Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What Part of "In Harm's Way" Don't You Understand?

(Originally posted at 9:47 AM Aug 29 2005)
Thanks for the Memory to Blogfather Rusty.
A Reuters soundman was killed and another journalist wounded during a firefight in Baghdad. According to accounts, the shots that killed them may have been fired by U.S. Troops. Let's start by saying that the loss of human life, especially when unnecessary, is always tragic. I am not celebrating the death of this man, nor will I argue that he deserved to die.
But let's be clear on something else. While he was not an enemy combatant, neither was he just an innocent bystander suddenly caught in the crossfire. Reports from all sides indicate that he was responding to a possible story, and was seeking out the firefight in which he was killed to cover it. This means he was taking his life in his own hands. Firefights are by their very nature, deadly places. Think about it. Two or more individuals are firing weapons designed to kill, and they are firing them with the intention of killing each other. Death is in the air, and if you drive into such a situation, you have to expect that it just might alight on you. Furthermore, there's no reason to believe (and I expect to see this argument cvome from the fringes of the Left quickly, if not already) that he was targeted specifically because he was a journalist. As Dr. Shackleford points out, possession of camera gear alone is not enough to distinguish you as a non-combatant in Iraq -- the terrorist have their own cameras crews (as if sympathetic western media weren't enough!) tasked with recording suicide attacks and the detonation of IED's among other things. So even assuming that their gear was evident at the time they were shot (and this is still unclear), their status as journalists may not have been.
In short, if you take on the job of war correspondent, and intentionally seek out battles to cover, and are subsequently killed, that is tragic, but in and of itself is neither surprising nor outrageous. If you're not prepared to take that risk, then maybe the local sports beat is more your speed.

UPDATE (8/30/2005):
The more I learn about the incident, the less inclined I am to think of this as a tragic accident and the more inclined I am to think of this as a tragic accident brought on by the stupidity of the actions of the victims. Read on, from Rusty's Blog:

Here is an update on this incident from a reader:

The cameraman in question was
shot by soldiers in my son's unit. First hand reports are that the moron sped
into the middle of a firefight, jumped out of his car and threw up to his
shoulder a TV or Movie camera with a sound boom and telephoto lens.

It was [understandably
considering the circumstances] mistaken for an RPG and the moron quickly became
the late moron.

Incidentally, this crew was
told beforehand NOT to go into the area of the firefight, as it was entirely too

After a post-battle
debriefing and investigation, the soldiers were determined to have adhered
properly to the rules of engagement, and were found innocent of any

Actually, the first hand
report was: "Some dumb b**tard came up to us in a speeding car, jumped out and
pointed his camera at us. We thought it was an RPG and lit him up."

Perhaps Reporters Without Borders should be complaining about Reuters not training their crews to have some common sense instead of seething against the U.S.