Why Journalists Die*

Marie Colvin (1957-2012) lost an eye to shrapnel in Sri Lanka in 2001.

Marie Colvin wore a pirate’s eye patch and had been Paris bureau chief for UPI. Dashing figure. Now she’s been killed in Homs, Syria, reporting the shelling there, which seals her reputation as a relentless reporter.

Marie Colvin (such a French name) was 55 (younger than I) and had worked for the Sunday Times for 20 years. You can’t access the dear old Sunday Times web site to read past columns unless you pony up £2, so I have no idea what she wrote. Except for this, her last post, from Homs, Syria, describing the conditions under which she would die.

What more do you need to know? Why she was killed? By whom? That’s the usual sequence of questions in an Agatha Christie. Do such rules apply in a war zone?

They do in journalism, if not to the propaganda, I mean PR, I mean “news” broadcast by major outlets of major war powers. For a major war power like the U.S., where she was born, or the U.K., where she lived, the death of Marie Colvin is as useful as the staged rescue of Private Jessica Lynch.

If such a nice lady was killed covering the despicable conditions under which civilians are being slaughtered, are we not under a moral obligation to pile on and see to it even more civilians get killed in possibly even more despicable ways?

Hear, hear!

Never mind who was behind what. Never mind history. Or herstory.

Florence Nightingale modernized nursing.

I’m reminded of Florence Nightingale, the lovely lady who enabled the British to fight the Crimean War by improving the conditions of their hospitals, inventing the protocols for sterilization that paved the way for modern warfare.

And Mother Courage, the pernicious protagonist of Bertold Brecht’s play, another enabler, less lauded, more mercenary, whose name says it all. Without the courage to kill and be killed, and to profit from the needs of those stuck in a war zone, where would we be?

Marie Colvin’s final courageous broadcast from Homs, Syria, was the following selfless-to-the-point-of-suicidal witness to an ongoing massacre of the innocents:

“There are only civilian houses here… I think the sickening thing is the complete merciless nature of this civilian bombing… They’re hitting civilian buildings absolutely mercilessly and without caring. I think that’s the main point and the scale of it is just shocking.”

To what so-called war — or invasion, or occupation, or liberation — of recent, short-term, or ongoing memory and consciousness does the above description not apply?

Who’s side are you on?

NBC’s chief war correspondent, Richard Engel, “reported” from the relative safety of the Syrian border town Gorentash, Turkey — [comments within brackets are mine] — “I’ve spoken to [and taken dictation from] U.S. officials and they’re very concerned about [but nonetheless up for] fueling a civil war. They don’t know who controls the opposition [besides the CIA and the Pentagon]… And that is why [along with the obvious motivations like landgrab, resourcegrab, and strategic positioning] there’s this push from the U.S. and other [unnamed, possibly nonexistant] countries to at least allow, if not direct weapons [probably already supplied, or on their way] to reach the [special-ops led] rebels, at least some [euphemism alert] humanitarian assistance.”

*Journalists die because they’re mortal.


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