One would think after fourty years the media would learn the perils of running a photograph minus the proper context. What happened almost fourty years ago on asks? The year was 1968 and the country was Viet Nam, it was time of the Lunar New Year and a truce had been declared that would be violated by the North VietNamese and their Viet Cong brethren. On day two General Loan of the South VietNamese police would put in front of the assembled media one of the captured VC, Capt Bay Lop, in Saigon. Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams captured the incadescent moment when General Loan put a bullet through Lop's head. Lop had been captured after committing executions of police officers and their families. But did the Associated Press run the photograph with that context? No. And it caused Eddie Adams much grief until the day he died, for he knew he had killed General Loan with his camera. And also helped the US lose its will to win in VietNam.
Adams penned a eulogy in Time Magazine when Loan died in 1998 and it is still relevant today as the media goes insane over Haditha. These are words to remember from a man who has been there, who has destroyed another person's life with the click of a shutter.
"Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world," he wrote. "People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?' General Loan was what you would call a real warrior, admired by his troops. I'm not saying what he did was right, but you have to put yourself in his position."