What We Are Leaving Behind in Iraq
A Photo-Essay produced by Alice and Lincoln Day
Featuring the story and photography of Michael Fitzpatrick
Michael Fitzpatrick is a former U.S. Army Sergeant, deployed in
Iraq from March 2004 to March 2005 and then again from October
2006 until January 2008. The 5-year stretch he was there gave him
an unusual opportunity to view changes over time in the
environment and activities of the American military. Stationed
about 12 miles northeast of Baghdad, his duties extended to several
patrol bases that operated out of different cities.
Fitzpatrick says that before he went to Iraq, he imagined it would
look somewhat like the countryside of rural Northern California
where he grew up. News agencies had not prepared him for the dire
poverty of the people or the toll that war had exacted on the houses,
the infrastructure, the farms, and the land. Everywhere there were
damaged buildings and trash littering public places. As he traveled
around on patrols he says he kept looking for a place that was clean
and well maintained, but never found one.
He was particularly horrified by the scale of military equipment,
ordnance, and dangerous munitions that were left lying around, a
threat to the safety of American soldiers and to Iraqi children and
adults alike. He felt strongly that Americans should be made aware
of what was going on: that “they knew how to destroy, they didn’t
know how to restore.”
To record what he saw, Fitzpatrick took some 3,000 photos that
became the inspiration and basis for this 19-minute photo essay.
These provide visual testimony to what has happened and
continues to happen to the environment in countries like Iraq and
Afghanistan in consequence of sustained foreign military presence.
He sums up his deep concerns about the environmental damage
that we are leaving behind in this way: “And remind them that all
this stuff is just sitting around out there, on everyday land,
accessible to anyone. I just walked up on all this stuff and took
Fitzpatrick is currently a student at the State University of California
(Chico), specializing in philosophy and English language and literature.
The Days met him after a screening at the University of their film, Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives --The Environmental Footprint of War.
Michael thought that this film captured much of what he had experienced
during his Iraq deployment. He turned over his entire “photo library” to
the Days to use as they chose. In June 2010, their production team
interviewed him on film talking about his impressions of Iraq and then, over
the next 6 months, used a selection of his photos to produce this photo-essay.
Product ID: LEAVING_BEHIND_IN_IRAQ