5.10.11

Death of a journalist in war. José Couso.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/05/world/europe/spain-us-troops/index.html?hpt=wo_c2
The latest indictment... alleges that the three U.S. troops were linked to U.S. tank fire directed against the hotel, where Couso was videotaping the battle. He died from his wounds shortly afterward. 
In addition to Couso, the tank fire on April 8, 2003, also killed a Reuters cameraman, Ukrainian-born Taras Protsyuk.
Then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said American troops fired only after receiving hostile fire from the hotel and the matter received the highest attention, from then-President George W. Bush and then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
José Couso

You're in a city. There's bullets and bombs and missiles and RPGs flying around all over the place. You're scared. You have no idea where some of it comes from. It's hectic. People are dying and people are trying to kill you. You know there's bullets coming toward your unit. You look up and see a big tall building. You look through your scope or binoculars and see people moving around and aiming something black at you, you can't really see what but hey - it's wartime and someone is pointing something big and black at you. I'd take that shot in a heartbeat.

"Innocent" journalists got killed. That's a tragedy. Or is it? They didn't have to be there. They knew the risks. It rains - you get wet. If you want to be safe in a warzone, go talk to the people doing the fighting, and stay on the base. Or stay inside a very heavy armoured vehicle. Let's leave the word "tragedy" for people who don't go looking for war, who just get caught up in it when they have no real stake in it - they're the ones just going about their daily lives and BAM something big and explosive goes off and now their family is minus one. Or three. Let's leave the word "innocent" for people who are just going about their daily lives without actually looking for trouble. Without deliberately going to war.
Earlier in the long legal battle, a three-judge panel at the National Court in 2006 ruled that Spain had no jurisdiction in the case. The judges ruled that U.S. troops thought they were firing on Iraqis at the hotel serving as spotters for Iraqi artillery fire aimed at American troops, and that the civilian deaths were not intentional.
You're bloody retarded if you can't imagine there being both journalists and a bad guy with a cellphone on top of the same building, or on different parts of it. Or a guy with a rifle spraying bullets from the top of the building around the corner while you're on a balcony down a ways on the other side and can't even hear it amidst the noise and chaos of war. A helicopter pilot or a spotter sees the gunman, radios the tank crew a few kilometers away saying there's fire coming from the hotel. Tank crew gets report, puts a scope on the building, sees movement on a balcony and fires. You and I have no idea if there were bullets coming from that hotel that day, and we will never know unless someone comes forward.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-group%E2%80%93out-group_bias

People in Spain are upset that "their" journalist got killed. Their brother/father/friend was brutally murdered. Or maybe not murdered. He knew the risks and took them willingly. He went there looking for war and he sure got some war. Classic case of after-the-fact Ingroup-Outgroup Bias. These people upset right now wouldn't be upset at all if it had been an Iraqi journalist. They'd just shrug their shoulders and say "that's war." And that is war.  It's awful and dangerous and you do not need to be there if you're a journalist. You have the option to stay away. You have the option to go to the people doing the fighting and saying "hey, I'd like to take some pictures and report on this thing without too much risk and without getting killed." Or you can just do your own thing and accept that risk. And maybe get killed and now your family and friends and countrymen are screaming bloody murder about it.

Classic fallacy: We are good people. Therefore the things that we do are good.

So maybe I'm the one with fallacy - maybe the US soldiers are the ones who made the mistake. Entirely possible. In the midst of war. In a place they probably didn't want to be right then. Under conditions of stress and combat. But hey, they signed the contracts and swore to follow orders. Did they screw up? Entirely possible. Did they deliberately and with malicious intent murder people they knew to be journalists? I highly highly doubt that, but I suppose it's possible. Soldiers of all armies have deliberately murdered innocent civilians before, see Afghanistan. See World War II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Couso
Following the death of Couso, there were protests in front of the American diplomatic posts in Spain and several civil and judicial actions in order to determine the liability of the people involved. Up to now, there are still concentrations of people demanding justice on the 8th of each month in front of the United States Embassy in Madrid.
Sorry, that's just dumb. José Couso didn't have to be there. He knew the risks, and he took them willingly. It rains, and you go outside - you get wet.

I sign a contract with the military saying I'll follow orders - yep, I might get sent to war and have to accept the consequences of my actions, and the risk that that entails. War is dangerous, not as dangerous as driving a car on a freeway every day, but still.

While we're at it, let's not condemn people in the court of public opinion without letting them tell their side of the story. I see a lot of "José Couso - ASASINADO" in the media, but I don't see much investigative reporting or quotes from the people on the ground that day. Classic tabloid journalism looking to play up the drama and the "unfairness" and professional, permanent entitlement to outrage.

If you want to blame someone for his death, here's a start:

Journalists who decide to take unnecessary risks. Editors who push them to take those risks. Media consumers who buy their products and so vote with their dollar to encourage such reporting.

Saddam Hussein. Just a standard dictator with a big mouth and aspirations, but no WMDs or real threats to the US. Codename: CURVEBALL. Go ahead, Google it. I dare you. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=curveball&l=1

The neocon, extreme right wing of the GOP who just absolutely could not let a Republican Presidency slip by without once and for all putting Saddam out of business, even at the cost of 100 000 lives. Though they were probably lulled into a false sense of "hey, we can do this" by a bunch of military talk about "Shock and Awe". Intel people who felt where the wind was blowing and were more than happy to focus their efforts on finding particular pieces of dirt that, when laid out in a pattern, looked like a pattern. If I have 1000 intelligence reports in any given day, and only select 15 of them, I can make things seem like a pattern. Or I can let the political guy with an agenda to push find his own pattern and just stand there knowing full well what he's looking for. I can even tell him he's wrong, knowing that me saying that just reduces my influence on the political side of the equation. Echo chamber. Groupthink.

Blame the people of Iraq for their culture and religion and tribal hierarchical society and dictators and mullahs and cults and lack of opportunities for women. The people of Iraq allowed things to happen to them, passively letting that dictator pick a fight with his neighbours and then keep on fighting a low-grade war from there.

A US military pilot that had flown over Iraq after the war to liberate Kuwait but before the second war once told me (we were both in the MSIR program with TSU) when I said we shouldn't start another war with Iraq: "dude, we never stopped being at war with them. They're firing on us all the time."

But blame some guys for firing on a tall building that they thought contained snipers when they and their friends and co-workers were taking fire? That's a bit of a stretch. I suppose it is technically possible that they identified Mr. Couso as an unarmed journalist and just decided to murder him anyway, but somehow I doubt that, especially if he was lying down on a balcony pointing a big black video camera or telephoto lens at them. Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law with due process, in that case.

You're sitting in a comfy chair in an office. You're a journalist. You just got offered a plane ticket to what you know might soon be a warzone. You know there's a hotel there where you can hole up with a bunch of other journalists so you can all help each other. (Echo chamber. Groupthink.) You kiss your family and loved ones goodbye. They tell you to be safe and not to take any unnecessary risks. You step onto that plane. You just took an unnecessary risk. Unless you really feel that the job of a journalist is worth dying for. Once you're committed you're very unlikely to quit and give up and go home or stay behind the lines and not get any good scoops. That editor back home wants the good stuff. You want the stories to tell. You want to be the intrepid hero, the guy who gets back with the real story. Now you're dead and your family is crying. I sincerely hope you felt that it was worth it, all the way to the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment