The USAF Air Combat Command just tweeted this photo: "Today in 1991, US-backed coalition air forces attained air supremacy over the Iraqis." Aside from any geopolitical consideration, there's something unsettling about it. It is simultaneously imposing for what it shows and terrible for what it doesn't.

Above: Formation of three F-15 Strike Eagles and two F-16s Fighting Falcons calmly flying over Kuwait's burning oil fields.

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From this altitude, the human and environmental catastrophe gets reduced to a mere backdrop, a simple set for America's overwhelming air superiority—it didn't take long before the Pentagon could declare its veni, vidi, vici.

Maybe I feel this way because this was the first war I ever saw. It was, in fact, the first war televised in real time. I remember my father waking me up in the middle of the night: "Come, the Americans have launched an attack on Iraq." I stood in the living room, fascinated by the images moving on the screen—tracer fire, missiles, and explosions all over Baghdad. It didn't look different from any Hollywood war movie. It didn't look real. It never occurred to me that real people were dying in Iraq and Kuwait, regardless of their intentions and political affiliation. It was all a big show. A video game someone else was playing.

These images are frames of that show. Today, they could be a frame captured from any video game or fake war movie. Maybe that's why people don't care anymore: Nothing real feels real anymore because the world of entertainment feels so real to us, despite being fake.

F-14 Tomcats from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf awaiting their turn refueling from a KC-10A over Iraq during Desert Storm while conducting a MIGCAP mission to turn back fleeing Iraqi fighters.

[Photos curated by Attila Nagy]


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