“What I saw, and what Geert recorded over the next 48 hours with his camera, I will never forget. As the two of us hustled from house to house in the middle of the night, joining U.S. soldiers as they busted down doors looking for insurgent ‘cells’, the suspicions I had long harboured in Washington began to coalesce, like the dust and mud on my feet, into a concrete reality. I realized that the Bush administration truly had no clue what it was doing in Iraq.”
IRAQ THE STORY YOU WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW
On May 1st, 2003 president Bush addressed his controversial ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech on the flight carrier USS Lincoln, 20 miles out of the cost of San Diego. In this speech, broadcasted worldwide, the war on Iraq was sold as a success story; the Saddam regime was ousted and major combat operations had ended. That same day Geert van Kesteren arrived in Baghdad as independent photojournalist to start working on his now legendary photo report ‘WHY MISTER, WHY?’ in which he bared witness of a complete opposite reality.
The cynical policy under the leadership of Bush and Cheney derailed Iraq completely. American soldiers and Iraqi society paid a high prize for it, with casualties and consequences that last to this very day. Over the past ten years, gradually more and more disturbing details about the occupation of Iraq came to surface. A war with half a million causalities, that will cost the US tax payer 4 trillion dollar, and did not established the so desired democracy to the Middle East.
Ten-years-after seems a right moment to reflect on the catastrophic consequences of the war on terror that started in Iraq. This extended digital re-issue of the WHY MISTER, WHY? bookpublication, first published by Artimo in 2004, won international prestigious awards and became an instant-classic. Van Kesteren adds 166 images to the original 237 photographs of the book.
“I am still trying to recover from the last piece [a 2004 Newsweek article by Michael Hirsh and Geert van Kesteren]; The brigade commander was furious about it; I haven’t seen him in a month so hopefully he has forgotten.” - U.S. Captain Todd Brown recalling Geert van Kesteren and his photography on night raids of the U.S. army in his memoirs ‘Battleground Iraq’, 2007.
“Without knowing him, one suspects Geert van Kesteren to be the punk of photo- journalism... Instead of pushing back, he embraces new realities.” - Remi Coignet, Le Monde2, 2008.
“Colonel Hickey is eccentric; wearing cowboy boots with an American eagle embroidered on them, in evening he shoots ducks over the Tigris river. Apparently intimidated by the U.S. Army’s heavy presence around Tikrit, more and more guerrillas are stashing their weapons and keeping a low profile. Col. Hickey is trying to flush them out and hunt them while he can. One tactic Hickey and his team uses is to make themselves the bait. ‘This is RPG alley’, he says, ‘I will drive the Humvee up and down to try to attract fire from locals armed with rocket-propelled grenades. If they shoot at me, that is when I catch them.” - fragment from Geert van Kesteren’s documentary-app WHY MISTER, WHY? - IRAQ, 2003-2004.
The photodocumentary-app ‘WHY MISTER, WHY?’ contains over 400 photo’s, in detail reports in English and Arabic, live newsfeeds and photo-zooms. A production of photographer Geert van Kesteren in collaboration with Antenna-Men.
‘Why Mister, Why?’ restores one’s faith in the capacity of photojournalism to engage, reveal and comprehend. Lasting photojournalism is not just about great images but about context and meaning.
Already, what is being regarded as the second’s Gulf War’s equivalent to Vietnam Inc. has been published. ‘Why Mister, Why?’ by Geert van Kesteren... ...is a photo book in the best concerned photographer tradition... ...’Why Mister, Why?’ is a damnin indictment of what at that moment showed every sign to be another Vietnam.
This is the most compelling new book to deal with war in the last ten years.