Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Mike Sherer
Dr. Jeremy Lipschulz
Dr. Mark Rousseau
War is a tragic part of our society. War causes death and destruction not only to losers but also to the victors. In the age of real time television wars and from the daily bombardment of images from the battlefield in the media, political and military leaders have learned that fighting lengthy wars is nearly impossible for a democratic society. The military, as an institution, is very methodical in its procedures and how it wages war. The media, as also an institution, publishes and disseminates information to the public on newsworthy events. By controlling media access to war events, the military can create this particular vision of war to the American public which, in fact, the military uses to create its own picture of reality. Photojounalists have faced many challenges covering war. Whether voluntary or strict, some form of censorship has been placed on photojoumalists. Photographs of dead or wounded American soldiers have always been handled with sensitivity. For photojounalists to gather or record information, they must have the greatest possible access to events. During times of war, photojounalists either have not been allowed access to combat, or they have had unlimited access to the action. Media access to war-time events has not been given First Amendment protection by the courts. Since the invasion of Grenada in 1983, the media has been struggling with the military for access to combat operations. During the War in the Gulf, the media had limited access to the events of the war because only a handful of journalists and photojoumalists covered the war via a pool system implemented by the military. This made access a problem. With the exception, the primary scene and portrayal in photographs taken during the War in the Gulf, there were statistical differences in the areas of subject(s), and perspective of photographic images between the air and ground campaign. Of the 1,853 published images, a majority (60.3 percent) were of "combat related scenes," while 11.6 percent showed "actual combat scenes." Of the seven subjects that were coded as present or not present, the largest number of photographs, 877 (47.3 percent), showed American or Coalition weapons, equipment or targets in Iraq. The largest number of photographs with soldiers present were of American soldiers (873 or 47.1 percent). The photographs that portrayed the primary subjects showed a "situation depicting soldiers in action, but not in combat" 25.8 percent of the time. Photographs published during the war showed different perspectives; of these 1,114 (60.1 percent) showed the subject(s) in a "normal view of people or objects which are identifiable." During the war, more "actual combat" photographs were taken during the air campaign than the ground campaign. During the air campaign, most of the images of actual combat included: military supplied "Nintendo like" cross haired images of bombing targets over Iraq and Kuwait, photographs of Coalition planes launching on bombing sorties, and images from the battle of Khafji, a Saudi Arabian - Kuwaiti border town where Coalition and Iraqi soldiers actually shot at each other. The air campaign spanned several weeks and produced 1,167 (63.0 percent) of the images; the ground campaign lasted several days and produced 686 (37.0 percent) of the images. Coverage of the War of the Gulf tended to favor images from the air campaign. From the first bombing attacks of Iraq to the Iraqi accepted cease fire, the War in the Gulf lasted 48 days. The overall image of the War in the Gulf was portrayed as a high-tech, mobile operation that placed no American soldiers in any actual danger. Images of war have given us a visual description that a battle has taken place and our perceptions of war have been molded around this recent encounter with war. War has deadly stakes that place people and machines in harm's way. Soldiers do die and bombs do kill people, but images from the War in the Gulf did not show the reality of war that was shown during World War II, the Korean War and especially the Vietnam War.
Paul, Victor J., "The War in the Gulf: Access and Photographic Coverage During the Crisis" (1995). Student Work. 427.
A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Arts Degree University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1995 Victor J. Paul