Article Overview:   Terrorism freezes images in the mind.   The Beast of Terror embosses horrible images on the mind that can only be erased with Vigilance.   What pictures did you freeze?  How will you erase them?  Find out.


Sunday--April 13, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 578
Frozen Moments Of Terrorism

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Apr. 13--Terrorism leaves in its wake frozen moments.   It petrifies the worst of human nature.  It locks forever in the mind the horror of war, the ugliness of brutality, the savagery of inhumanity.

         I experienced some of those frozen moments again last night when I watched Oliver Stone's movie Platoon.   To me, the movie is one of the most graphic and realistic representations of the horror of war.  Each time I see it forces me to revisit numerous  portraits of horror--faces of women and children turned into victims of war.  It symbolizes the brutal unleashing of the Beast of Terror from within the Heart of Human Darkness, a suppository that Joseph Conrad wrote so eloquently about that exists in the bowels of human nature--a thin line where civilization ends and the jungles of the Beast begins, where morality stops and immorality marches forward, a fragile zone where the fences of civilization turn from white to black and the consequences of one's actions have no checkpoints except within one's mind.
         It is that innominate zone where man and woman becomes either God or the Devil, saint or sinner, Sentinel of Vigilance or Beast of Terror.

Morley Safer reminded me about the "Frozen Moments of Terrorism"

      The Iraqi war, no different than any other war ever fought on the face of earth, is but one more example of the portrait of human degradation, human depreciation of all its civility, an eraser of all its progress over millions of years of human evolution.
       I was reminded about the "Frozen Moments of Terrorism" a couple of nights ago when I attended a seminar at HBO headquarters where Morley Safer, co-editor of CBS's 60 minutes, was receiving the George Polk Lifetime Award, one of most respected kudos given to journalists.

American flag raising at Iwo Jima

       Mr. Safer was asked about the difference between television reporting and photo journalism, and asked why a photograph such as the raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi during WWII, or a photo of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's stature had more clout than a television sound bite.

Saddam's statue toppling

      "The difference," he said, "is that a photo freezes a moment in time.   It captures everything in one frame.  It locks history in a moment."
        In Vietnam, I took thousands of pictures with my Nikonos, an underwater camera I purchased before going over that allowed me to take photos in any kind of weather, and because of its rugged structure, could withstand the brutality of combat.

Cliff McKenzie, U.S. Marine Combat Correspondent

         As a U.S. Marine Combat Correspondent, I first shot with my rifle or .45 pistol, and then, as the smoke cleared, shot pictures of the aftermath.   I had two fingers on two triggers, one on my weapon and the other on my camera.   I captured the horror of war in my gun sights as well as in the frame of my camera. 

Vietnam War frozen moment of GI crying

         I think of war in terms of the camera lens.
         Even though I was an expert marksman, when I sighted down the barrel of my rifle I was looking at the target as a photo.   By nature, I'm a journalist.  I see everything as a story.   The world is sliced into fragments rather than wholes.  Everything is a combination of pieces that, when put together, becomes a whole.
         When I see pictures of war, I see frozen moments.    I don't see the sound bites or the flow of one frame of televised images blending into another frame, rushing by one after another.   I freeze frame images.   I take pictures of events.  I hold them in a portfolio in my mind, often against my will, studying them, measuring them, haunted by them.

Vietnam War frozen moment of wounded

        Platoon reminded me of countless faces I had seen of civilians ripped by the horror of war, of young Marines turned into Beasts of Death, faces grimaced by the pain of seeing their own buddies killed and taking out vengeance against the Vietnamese--sometimes justified, sometimes but a surge of vengeance to compensate for their suffering.
         Now I am seeing the Frozen Faces Of Terror replayed on the television.   The networks are recycling their news of the war, running old feeds to refresh the thirst of viewers to sit in their armchairs and watch the destruction of human life.
         I think about the Frozen Faces.   In my war, I see them.   They stare at me with blank looks, empty, vacuous stares as though their souls were empty, drained of any emotion.    Some didn't blink when they looked down the barrel of a M-14.   They just sat there, staring blindly in the stoicism of a people who had been at war for more than 300 years, ten generations of brutality passed on from great-great-great grandparents downline to the child who stared up waiting for the bullet with no flinch, no blink of an eye.
         I thought about the Iraqi people.  
         They were suffering war's aftermath.

There were still beds to be found in the hospitals ......

        There was still the scent of decaying flesh rising from the corpses buried in the rubble.  There were still bodies to be buried.   There were still fresh wounds that needed dressing.  There were still bullets being loaded into sniper's weapons, and a few suicide bombers waiting for their last hurrah, their final chance to be rocketed to Paradise.
         I thought about the jubilation in Israel over the fact that Saddam Hussein would no longer pay suicide bombers $25,000 for killing others.  No longer would the bounty on death be paid.  No longer would the Beast of Terror feed the Baby Beasts with money for their families if they blew themselves up and others in an attempt to fuel more destruction.

Iraqis have been given the right to extol the virtues of "freedom" - they can celebrate - they can protest

         I watched MSNBC showing the Iraqi people outside the Palestine Hotel demonstrating against American occupation, upset that electricity was out, water didn't flow into their city, and looters were ravishing the community.    I listened to the commentators lauding the fact Iraqi's could protest without fear of being shot.   They extolled the virtues of "freedom."


Jessica Lynch's return to the U.S. being taken to the Walter Read Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.


       I saw Jessica Lynch returning to the U.S.   They carried her on a stretcher.  Her head was visible, with her Army beret placed perfectly on her blonde hair.   I had read a story about how women rights groups, once vociferously against the war, were now cheering Jessica, their newest hero, and hoping she had "wasted" the enemy who tortured and beat her.
        I thought of my grandchildren, sheltered from the war and its violence.   They knew little of the death and destruction.  They weren't aware the Beast of Terror was being put back on the shelf, canned, vacuum sealed for the moment as the war in Iraq came to a close.
        In the aftermath would rise the frozen moments.
        Pictures would immortalize the war.

Frozen Moment of Iraqi mother screaming

        Still photos would capture the face of a mother crying over the body of her child.
        A shot of an Iraqi child kissing an American Marine on the day of liberation would nearly rival the photo on VE day of the woman kissing the sailor in Times Square.
        The tearing down of Saddam's statue would be juxtaposed against Joe Rosenthal's flag raising shot on Iwo Jima.
        There would be guts and glory pictures, photos of liberation and photos of inhumanity.
        The picture album would include the shots of American POW's being tortured, and of their dead bodies laying in pools of blood on a dirty floor.
        Pictures of children and civilians with horrible wounds and fragments of their body left in tact would be spread on the posters of anti-war posters, to be used for the next rallies against the next war.
        And, I would only see the faces of my own war.
        I would not relate to those of the Iraqis.

Frozen moment of scared Vietnamese child

Frozen moment of Vietnamese woman crying over the dead

       I would see the faces of the Vietnamese.   The people in the villages frozen in my mind.
      I would also see the figures of those who leapt from the World Trade Center as I stood looking up at the burning buildings on September 11, my eyes seared with the images yet vacant, my heart stopped as body after body plummeted down.
        I would see the frozen faces of the people next to me when the buildings began to collapse, and hear their screams--"We're all going to die!"--and remember the choking moment when the fists of destruction roiled toward us as millions of pounds of concrete smashed to the earth, crushing 3,000 bodies--men and women, innocent bystanders, caught in the web of war.

Iraqi children with thawed and smiling faces

       Yes, I will always see the Frozen Faces of the Beast of Terror.
       But, I will remember that the faces can be thawed.
      By taking the Pledge of Vigilance, by vowing to fight the Beast of Terror, I can believe that Terrorism will one day no longer freeze the faces of the innocent into death masks.
       I can believe one day the world can smile rather than sneer--it will be the day that Vigilance overpowers Terrorism.


April 12--The Day Terrorism Died

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