Thursday, April 21, 2011
When War Journalists Fall
I'm still stunned from word that photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed today in Libya, while covering the war. Although my knowledge of Chris's work was limited to the powerful photograph "Orphaned by Soldiers" of an Iraqi child spattered with her parents blood after their car was fired upon, I had followed Tim Hetherington's since he and Sebastian Junger's 2007 article in Vanity Fair about a platoon deployed in the remote Korengal Valley in Afghanistan: "Into the Valley of Death." The article and companion portraits of the young soldiers were part of a larger effort that became the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo.
As Tim discusses in this video from Time Magazine their goal was not only to document the daily life and death of holding a remote outpost in hostile territory, but also to humanize the war by introducing readers and viewers to the young men fighting it.
Both photojournalists were published in the New York Times, which has posted retrospective slideshows of their images on the LENS blog: Parting Glances/Tim Hetherington and Parting Glances/Chris Hondros.
As a Quaker and pacifist, I want to pay as much attention as possible to the war effort - I want each loss to be human and real, for me and for every citizen. I carry a burden of sadness and futility for the wars we wage around the world, and having these brave journalists literally on the front line meant that we could not, would not, must not forget the high price paid every day for our country's decisions. I don't support the wars, but I absolutely support the young men and women sent to fight them, and I believe that war journalists are doing as much to protect them as their body armor.
Journalists let us know when humvees did not carry enough protection, when WMDs weren't really there, when publicized heroics were not, and when unpublicized actions were. They fight a second, parallel war for transparency, for clarity, for you and I to get the actual story, to see and feel the human toll of warfare. And now two of those brave and important voices are gone. Who will take up sat phone/camera? Who will let us know when dictators are firing on their own people, when prisons have become torture chambers, when young men and women fight to the death for their comrades and their country, for you and me? Who can fill these shoes?
There are hundreds, probably thousands of perhaps lesser-known but equally brave journalists out there today, who, having watched the bodies of these men loaded onto transports home, will put their armor vests on and go back out onto the battlefield to keep reporting.
Thank you. And please, be careful.