“I’ve got BLISTERS on my FINGERS!”

Did Reuters Stage ‘Insurgent’ Photo?


What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing in and of itself. But the Reuters caption reads

Iraqi insurgents take up positions at a crossroads in the Iraqi town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, June 16, 2005. Five U.S. marines were killed in Iraq when their vehicle struck a bomb near the violent western town of Ramadi, the U.S. military said on June 16. Its statement gave no details of Wednesday’s attack but it was the second time in a week that insurgents have inflicted such a high death toll on marines in the same area in a single blast and strengthens the impression that guerrillas have developed more sophisticated bombing techniques. Photo by Stringer/Iraq/Reuters

Captain’s Quarters notes a reader comment:

What caught my eyes were the fact that the “insurgent” had his finger off the trigger and along the frame (excellent safety practice, but something not expected of an untrained insurgent, especially in a firefight). The second thing was that fact that he had his hand wrapped around the barrel, which would be very hot is he were actually firing it (especially during the summer in Iraq). The Machine gun in the picture is a Russian PK, which fires the powerful, long rimmed 7.62 cartridge, not the lighter intermediate round of the AK-47. Speaking as a “gun nut, firing such a machine gun in automatic while in that crouched position would put you on your rear end, with the barrel pointing towards the sky.

In short, this smells of a “staged” picture.

In all fairness, the fighter may not actually be in combat at the moment, and he may not have fired his weapon recently, so there’s no conclusive proof of anything. His stance looks a little weak for that weapon, but the aforementioned poor training may be responsible for that. And the finger on the trigger guard could just be a frozen moment in time as the fighter moved his finger. In short, I don’t think there’s enough in this photo to conclude anything.

That doesn’t mean I’m giving Reuters a free pass, though. They’ve been tagged staging photos in the past, especially in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And there’s this passage from Steven Vincent’s IN THE RED ZONE:

Haider, for example, told me of acting as the translator for a German TV crew working outside of Baghdad in the summer of 2003.

The crew, he recounted, filmed a village trash heap, then reported, over his protests, that the smoldering compost was once “fertile farmland destroyed by Coalition bombs.” In September, he accompanied a French photographer as she wandered through Baghdad looking for a scene that would dramatize Iraqi suffering resulting from the war. Unable to find a suitable tableau, she paid an Iraqi woman to kneel in the debris of a partially demolished building and raise her arms to heaven as if imploring Allah to strike down the American infidels. “The photographer had me ask the woman to remove her wristwatch so she wouldn’t look too wealthy,” Haider related. Mohammad recalled watching an Al-Jazeera film crew pay men loitering on Saddoun Street to throw rocks and light a car on fire. “Within a few minutes, Al-Jazeera made their own ‘anti-American’ demonstration,” he said.

So I’m certainly not disputing any claims of staged photos. I’m simply pointing out that we can’t really tell from these shots.


  1. In the larger version of this picture, it’s clear from the angle that the photographer is only a few yards away from the gunmen. This is not a telephoto lens. Considering how the insurgency works, wouldn’t the insurgents have to trust that photographer an awful lot, and the photographer them, to allow such a photograph? The gunmen knew the photographer was there. The gunmen trusted him not to tell Iraqi and U.S. forces where they were. Beyond that, if the gunmen were ‘taking up positions’ for a battle, as the Reuters caption implies, that photographer was in major danger from U.S. gunfire. On the other hand, it’s possible the photographer just happened to stumble on these guys, and they said, ‘Hey, take our picture!’ Would you refuse? We still could argue with Reuters caption of ‘insurgents take up positions.’ I doubt they generally take up daylight positions in the open.

  2. We have Traters among us especialy in the media .Its all about Bush .Some Demorcrat felt it was a good idea to make bush lose the WAR. So there party could take over.PURE TREASON