Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The public saw the wars in Iraq (2003 – 2012) and Afghanistan (2001 – present) through the lens of reverence and sentimentality toward the soldier. This was manifest not simply in the catchy “support our troops” rhetoric, but in the one-sided depiction of the experience of battle by the photojournalists who worked for the major news organizations in the Western world. From the emotionally bloated to the nationalistic, the photographs taken by “embedded” photojournalists, whether the result of heavy-handed censorship or merely political influence, presented a consistent image: the soldier as a selfless victim of his or her own heroism. This practice stands in stark contrast to the coverage and reception of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam, and who were often pictured and treated as inhumane and malicious. This paper argues that while the strong public opposition to involvement in Vietnam was largely contingent upon the images that portrayed the soldier as an unethical and malignant presence, the lessons from Vietnam were, in this case, learned by the government and media organizations that sought to justify the similar invasive presence of soldiers in the Middle East. By comparing the common themes and iconic photographs from the war in Vietnam with those from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this paper shows how the newly established cult of the soldier attempted to instill public support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while more critical and violent images, which formerly helped to galvanize opposition, were edited out



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Speith, Darius