journalism - death to the press

74 journalists have been killed in iraq since 2003, according to freedom forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to freedom of the press. this is more than than the numbers of journalists that have died in vietnam or world war 2.

i really don't know why this is such a surprise to anybody. iraq is a completely different type of war where you're dealing with a different type of enemy that has different motives. this isn't the viet cong or the nazis or the japanese. we're not talking about establishing an arian nation or even the freedom of a country. sure, there are insurgents that are fighting for what they percieve to be the liberation of iraq from a hostile united states army, but this insurgency isn't united under one big happy family of freedom fighters. there are scores of independent mercenaries that are taking advantage of the disorder to make money. hence, all the kidnappings and hostage takings.

but of course it's not all about money. it's also about, probably more so, politics in general. you have a situation where there is total, all-out assymetrical guerilla warfare. yes, there was guerilla warefare in vietnam, but the vc weren't targeting reporters to hold for ransom, whether it was the expulsion of american troops or simple cash. many of the insurgents in iraq know they can't defeat the u.s. army head on, so they go for weak points. parts where they can exploit to their advantage. that's a huge part of what assymetrical warefare is about. when you're opponent has all the technology, you have to find a means to beat them a different way. the vc did it through guerilla warefare. the insurgents are also doing that, but they've also incorporated fear as a weapon. by targeting civilians, by targeting aid workers, by targeting reporters... they kidnap these people, hold them for ransom, and when the ransom isn't met, more often then not, they kill them. and they will continue to do so until enough fear and doubt is placed in the hearts and minds of the people living at home who's governments are the ones involved with what is, basically, a military occupation.

the insurgent are smart; they know their enemy. they know that these western democratic governments have to face regular elections, and they know that eventually, popular support will erode as time goes on and as enough deaths pile up, whether they are soldier deaths or civilian deaths. they also know that in the 21st century, a war can be won or lost through television and the internet, by weighing on public opinion. they broadcast their kidnappings and beheadings, they take every opportunity to take claim for attacks, because they know people are watching them. they know the average joe is sitting in his home, watching the nightly knews and hearing of all the slaughter thinking, "these are the people we're supposed to help?"

the insurgents have been fighting for a very, very long time in one battle or another; it's almost a way of life for them. some of them were fighting against the iranians, some against the kurds, some against the united states in the gulf war... some may have faught in all of them. they're fierce, determined, politically set with their god on their side. it's too bad we don't know enough about our enemies.

i suppose a lesser reason for the increase in journalist deaths is the willingness of journalists to put themselves on the line for the story, or the truth. they know the situation they're in, yet they continue to do their jobs at risk of life and limb. or, perhaps, it's just a simple matter of numbers. maybe there are more journalists in iraq than there were in vietnam and world war 2. maybe just by the numbers, it may seem high, but in terms of percentages of alive to dead journalists, it might be more even. but i feel bad talking about these reporters, or anyone for that matter, as just a number. sometimes statistics can be a gruesome job if you think too much about it.