When the Iraq War started I got an urge to collect photographic evidence. The best place for photos was BBC.com. Every day they published shots from the front lines: allied soldiers in full battle gear dozing in the shade of a corrugated metal roof; allied soldiers climbing out of a tank on an empty road at dawn; allied soldiers peering from behind a bullet-scarred cement wall. For four or five months, every Monday through Friday, I looked at the photos and saved them as JPEGs on my hard drive.
I was against the invasion. But I believed the pundits who said Saddam Hussein’s regime didn’t stand a chance. The pundits seemed to be competing with each other to see who could predict the quickest victory. Somehow I was afraid—deeply, weirdly afraid—that the war would end easily, without any real consequences for the United States, and we would keep on bulldozing countries, one after another, for no good reason. I collected photos in order to create a record of the war in case I needed to remind people that it actually happened.
The problem with the BBC photos was they rarely showed Iraqis. Occasionally I’d see an American soldier giving a bottle of water to some Iraqi children, and I’d wonder to what degree the photo had been staged. At best there might be an unnamed Iraqi man at the edge of the frame as soldiers rolled into his village. Inevitably he would be ducking into a doorway.