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Horrific images can cloud judgment - Rob Felt

The link on the news Web site read "**Warning: Graphic Photos** Iraqis mutilate burnt body; hang from bridge," so, of course, it got clicked.

Here's the scene: a group of Iraqis surround a gore-filled piece of charcoal that used to be a human being. They are poking it apart with shovels and sticks in the middle of a street in Fallujah and celebrating with chants: "We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam!"

Behind them two broken bodies hang from a bridge n bones cracked and limbs turning at impossible angles n while the crowd parades in circles and young Iraqis flash the victory sign at cameramen, who will bring images of their victory to the world.

An attack on civilian vehicles by Saddam loyalists led to the murder and abominable disfigurement of innocent, unarmed contract workers, and anyone who has seen images from this attack now has to digest the emotional impact of the event.

How does this shift the all-important "average American" on the sliding scale of political opinion? Either way the slide is greased with anger, that much is for sure.

Those who protested the war from its inception find themselves with new ammunition to fire off during peace rallies, new art to splash across picket signs and a renewed confidence that military interference in foreign countries leads to anti-American sentiment.

Supporters of the war in Iraq will be fueled to call for more military action and confinement of the Iraqi citizens. They will argue that this event translates into a plea for help by the newly liberated country, and to pull out now would be derelict to our duty.

Still others will use the carnage to fortify their bigotry, hatred and racism for people in the Middle East and Muslims at large.

Images like these trickle through our national consciousness whenever horror occurs, and freedom of information advocates demand that they be shown. The people have a right to know, they defend.

Although access to these graphic events is, by definition, a simple dissemination of the facts, most people fail to fully compile the cause and effect of what they see. There is no easy solution to the problem. When people react badly to public information it does not trump the value of our freedoms.

Media outlets enforce their own ethical standards to restrict graphic content, but the Internet has all but erased the control that the public has been under when they actively seek out this information.

Reactions to this material will be passionate, some may be offended and a few will be hardened in their ignorance. These reactions are human nature, and in response to real events in our very turbulent world.

These horrific events did happen and the documentation is fact. We may not enjoy it, but we certainly can't ignore it.

Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at rfelt@henryherald.com.