Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

An inside look at the Pentagon’s insiders

Photographer gets unique view during war

June 15, 2003


Editor's note: Photographer David Hume Kennerly, a longtime friend of Journal-World senior editor Bill Snead, agreed to let the Journal-World publish some of his remarkable photographs of history being made during the hottest moments of the Iraq War.

When George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials were directing the war in Iraq, photographer David Hume Kennerly was in the Pentagon's inner sanctum to record it.

Access to the highest people in government is nothing new for the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

Shortly after Gerald Ford became president in 1974, he hired Kennerly as his personal photographer. Previous presidents had photographers on their staff, but none had been granted the access the former United Press International and Time magazine shooter had under Ford.

Kennerly and his cameras were in the White House living quarters almost as often as the Oval Office. His top-secret clearance and ability to convince people he "belonged there" got him an extraordinary view of history in the making.

Now, two key players in the Ford administration, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, have emerged again in the Bush administration. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, once the youngest person to serve in that office, now qualifies as the oldest. Cheney, Ford's chief of staff, is now vice president.

Kennerly, 56 and living in California, is still on the scene publishing and producing books and shooting for Newsweek and other publications.

While U.S. and British troops were blasting their way into Iraq, Kennerly spent time in the Pentagon documenting the powers behind the war: Rumsfeld, members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and a visitor, President Bush.

Kennerly recalled Bush's surprise at seeing him standing among the Pentagon powers and saying, "Kennerly, you show up in the most amazing places."

"I told him I'd be leaving before anything 'interesting' got discussed," Kennerly said, "but I still had better access than anyone else gets."

One of the Pulitzer Prize winner's coups was his first-ever photographs of the secure video teleconference room where Gen. Tommy Franks briefed top Bush and top Pentagon brass and civilians.

"That room is pretty much off-limits to everyone unless you have a reason to be there," Kennerly said.

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