On the death of journalists by one who was there

On the death of journalists by one who was there

Jules Crittenden is a reporter for the Boston Herald embedded with A Company, 4/64 Armor, the unit that was responsible for the tank round fired into the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad that killed a journalist. His recounting of it is instructive. For one thing, contrary to some rumors on the Net, he says he say the tank indeed fire the round. Some people have said that the angle was too steep to reach the upper floors, but the tank was far enough away, on a nearby bridge, that it was possible. But here is what he says:

One tank opened fire, hitting the upper floors of the 17-story Palestine Hotel, killing two journalists and wounding at least three others.

The tanker had seen RPG crews operating around the hotel, headquarters for hundreds of foreign journalists, and someone peering out an upper window with binoculars.

Second Brigade commander Col. David Perkins of Keene, N.H., said, “The person who is putting that hotel in jeopardy is not the Americans but the guy who is firing RPGs . . . There is no other option but to return fire and protect your personnel.’‘

Perkins added journalists had been warned it was dangerous to stay in Iraqi-occupied parts of Baghdad.

And that’s it. That’s all Crittenden has to say about the death of the journalist as he goes right into recounting how one of the tankers was wounded.

The incident, which set off a furor in Arab-language media, came on the day one of the unit’s tank commanders was seriously injured by a sniper, the first combat casualty the tankers have taken. He was hit as the tank company repelled an Iraqi attempt to retake Saddam Hussein’s occupied palaces in the early-morning hours yesterday.

There is a clear sense of what Crittenden thinks of the furor over the incident. They were warned not to be in Iraqi-occupied areas. They were on the front-lines of a battle, peering out their windows with binoculars like tourists. Doesn’t that seem like a dumb thing to do? Who bears responsibility here? First of all, the Iraqi soldiers using the journalists as shields. Second, the journalists for placing themselves in harm’s way and not taking sensible precautions. And only third, the gunner who didn’t know what the building was or who might be in it.

But to hear the media talk about it, the death of a journalist at the hands of an American soldier is the worst atrocity of the war. Can you believe some of them have even asked—seriously—if the US is targeting journalists? The one place we need more reality TV is in TV newsrooms.