Above: Photograph by Thorne Anderson.
The de Young museum is presenting an exhibition of images by two “unembedded” US photographers, Thorne Anderson and Kael Alford. Ten years ago– a month after the largest anti-war demonstrations in human history– the US began its invasion of Iraq with a massive arial bombardment (“Shock and Awe”). For years afterwards thousands upon thousands of Iraqis– the overwhelming majority of them civilians– were displaced, wounded, orphaned, widowed, dispossessed, and killed. Iraqi society fractured. Its economy was restructured according to neoliberal policies. The latter included not only plans by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to privatize all state-owned enterprises (SOEs) but to retain Saddam Hussein’s prohibition of labor unions. (For a fuller account of the policies implemented and how these efforts played out see, for example, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and Caitlin Fitzgerald’s “Reassessing Neoliberal Economic Reform in Post Conflict Societies: Operation Iraqi Freedom“). Anderson and Alford took their photographs– in the words of Alford– “to explore the relationships between public policy objectives and their real world execution and to consider the legacies of human grief, anger, mistrust and dismay that surely follow violent conflict.”