Everyone has seen the still photo of South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting his prisoner point blank into his temple. Along with the photo of a child running naked after a napalm attack, it’s become the iconic image of The War That Never Ends. What’s less known is how much Eddie Adams, the now-deceased photographer who took the shot later regretted it:
Adams wrote in Time magazine, “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. 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?'”
The picture that Adams took, the picture that CNN thinks is such an atrocious and ignoble deed, ruined Loan’s life. More to the point, it didn’t expand on “our right to know.” It didn’t answer questions, or give us the story. It deceived. It gave no context. It confirmed the biases of the anti-war journalists, and they used it to further their agenda.
I wonder if the photographer who shot this Pulitizer-winning image will eventually have similar guilt over how much he manipulated the news of the day by allowing himself to be used by Saddam-admiring terrorists.