Reading The Pictures: <em>Approaching 3,000</em>

Recognized for their distinction in the prestigiouscontest, these portraits, taken in Iraq, introduce us to Marines from Kilo Company.
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Sometime in the next week or so, the number of American military fatalities in Iraq will climb to 3,000. That milestone is especially ironic given the President's not-so-hidden intention to flood Iraq with potentially tens of thousands more young U.S. servicemen and women.

In light of the Administration's repudiation in last month's combined mid-term election/ war referendum, homeland losses suffered today are far less abstract than they were last holiday time.

Still, let us not be bought into thinking that this build-up (being forced down the throat of the spanking new Defense Secretary) is more than an ego move, and a blasphemous avoidance of what was supposed to have been an honest reckoning.

As incentive, I offer you these affecting images of American soldiers by photojournalist Lucian M. Read. Recognized for their distinction in the prestigious 2006 World Press Photo contest, these portraits, taken in Iraq, introduce us to Marines from Kilo Company. At the time they were taken, now over two years ago, these soldiers were already in their third tour of this endless engagement.

(Here's the link so you can view the whole series.)

In one sense, soldiers in war time never change. "Normally," these faces convey fear, trouble, plaintiveness. What confounds these images, however, is the escalating moral and strategic ambiguity of this war, and the growing tenuousness of its pursuit. Beyond the obvious weariness you see above, America's war wariness, as an emotional burden, is necessarily as profound an enemy to these soldiers as the enemy itself.

Honestly, I cannot tell you if these specific men are home or not, or even still alive. I think the tension in the wondering, however, is vital in holding this fantasy of an Administration to account for real logic, real deliberation, real collaboration, and a real respect -- likely, for the first time -- for every face like this.

For more of the visual, visit

Images from the series: Kilo Company. All images © Lucian M. Read/World Picture News. Used by permission. See also:

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