Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Maureen Dowd: Live From Baghdad: More Dying

Even with constricted coverage, the tally of journalists killed in Iraq is now 71, more than the number killed in Vietnam or World War II. Several teams of doctors have been fighting to save the life, and the legs, of Kimberly Dozier, the CBS correspondent who was hurt by the roadside bomb. The single 39-year-old was a headlong, generous reporter who had spent years covering Iraq and Afghanistan.

Doctors said that her heart had stopped beating and her blood pressure had plummeted. But somehow, with the help of blood donations from those in the combat hospital, they stabilized her. (Soldiers dragged Mr. Douglas away from the burning vehicle and put a tourniquet on one of his legs that had been blasted off, but it was too late to save him.)

The administration and some right-wing commentators have blamed the press for not reporting positive news in Iraq. The radio host Laura Ingraham has suggested that the press is 'invested in America's defeat' and has mocked TV journalists for 'reporting from hotel balconies about the latest I.E.D.'s going off.'

Conservative chatterers have parroted President Bush's complaint that 'people resuming their normal lives will never be as dramatic as the footage of an I.E.D. explosion.'

But now two network personalities — Ms. Dozier and Bob Woodruff — have been severely injured by roadside bombs while embedded with the military, trying to do the sort of stories the administration wants.

'One thing I don't want to hear anymore,' Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, told The Times's Bill Carter, 'is people like Laura Ingraham spewing about us not leaving our balconies in the Green Zone to cover what's really happening in Iraq.'

Even with constricted coverage, the tally of journalists killed in Iraq is now 71, more than the number killed in Vietnam or World War II. (This war is now six months short of the United States involvement in World War II, but at least then we knew we were winning by this point.)

Shaken by the CBS losses, networks were reassessing how to cover a story with such excruciating risks. Journalists in Iraq are hamstrung in Iraq just as the troops are, struggling, with ever greater frustration and higher costs, to do the job they were sent in to do.

As the CBS war correspondent Lara Logan told CNN recently, American officials often reject her requests for optimistic stories, saying:

"Oh, sorry, we can't take you to that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be the victims of attack.

"Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage."

An American soldier was killed in the blast that killed the CBS cameraman and soundman and injured Ms. Dozier. But more than a day after we knew everything about the CBS victims, no information had been released about him.

There is a tragic anonymity about this war. Kids die but we don't know who they are, other than their names, which turn up in small print.

They do not touch everyone's lives because, without a draft, they are not drawn from every part of American society.

The administration tries to play down any sense of individual loss; the president has not attended a single funeral, and the government banned pictures of their returning coffins. The Iraqi civilians who die don't even get their names in the small print.

Journalists die and we know who they are. We know they liked to cook and play Scrabble. But we don't know who killed them, and their killers will never be brought to justice. The enemy has no face, just a finger on a detonator.

Maureen Dowd @ NYT

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