Wartime Embedded Journalists
There have been war correspondents in virtually every U.S. military engagement. During the Civil War, a photographer named Matthew Brady was out there on the battlefield not exactly snapping pictures, but laboriously preparing the glass plates in the back of his horse-drawn darkroom. So embedding journalists in with the U.S. military during the recent, and continuing, war in Iraq would not seem to be any different, and certainly no more dangerous than having Brady rattling around the cannonballs. Granted, some journalists have died in Iraq, but some, like NBC's David Bloom, died from medical conditions not related to warfare. Even military spokespersons have relatively little to say about the impact on troops of protecting journalists' lives. Of course, the few soldiers who died in the relatively few attempts to save journalists in war zones, some of which will be mentioned below, might have a very different viewpoint about that.
Writing in Military Review, Colonel Tammy Miracle noted that the responsibility for protecting journalists was a consideration. " 'How does a soldier keep a 'gung-ho' reporter from crossing the line into danger to get that Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph? What happens if a journalist is taken prisoner'?" she asked. (Miracle, 2003) In fact, the dilemma is much less thorny than one might think. She points out that under the 1949 Geneva Convention, journalists who are accredited and traveling with a military unit are to be considered part of the military and would thus have to be treated like prisoners of war. She noted, too, that under current Pentagon guidelines, embedded journalists may not carry weapons, use a personal vehicle or break away from the military unit. (Miracle, 2003) One would have to conclude, then, that the embedded journalist is just so much more equipment for the troops; as they troops protect themselves in battle, so they would protect the embeds. Soldiers don't want to get killed any more than anyone else does.
And some news organizations...
CNN sent a former Marine reservist who was one of their correspondents to an embedded position with an Army mechanized unit. That enabled him to file knowledgeable reports, and also gain some credibility with his military informants and 'protectors' as well as a history of knowing how to obey orders. (Zinsmeister, 2003) But there are, of course, journalists who fail to obey the rules, and those are the ones that cause immediate 'harm's way' rescues for the military, and who also tend to 'spill the beans' when they shouldn't endangering the whole operation.
Miracle noted that bureau chiefs and network executives usually cry for help when aggressive journalists get themselves in a pickle, faster than the journalists themselves. And she cited several instances:
During the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, journalists were trapped in the Marriott hotel. The U.S. military rescued the journalist; three soldiers were seriously wounded, and a Spanish photographer was killed.
Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, 300 to 500 news organizations booked in at the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. They were told that the military couldn't, at that point, order them out. But they were also warned the military couldn't swoop in and rescue them if they got caught in the crossfire. (Miracle, 2003)
In fact, during the first week of Operation Iraqi Freedom, four journalists were killed, but none was an embed. In the Afghani operations in 2001, 8 journalists died, and the British newspaper The Guardian reported that the Taliban had set a bounty of $50,000 on the head of journalists to be collected by anyone who killed one. (Miracle, 2003)
So there is some danger to journalists, and some extra danger to troops who have to rescue them, although it appears the danger is diminished as long as the embeds stick with the troops where they belong, instead of conducting independent operations when they've agreed not to.
Miracle, and most other commentators, believe that the real danger to U.S. troops is not in the moment-to-moment conveying of journalists to the battlefield in jeeps at the rear of the column. The…
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