mass destruction in those last crucial days of 2002?
On the phone, Lê asks were we militarily prepared, were we politically prepared, were we morally prepared for this war? Her photos suggest that those who made the decision to go to war underestimated the difficulty and the suffering because they were strangers to combat and thought success would come as easily as in a Hollywood war movie. Most American grunts and, at least in Dan Cook’s case, most of their superiors on the ground in Iraq in 2003 hadn’t been much closer to war than 29 Palms either. How did this lack of experience at all levels affect our actions?
More of those who’ve led training at 29 Palms — like Cook, who coached novice Marine firefighters after he returned from Iraq — are combat veterans now. Lê tells me that the tenor of the rehearsals has grown more urgent, more grave.
“An-My L: Small Wars” | Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 224 Benefit St, Providence | Through October 15
: Museum And Gallery
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