An RBK 250-275 cluster munitions dispenser that the Syrian Air Force did not manage to use. From Taftanaz Air Base, which was overrun by opposition fighters in January. By the author. Earlier this year.
Whatever you think of President Obama, or of the American presidency itself, on many levels this is a strange use of a U.S. Marine.
To be clear: Presented with photographs showing a long and robust precedent, and establishing that many Presidents have enjoyed this same and particular service, I’d wager that most past and present grunts would say the same thing.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH
By Doug Mills. The New York Times. Today, accompanying this.
From the tractor works in Minsk, this old Soviet beast has made life much easier this spring, and helped us expand the plantings. Dan calls her the AK-47 of farm machines and points to the utilitarian streak in her design (30-weight motor oil serves as her hydraulic fluid; the oil filter need only be cleaned, not replaced, etc) that would make her a labor-multiplying machine under circumstances in which a fussier tractor might fail. That may be so. But she’s a hell of a lot harder to master than a Kalashnikov. Believe me, because I’m trying.
Battlefield Update: The Fight for Isolated Government Outposts in Northern Syria.
On the NYT. With riffs on the way that Syrians actually are dying, while outsiders debate whether chemical weapons have been used. With pix by Bryan Denton.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH
The Ferris wheels of the so-called Youth Camp, one of the Syrian Army’s hold-out positions in Idlib Governorate. Note the olive groves in the foreground. This kind of open terrain rings the camp, forming one of the many reasons approaching the army bunkers is so tactically difficult. By the author.
Did NATO Kill These Afghans With Air-Burst Ordnance?
Alissa Rubin (@alissanyt) examines the deaths of at least 17 women and children in Kunar Province; their bodies were discovered after a vicious firefight on April 5 and 6 in which a CIA officer was killed and his unit pinned down and nearly overrun. A glimpse at a failed joint CIA-Afghan operation, which went “catastrophically awry,” ending in blood, recrimination and sorrow.
NATO’s rules for airstrikes allow Western and Afghan forces to call for ordnance with air-burst fuzes, which convert a standard air-delivered bomb (a weapon that with guidance systems and delayed fuzing can be extraordinarily precise and reasonably discriminate) into a much more dangerous and often indiscriminate means of killing. But these weapons are almost never the first choice. They are typically used when a ground unit is desperate and wants many targets hit or suppressed at once. The downside is that ordnance configured in such fashion carries grave risks to any friendly units or civilian lives and property nearby.
To clear up the many lingering questions, NATO might release all of the weapons systems video from the airstrikes in this fight, and might explain which fuzes and fuze settings were used for each piece of ordnance. Thus far, its denials of responsibility — and its insistence that the Taliban may have smothered the victims (an allegation presented without evidence) — are unconvincing.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH
By Meer Afzal/European Pressphoto Agency.
Several readers had asked me to open an Instagram account. So I did. It’s here.
Truth is I don’t quite know what I’m doing there. While I carry cameras, I’m not a photographer, no more than any fool carrying a rifle is an infantryman. In my case, the cameras are visual notebooks - efficient ways to improve the accuracy of my words. And for photographs to serve as notes, photographs need not be strong. They need only to capture information more quickly than I can write it down. (What was that man wearing? What was the nature of the damage to that building? What was written on that ammunition crate? How many parts were there to that makeshift rocket? The number of bullet holes in that door? And on and on. The little cameras capture much more than the memory, or the hand-writing, ever could.)
Ultimately, photos taken for such ruthlessly practical purposes can find a second life, by complementing work that we publish in The New York Times; that’s what some of them do here on Tumblr. Others serve as an index (of sorts) on Pinterest or as a billboard on FB. Those accounts are (or can be, post by post) connected to one another, turning back on themselves in the service of discussing the same or similar themes, and pointing to journalism or other writing or photographs elsewhere.
We will now see if Instagram can fit, too. Will it really — what’s the word? — work? Nothing is certain, except that apps don’t come to me intuitively, in part because I try to limit severely all screen time not necessary for my journalism, so that real life can happen off the clock. (You can’t harvest, clean and eat virtual fish, or raise virtual crops from soil and seed, or have an intense and laughing game of backyard pickle or capture the flag with your children on-line. Or if you can, these are absurdly poor substitutes, so you shouldn’t.)
So, Instagram needs to provide a purpose. We’ll see if it will. The next step then is to figure how to embed links in the images or the comments on Instagram, so these photos, poor as they are, might become connected to something more than themselves.