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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Isaan, Surin, Sisaket, Thailand, Cambodia. Who will report it, who will die.

And this button? Page in BKK
 Back in "The Day" I was fortunate enough to meet up with folks like, Page, Galloway, Halberstam, Katie Webb and more. Who documented war and the truth of war. Over the years the reported more than war, but one thing they had in common was (and in some cases still is) was the ability to keep opinion separate from their reporting. Something I see missing in much reporting today. I really don't give a shit what most reporters think, "I want to simply know; Who?, What? Where? and When?

Anyhow the following was sent to me by Galloway. I found it interesting and useful. I hope you do as well.

there was a discussion on another net group to which i belong, with a
few complaining that the deaths of these two photographers drew mega
media coverage while the deaths of poor libyans drew little or none.
which overlooks the fact that these two shooters and a whole host of
war correspondents are there precisely to report on those libyans and
their struggle.
it got my juices flowing and below is the response i posted last night:

I get your point. Mine would be that we need men and women who have
the courage to risk their lives, and sometimes give up their lives,
trying to get the stories and pictures and film that tells the truth
about that half a war in Libya, and all our wars, and try to inform a
public that seemingly does not care much about the wars today, or
about those we send to fight them.
From your post:

"However, these men were there on purpose and totally on their own volition."

That is pretty much what the people who don't really care about the
wars and who does the fighting say about our military....our volunteer
military. They like to underline that word "volunteer" and say that
whatever they get, including multiple and unending deployments to
combat, they asked for by signing up of their own volition. In other
words, it's okay with them so long as it's not their children or
grandchildren who are called to do so dangerous a job with so little
thanks and so little in the way of material reward. After all...."they
asked for it."

This may be true in both cases--different professions which share some
of the same dangers. Both go in harm's way because they have, in
effect, signed up for it. They have stepped forward with a purpose,
and after that it is a matter of doing your duty whether you are a
soldier or a war correspondent.
However, to me that is a callous way of looking at those charged with
defending our country and safeguarding our national security, as
defined by elected political leaders. It is also callous, in my view,
to similarly view that shrinking number of correspondents who
accompany the troops, or sometimes go ahead of them, in search of
stories and images that we hope will better inform an increasingly
aloof majority of citizens who have no skin in the game of modern war,
and little apparent interest in what happens so far away.
It was another time and the biggest war of all time, but Ernie Pyle
was a volunteer who chose the danger of covering the Infantry from as
far forward as he could get. When he was killed in the final months of
WWII, having shifted to the Pacific from Europe after VE Day of his
own volition, even though he was sick and tired and worn down by war
and its horrors, the entire nation mourned his loss and the loss of
his unique and straight-forward stories of the soldiers and Marines
who were still dying by the thousands.
It was a different country and a different people then. Nearly
everyone had a real stake in the war; nearly everyone had someone
among the 15 million wearing a uniform and fighting that war. They
cared deeply about the troops and they cared deeply about a skinny,
tired old reporter who could with his words make them love and mourn
an Infantry captain from a small town in Texas who died on a rocky
mountainside in Italy in the winter of 1944. Read: The Death of
Captain Waskow, January 1944, if you have never read that.
No one dared suggest that the troops who volunteered by the millions
in the weeks and months after Pearl Harbor were there of their own
volition and therefore we need not care as much about them. They were
there defending much of the world against some men and nations who
sought to dominate and "purify" that world by conquest and murder. No
one suggested that the outpouring of grief at the loss of Ernie Pyle
somehow took something away from all the other soldiers and civilians
who were among the 60 million who died in that war. Ernie was better
known than any other war correspondent of the time, and he was
certainly better loved and appreciated because he loved the Infantry
and took the risks, shared the risks, to tell the stories of ordinary
soldiers doing extraordinary things every day.
I'm glad I am of a generation where, when they said you were doing
something dangerous of your own volition, whether it be soldiering in
a war or reporting on a war, it was meant as high praise--not somehow
perjorative or a sign that your sacrifices were self-inflicted and,
thus, of lesser consequence than if you were accidentally done in on
I-95 by a speeding 18-wheeler. Or, God forbid, if somehow you had been
forced against your will to go fight or cover a war.
There was a time in this country when doing something so dangerous by
your own choice, your own volition, and "of a purpose" was seen as
both honorable and courageous, and something worth doing for the good
of the country.
In WWII, 54 war correspondents were killed out of 500 accredited by
the Pentagon to cover American forces at war. Hundreds more died
covering other armies during the war. They died by all the ways
possible in war: Bullets, bombs, artillery shells, flying on bomber
raids, in naval battles at sea. The only reporter chosen to cover the
Dieppe Raid was in the first wave to land and was among the first to
During the war in Indochina, some 70 correspondents were killed, or
are missing in action and presumed dead, during ten years of the war.
Some, like reporter/photographer Dickey Chappelle, were old hands at
covering war. She died in November 1965 when a Marine in front of her
triggered a booby-trapped shell and a small fragment nicked Ms.
Chappelle's jugular vein. My friend bled to death with her head in the
lap of a colleague and a Catholic chaplain leaning over giving her the
last rites. A stringer new to the business claimed a place on a
dangerous Special Forces insertion of a small team into a besieged SF
camp in October 1965. As the team began a dash through enemy lines
toward the camp the cameraman raised up to film it with his 16mm
camera. An enemy machine gun round tore through the lens of the camera
and through the eye of the journalist who was killed instantly before
he shot a foot of film. If he had lived and gotten the story, and it
was deemed useable, he might have been paid $75 or $100 by the company
which gave him a few rolls of film and told him to go see what he
could get on that film.
By contrast, during the first month of the war in Afghanistan,
November of 2001, a dozen correspondents were killed, most of them
stopped on the roads and executed on the spot, before the American
military suffered its first KIA.
The war in Iraq was clearly the deadliest of all conflicts surveyed.
The death toll among correspondents and local staff in Iraq since 2003
stands at 230 killed and 14 missing in action. At least 43 of those
killed were kidnapped and then executed.
I've gone on far too long but this thread provoked a detailed
response. I covered wars aplenty, from four tours in Vietnam beginning
in April 1965, to my last short tour in Iraq in 2005-2006. Many of the
correspondents killed along the way were good friends who shared
foxholes and watering holes, and I mourn our loss of their talent and
their courageous pursuit of the stories of soldiers, even as I mourn
their deaths and the deaths of brave men and women in uniform all
around us--then, now and in the future.
I always felt we who marched with them had more in common with the
troops than we did with your average American civilian.
In this discussion I am reminded of a conversation with a retired
four-star in which I expressed some wariness about going out to do a
bunch of embeds in Iraq. He responded thusly: "Go on out there, Joe.
We need your reporting. Besides, if you get killed I guarantee the
Army will give you the best funeral we ever put on for anybody. Full
honors. Horse and caisson. Band playing. Bugle blowing Taps. Everybody
will come." I am happy it never came to that, even though I
appreciated the offer.