07 November 2005

Political Memory

In The Nation this week (14 November 2005), Scott Sherman has a brief essay entitled "Salvador Memories" . The essay is a set of reflections prompted by a retrospective exhibition "El Salvador: Work of 30 Photographers." I saw the exhibit at the International Center for Photography in NYC a few weeks ago and it is powerful both as a document of American intervention in Latin America and as a warning about the tasks of pacification now under way in Iraq. BushCo are pursung the same basic strategy today that the Reagan-ites used in El Salvador in the 1980s.

Sherman notes: "Many of these photographs received considerable attention when they were originally published in journals ranging from The New York Times Magazine to Paris Match, and down through the years they have lost none of their ability to shock and incite." He then adds: "El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers" takes on new meaning in the shadow of the US war in Iraq. Newsweek reported in January that the Pentagon was considering a "Salvador option" in Iraq, in which Special Forces teams "would advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads...to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers." The US public has largely forgotten the Salvador conflict, but it appears that the Pentagon has not. In this context the show at the ICP is many things: a powerful testimonial to the stoicism and resilience of Salvadorans, whose postwar tribulations are still poorly understood by Americans; a homage to a group of politically conscious photographers who risked their safety to bring us these images (three of the photographers in the show died while reporting from Central America); and a haunting, incontrovertible reminder that the "Salvador option" leads directly to the charnel house"

The exhibition is up at ICP through 27 November 2005.

Also of interest in this issue of The Nation is an essay by Stephen Holmes skewering those leftists who supported the BushCo adventure in Iraq. Holmes shows how these folks more or less naively allowed their principles and ideals to blind them to obvious political realities. The result is a political disaster for those hoping to coordinate opposition to the Iraq fiasco.

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