Tag Archives: photographer

“A Grieving Father’s Plea For Our Troops” By John Bernard

Last week, I told you about the tragic combat death in Afghanistan of  Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, and the abuse this remarkable Marine’s family has endured. Over the Bernard family’s pleas and objections, the Associated Press distributed a gory battlefield photo depicting Joshua, mortally wounded, just after a Taliban RPG had blown his leg off. Joshua’s father is John Bernard, 1st Sgt. USMC (ret.), and I’ve asked him to share from his heart. He wrote the following thoughts on Sunday, upon returning from the service that awarded his son’s posthumous Purple Heart medal. Please read and carefully consider what he has written. — Jim Bennett, The B.H.   

JBernardThe last few weeks since our son’s death have found me embroiled in a battle for the soul of the country and the lives of our Warriors. Both are inextricably linked because both are in the hands of some of the most immoral men and women in our history. I can say this with certainty because no one with a functional conscience would place a fellow American in a place where they knew they would be attacked, only to deny them the tools – or opportunity — to defend themselves.  Sadly, this is exactly what has happened, and both the political machine and the majority of the population seem to be unconcerned.I am alluding to the current Rules of Engagement (ROE) that have been in place since the end of June in Afghanistan. These rules govern the who, when and how our Warriors can engage in combat. The current rules force our Warriors to ‘break engagement’ with the enemy if there are civilians present; they also deny them the ability to prosecute a battle with the enemy if there is a possibility of civilians in the area; they further deny them the ability to chase the enemy or to seek to engage them if they cannot be absolutely sure there are no civilians in the area. The impetus for these rules is a philosophy fostered by the current administration. It essentially says that we, as Americans, are primarily to blame for the poor relations we are experiencing with the Muslim world community. Further, this philosophy insists that repairing those relations is paramount – even at the expense of the security of this nation and certainly the lives of our Warriors. I DO NOT SHARE THAT VIEW. Nothing should be more sacred to the elected officials of this country than the security of Americans. Anything less is sedition. We have a historical and biblical precedent for exporting violence to defend these shores. We are in violation of conscience and our many sworn oaths if we don’t.

The fruit of this philosophy and its ROE can be measured in body bags filled with the lifeless forms of our honorable Warriors, of whom my son was one. Another side ‘benefit’ of this philosophy is the forced integration of Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan Police among the ranks of our Marines and Soldiers. There have already been two well documented ambushes in the past four weeks, in which it has been suggested that either/both ANA and Afghan Police have either initiated ambushes or informed Taliban forces of impending plans. In both cases Marines were killed.

This save-the-civilians-at-all-cost policy is short-sighted and self-destructive. The point is that we are there, according to this current administration, to safeguard the civilian population from the Taliban, but we can’t fire at the Taliban if there are civilians in the area. Predictably, Taliban forces have exploited this weakness in our strategy and they now choose to engage us exclusively from civilian population areas where, of course, we are forbidden from engaging them. We are forced to patrol these areas to keep out the Taliban, but we can’t kill them when we find them. We are regularly denied the air and artillery support we need to protect the civilian population (which, again, we can no longer protect because we can no longer chase and kill the enemy, get it?)  The result is Marines and Soldiers being forced into killing zones without so much as the ability to defend themselves.

Your elected officials are to blame for this. They are to blame because they are kneeling at the altar of the White House in obedience, either with blind, reckless disregard for the lives that are being lost needlessly, or because they remain willingly ignorant. Add to this that only 20 of the sitting members of Congress have ever worn a uniform and what you have is a political institution making moral decisions about things they are not invested in or, even worse, they are complicit in, for personal gain, in spite of the cost to our Warriors.

Our Warriors are the best in our society. They always have been. They do the unthinkable, under the worst possible conditions, for the worst possible political motivations, simply because they have sworn an oath to do so. In the end, they are four years behind their peers and often come back into society with physical disabilities directly attributable to their service. Even more often they suffer mental maladies from the horrors they have witnessed. Add to this that now they are being led into killing fields laid by the Afghan forces they are ordered to work with (and who have been given carte blanche by our own politicians).

It’s time to get off the couch and hold these people accountable. I don’t want any more parents to take the trip to Dover Air Force Base that my wife, daughter and I had to take four weeks ago to receive our Joshua’s remains.  May God have mercy on us all.  

 

“I’d agree, but then we’d BOTH be wrong: An Answer to my Critics” By Jim Bennett

Last week, I condemned the Associated Press’ decision to release a grisly photograph of Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard. The photograph depicts, in ghastly detail, the mortally wounded Marine just after his leg had been blown off in a Taliban ambush. The AP distributed the photo despite the repeated protests of Bernard’s family. I characterized the release of the picture as an unthinkably cruel assault on the Bernards, and I excoriated the AP for ignoring the most fundamental conventions of human decency. I stand by those convictions, but many readers wrote me with opposing viewpoints, and I feel I should address them.

A reader I’ll call “Bill” insisted that the First Amendment gave the AP the right to publish the photo, and he is unquestionably correct. The AP has every right to distribute the image, but having the right to do something doesn’t necessarily obligate one to do it. I am a firm believer in the adage, “The best way to preserve our rights is to exercise them.” But I also believe that the best way to exercise them is to do so judiciously, guided always by the Golden Rule.  

I also heard from “Stephen” who insisted my statements were tantamount to a call for censorship. While I do find the sight of it personally disagreeable, my objection to the picture’s distribution was not provoked by its subject matter. If the Associated Press had an identical photograph of a mortally wounded serviceman, and if his family gave their blessing to its publication, I certainly wouldn’t have grounds to object. But the Bernards pleaded with the AP not to release the image. My suggestion is for Associated Press leadership to grow a conscience and then use it to police themselves, conducting their business responsibly and with decorum. A grieving family’s wishes should trump the AP’s dubious and self-interested defense of “the public’s right to know.”  

Finally, “Gina” sent me an emotional e-mail, championing the AP for “recognizing that, by publishing the tragic picture, they may help end the fighting by engendering American opposition to the war.” I reject this notion on its premise, because journalists aren’t supposed to influence, they are supposed to inform. Real journalists must be dispassionate, and agendas should have no place in what they do.

But the main error in Gina’s argument is her assertion that undermining American support for the war would expedite an end to the hostilities. The eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks was just last week; have we forgotten who attacked whom? Even in the unlikely event that such photographs could hasten the withdrawal of American forces, this would serve merely to restrain our own troops. Because the initial attack on us was unprovoked, it seems unlikely that a “unilateral armistice” would pacify our enemies.

But here, in my view, is all one really needs to know: Jihadists are already using the image in question to fan the flames of anti-American hatred and violence. For example, I visited an Islamic extremist Web site last week, where the photograph had been posted. The headline gleefully declared: “Death of Coward Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard.” The caption reads, “In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, coward Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard is tended to by fellow coward U.S. Marines after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade during a firefight against the Taliban in the U.S.-occupied village of Dahaneh in the U.S. occupied Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Bernard was transported by helicopter to Camp Leatherneck where he later died of his wounds and stupidity. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)”

The Web site’s owner, Yousef al-Khattab, is a resident of New York City. He is a devotee of Sheik Abdullah Faisal and he uses the Web site to promote the Sheik’s teachings. Faisal is the Muslim hate preacher who was convicted seven years ago of inciting the murders of Americans, Jews, and Hindus in London. British authorities say Faisal exerted extraordinary influence over Germaine Lindsey, one of four terrorists responsible for the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. Fifty-six people were killed, 700 were injured.

Now that the photograph in question is serving as a propaganda tool and morale booster for domestic jihadists, can anyone still defend the actions of the Associated Press as somehow serving the public interest?

AP CEO Thomas A. Curley can. He’s still clinging to his absurd rationalization that the “news value” of the picture somehow outweighs both the anguish its release caused the Bernard family and the aid and comfort its distribution has given to anti-American jihadists.

Keep telling yourself that, Mr. Curley. Whatever gets you through the night, right?

Aid and Comfort? AP Photo of Dying Marine Now Being Used as a Propaganda Tool/Morale Booster for Jihadists

Just as the discussion over the publication of a dying Marine’s photo was beginning to wane, new revelations have arisen that are re-igniting the debate:  It seems Islamic jihadists have co-opted the image for use as a morale booster and propaganda tool.

The Associated Press published the grim photo despite the repeated and emphatic protests of the late Marine’s family and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and touched off a firestorm of debate.   The publication of the bloody, disturbing image of Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, killed by RPG fire in Afghanistan in mid-August, has prompted some to question the propriety of embedding photojournalists and reporters with US combat troops; others, however, hail the picture and its printing as a example of journalistic integrity. 

But with the news that Muslim extremists have hijacked the image to ridicule and celebrate the death of LCPL Bernard, a new concern has arisen:  At what point do incidents like this one serve only to demoralize American troops and encourage the enemies of the United States?  

This screen shot was taken directly from a notorious jihadist website, www.revolutionmuslim.comMuslimScreenThe headline reads “Death of Coward Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard.”  The caption beneath reads, “In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, coward Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard is tended to by fellow coward U.S. Marines after being hit by a rocket propelled grenade during a firefight against the Taliban in the U.S.occupied village of Dahaneh in the U.S. occupied Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Bernard was transported by helicopter to Camp Leatherneck where he later died of his wounds & stupidty[sic]. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)”

Leadership at the Associated Press and those who have spoken out in support of the AP’s decision cite the perceived “news value” of the picture, and many insist that the publication of such stark battlefield images will hasten the end of the hostilities by fomenting opposition to the War on Terror. 

Those who oppose the move by the Associated Press have pointed to the anguish that the photo’s release has caused LCPL Bernard’s already-grieving family, and have speculated that the press organization is merely motivated by sensationalism and greed.  Questions of journalistic ethics and simple human decency have been raised against the Associated Press, but now that the photograph is being exploited as a means of exciting jihadist sentiment and violence, some are asking, “Has the Associated Press unwittingly played into the hands of Islamic Terrorists by providing them with a new icon for propaganda, or even recruitment?”

This sort of thing is nothing new for the web site and its owner.  Both originate from, of all places, New York City.  Revolutionmuslim.com and the man behind it, Yousef al-Khattab, have already drawn sharp criticism for mocking other American military deaths in the War on Terror and for posting crude anti-semitic images and commentary.  al-Khattab, whose birth name was “Joseph Cohen,” describes himself as an American-born Jew who  converted to Islam after attending Orthodox rabbinical school. 

Yousef al-Khattab’s website often serves as a platform for his devotion to Sheik Abdullah Faisal, the Muslim hate preacher who was deported from the United Kingdom in 2007.  Faisal was convicted in 2003 for calling for the murder of Americans, Jews, and Hindus, and for engendering racial hatred with his rhetoric.  He served four years of a nine-year sentence and was deported.  It is widely believed that his teachings influenced Germaine Lindsey, one of four terrorists responsible for the bombing of London underground trains and a bus on July 7, 2005.  56 people, including Lindsey himself, were killed in the attack.  Another 700 people were injured.

There is no small irony in the fact that a news agency has unwittingly provided al-Khattab with his latest propaganda tool; he had already been widely condemned for posting video and commentary celebrating and ridiculing the murder of Daniel Pearl by al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan.  Pearl was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and was abducted, tortured, and beheaded in 2002.

My Full Length Interview with Lance Corporal Bernard’s Dad, John Bernard:


This week, my Monmouth Review-Atlas column, published every Tuesday, addresses Lance Corporal Bernard’s Story…

“A Marine, His Family, and One Gruesome Photograph”

By Jim Bennett

On Aug. 14, as his patrol was readying for a rumored Taliban ambush in Dahaneh, Afghanistan, Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, just 21, was on point. The ambush erupted and a rocket-propelled grenade blew one of Joshua’s legs off, leaving the other leg severely injured. His comrades struggled with tourniquets and battlefield first aid while still under heavy enemy fire, but sadly, for this young, mortally wounded Marine, this attack would mean the end of his life a short time later.

For his comrades, this attack was a moment of sheer desperation as they tried to drag Bernard to safety. And for his parents, John and Sharon Bernard, back home in New Portland, Maine, this attack would come to mean the loss of their only son.

But for embedded photojournalist Julie Jacobson and her bosses at the Associated Press, this attack was a Kodak Moment. Jacobson captured a vivid and dramatic photograph of the scene: Bernard’s gruesome wound is shown in all its bloody detail, and his young face, sickly pale and blank with shock, is haunting. The article that Jacobson and AP reporter Alfred de Montesquiou filed stated that, as that young man was exsanguinating, the photographer “wrestled” with a “question”: Should she try to help save Joshua, or should she keep taking pictures?

Is this really what we have become? Have our hearts really hardened to the point that circumstances like I just described actually cause one to “wrestle” with such a “question”?       

Soon Jacobson’s bosses here in the states were “wrestling” with a “question” that should have been just as axiomatic. This Marine’s parents and sister have already been crushed by his death, just days ago. Do we take their profound grief to new depths by publishing the gory photo around the world, or do we summon that remnant of human decency that lies dormant in our icy souls and at least spare these tormented people that added trial? Just like Julie Jacobson’s “question,” the only thing more shocking than the way they answered the question was the fact that they even needed to ask it at all. And just like Julie Jacobson, they made a disgusting choice.

Joshua’s father, John Bernard, is a career Marine who retired at the rank of 1st Sergeant. He was mid-way through that career when I did my three-year stint in the Corps, and we both served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, though we never met. I was so moved by his son’s story and so outraged by the actions of Julie Jacobson and the AP that I got in touch with John and his wife Sharon. He spoke glowingly of a son who loved Jesus, loved the Marine Corps and loved his family.

John and Sharon homeschooled Joshua and his sister Katie, and when he started talking to his Dad about enlisting, John wanted one assurance: “I needed to know that, when he did this, he was doing it for the right reasons … not just a ‘following in dad’s footsteps’ kind of thing. He was absolutely adamant that this is what he was called to do. And this was with an understanding that his testimony as a Christian would have a bearing in that environment.”

Joshua’s devotion to Jesus Christ was soon producing spiritual fruit among his brothers in arms. John told me that his son “actually was holding Bible studies…they were ongoing, he was encouraging guys, and they were wanting to learn, and they were listening.”

After his death, his unit held a memorial service for him in Afghanistan. Joshua’s remarkable impact was evident there. “The Battalion Commander called me,” John said, “and told me that during their field service, he was almost speechless. He had never witnessed anything like that, where so many Marines – and some of these guys are battle-hardened and have seen things nobody should see – they were all in tears and, to a man, they were all completely heartbroken over having lost this particular Marine. He said that they recognized in him something that was much closer to God than they had ever seen before. And so the suggestion is that God will use that.”

A few days after the funeral, an AP reporter approached John to discuss the photograph. John asked to see it and was shown what he described as fuzzy, black-and-white prints, which bore little resemblance to the bloody, clear color photo now splashed across newspapers worldwide.

“I handed them back to him and said, ‘Look: Neither my wife nor daughter needs to see this. Nobody needs to see this. So if you’re asking me for my permission, you don’t have it. You need to go back and tell them that absolutely no one needs to see this. It doesn’t honor him, it doesn’t honor the Corps, it doesn’t honor God, it doesn’t honor this country, and it doesn’t do them, as a news agency, any service whatsoever.”

Four days later, John Bernard followed up with a phone call to Associated Press leadership, emphatically reiterating his plea that they spare his family this additional, and wholly unnecessary, trauma. Not long after, the Secretary of Defense himself, Robert Gates, intervened, strongly encouraging the Associated Press not to subject the Bernard family to this torment.

They ran the picture anyway.

“I have very little use for the people who took the picture and even less for those who ran it. They had plenty of time to reflect on it, and they did it anyway,” John said.

And like many who read the story Julie Jacobson filed, John Bernard was stunned that she had to “wrestle” with a choice between helping save Joshua and continuing to ghoulishly snap away with her camera. “The fact that that would even be a dilemma for anybody … I don’t even know how to ascribe a thought to that. But the fact that she failed and went the wrong way says much, you know?

“All I can say is it comes back to Romans 1 where it says God will turn them over to a reprobate mind,” John offered. “This person [Julie Jacobson] reflects that.”

I asked John what he thought motivated the Associated Press in their compassionless assault on his grieving family, and he attributed it to greed. “There was exactly one purpose for this, and that was the bottom line, that was selling rags,” he told me. “It’s voyeurism at its worst.”

I share John Bernard’s assessment of all the principle players in this tragedy. And Jesus warned us of a day when, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold.”

That day, dear reader, seems quite near right now. And May God help us all.

Josh Bernard

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