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330 Days – The Uncensored War in Iraq

In Books on 29 March 2011 at 15:01

A Photo Documentary
Christopher Durante & Julian Van Bellinghen
Published by: World Audience Publishers – New York
258 pages – A4 format – paperback
ISBN: 978-1-935444-43-5

Book Reviewed by: Robert Bluffield

This is essentially a picture book that documents the coalition’s involvement in Iraq from the US soldier’s viewpoint. It is certainly not for the faint hearted as it contains some extremely poignant, but necessary, images of dismembered bomb victims and those caught in street fighting and ambushes. The only text contained in the book is short and forms only the captions that explain each of the photographs, but there is little need for words because the images, in the main, speak volumes about the total barbarity of war. The book is hard hitting, harsh and concerning and clearly will shock but they show some of the real dangers the coalition troops were exposed to in Iraq and now in Afghanistan.

330 days (presumably the period one of the authors served in Iraq) sets out to put the viewer on the front line by attempting to show the realities of a country that will probably never recover from the devastation caused by a dreadful regime and a tyrant leader that was devised to release the Iraqi people. It has failed of course and while there are the infighting between the Ba’ath, Sunni and Shia continues there will never be peace. The images, taken by active soldiers with ordinary inexpensive cameras, as the co-authors state, are of a kind that any newspaper would never dare publish, and they are right. The nature of many of the photographs will, no doubt, also cause embarrassment for the US Government who dislikes the true horrors of the conflict being exposed to the electorate.
The authors are clearly making a statement by publishing this book but it does leave me wondering who will buy it? As a documentary of what US military personnel have experienced on the streets of Baghdad it works well but I am not quite sure where, because of the gruesome images contained in the book, will fit into most buyers’ bookcases. The cover should, in any event carry a public warning because some people who open the book will be disturbed by many of the photographs that show blown off body parts and entrails that are the result of a violent explosion of shooting. Nevertheless, there is bound to be an audience for a book that holds back no punches to reveal reasons why so many coalition troops have been psychologically damaged by their experiences in this war.

Arsene Denies Uefa Charge

In Arsenal FC, Barcelona FC, Football, Referees, Sport on 9 March 2011 at 11:55

I admit to being biased but as a life-long Arsenal supporter I do have an axe to grind about referees. The sending off of Van Persie against Barcelona was ridiculous and in my view red cards should be restricted to dangerous play and gross misconduct. Whether he kicked the ball away deliberately after the whistle had blown is open to conjecture – or more to the point dependant on the club you support. But there are other more important issues here. Arsenal played badly but they were in with a chance after Barca had scored an own goal, but a sending off altered the entire ethos of the game. The fans who have paid a lot of money to see a game want to be entertained and when a  player is dismissed from the field of play for a trivial offence or a poor decision this takes away the passion of the game and can often kill the fans’ enjoyment. And, as for Van Persie wasting time – how much time was lost in the post-decision argument by both teams once the red card had been shown.

It appears that the coaches are always chastised for their comments but we never hear of the referees cautioned for wrong decisions. This is an emotive game, and despite the financial concerns, teams want to win. Haven’t the coaches got a right to criticise in the same way that they have to take it on the chin for their misjudgments? I also believe that high-profile coaches such as Wenger and Ferguson have become targets – not so much by the match officials – but officialdom, and you can sympathise at times with their reactions.

In Arsenal’s case this is the second major decision that has gone against them in consecutive games. This may well upset the entire balance of their season. On Saturday against Sunderland Arshavin scored a perfectly good goal but through a basic error made by an official that ruled him offside,  two points were lost after the goal was disallowed. At this stage in the season and with the tightness at the top of the table, this of course could well cost Arsenal the Premier League championship.

We must accept that referees and linesmen (oops – referee’s assistants) make mistakes – that is life, but the officiating bodies must be prepared to accept this and overturn decisions when they are clearly wrong. In every game we have the same old problems. The spirit is being knocked out of the sport because of the arguing that ensues over poor decisions. In the case of European games, there are now five officials, yet last night Arsenal were awarded a corner that clearly came off Van Persie and not the Barca defender so why did the official on the goal line and the one running the line not see this? Arsenal may have played badly but the referee also had a poor game.

There is plenty of value in the view that referees should be expected to comment on their decisions after the game so that everyone associated has a clear impression over what was in his mind. But match officials are wrapped in cotton wool and prevented from speaking by the ruling bodies who are overly protective. However, if referees were allowed to speak and explain their actions this would clear up a lot of misconceptions.

For the sake of the game we have to own up to the fact that the time is right for replays to be shown on crucial decisions. This would soon become an acceptable part of the game as it has done in cricket and it would lead to a fairer decision-making system that would be less open to abuse. It seems wrong that when TV cameras and most of the fans within a stadium have seen a ball that has clearly crossed the line for a goal, it can be disallowed because a referee has made a blatant mistake. When it has been proved that an error had been made it is time to own up to human misgivings by reversing a wrong decision.  The officials are not immune from making mistakes like the rest of us, and now that the game has become so fast and with players not averse to cheating we have to appreciate this and make amends. But the FA, Uefa and FIFA must also accept that ridiculous errors and countless unjustified  ‘sendings off’ are debilitating football and is causing damage that could easily be rectified by electronic replays. So why won’t they introduce them?

STOP PRESS: Arsene Wenger, quite rightly in my opinion, has criticised Uefa for the charges they have made against him following his alleged comments against the Swiss referee Massimo Busacca. Wenger was charged with using ‘inappropriate language’ to the referee but he has denied this. He has come out and said: “It would be good for Uefa to show some humility, to apologise for what happened, not charge people who have done nothing wrong”.  I believe that it is time for all of football’s controlling bodies to step down from their ivory towers to bring some commonsense back into the game and to believing that they are always right on every issue.