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The War in Iraq - Riley and His Story

May 1, 2010


Riley and His Story is a rare book of photographs about the war in Iraq.  Many of the images are disturbing.  It is an "ugly book" about an ugly reality that most Americans will never know, but which will affect our nation for generations.

The United States has been at war in Iraq since January 1991, more than 19 years. Started by President George H.W. Bush, the war went through a phase of 12 years of punishing sanctions, no-fly zones, and bombings during the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, until the legally-challenged invasion of 2003 and subsequent war of occupation. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans of this 20-year war now have serious health problems, physical and mental. One of the things I have noticed is the difficulties the men have relating with their families when they are back in the states. As a result of the prolonged and intense psychological stress of war a sense of alienation from their wives and children may occur in some military families.

I recently looked at a very disturbing book about the war in Iraq that shows some of the reality that causes such stress and alienation. The book is entitled Riley and his story. Me and my outrage. You and us.  The book was published in the fall of 2009 by Onestar Press (Paris) and Fälth & Hässler (Sweden). The book is not widely available in the United States. One look at the book and you will understand why. The grim reality of the illegal war in Iraq has been kept from the American people since it began in 1991. Unlike the war in Vietnam, actual photographs of the war in Iraq have not been shown to the public as they were in the 1960s on the pages of the popular news magazines TIME and LIFE. Living in the so-called Information Age, we live in a time when the real news is censored and our political reality is based on sugar-coated lies.

Riley and His Story presents the daily life of the Iraq war, as lived and photographed by Riley Sharbonno, an army nurse from Minnesota who served at Abu Ghraib prison from 2004-2005. The book is edited and laid out by Monica Haller.  The publisher showed me a copy of the book saying, "This is an ugly book."  Many of the images (especially of the wounded) are truly overwhelming, confronting the reader with the ugly reality of war as seen by one who was there.  Riley and his story won the Birgit Skiöld Award of excellence at the London Artists Book Fair 2009.  A pdf file with photos and text from the book is online at:  http://www.rileyandhisstory.com/PDF/riley_excerpts.pdf


One of the photos from Riley and His Story

Monica Haller: Riley and His Story
Introduction by Monica Haller. Text by Riley Sharbonno.
Published by Onestar Press/Fälth & Hässler
Published: 21 September 2009

 Title page introduction:

This is not a book. This is an invitation, a container for unstable images, a model for further action. Here is the formula: Riley and his story. Me and my outrage. You and us. Riley was a friend in college and later served as a nurse at Abu Ghraib prison. This is a container for Riley’s digital pictures and fleeting traumatic memories. Images he could not fully secure or expel and entrusted to me. Art can be a series of acts and challenges. Currently the artwork is an object in your hand—organized, mobile, tactile—a stable site to see information once elusive. The artist can mobilize information by provoking, listening, imagining, organizing and reorganizing. Right now, I am the artist. I want you to see what this war did to Riley. Pay attention. This experience happens right in your lap. To make it happen, you must read compassionately, then actively. Then the experience happens wherever you take this container and whenever you respond to my invitation. You and us, yes. Then you and another. This invitation is a model for veterans, families and friends to speak and share openly with each other. The artwork and artist are adaptable; you, the tactical reader, can use this object for your own device, or you can attend to another archive in need of careful attention. This is not a book. It is an object of deployment.

To view images and text from Riley and His Story, click on the following link:  http://www.rileyandhisstory.com/PDF/riley_excerpts.pdf

 


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