OPINION

Attacking the news

Even those who abhor hasty and prejudiced judgments find it difficult to accept that the American attacks on journalists were mistakes made in the heat of battle. All the evidence is to the contrary. Everyone knew that the vast majority of journalists covering the war in Baghdad are staying at the Palestine hotel. According to the evidence of war correspondents of great experience and unimpeachable credibility, the tank fired at the hotel in cold blood. At that time there was no battle and the Americans were not under attack. If it were an isolated incident, one might accept that this bloody attack was due to a jumpy reaction. Unfortunately, however, we have also had the lethal attack on the offices of the Arab television network Al Jazeera. A few days earlier, though they had been advised and had given assurances, the Americans opened fire on a convoy in which the Russian ambassador and embassy officials were leaving Baghdad. There have been too many incidents to be attributed to unlucky coincidence, particularly when it has been revealed that the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was carried out in execution of an order, and was not a mistake, as Washington claimed at the time. In any case, blood is not washed away by an apology, especially one offered to cover up culpability. War correspondents are fully aware that they put their lives at risk to carry out their mission. The statistics leave no room for illusions. In this case, however, our colleagues were not hit by a sniper. Nor were they killed by a bomb thrown blindly. And this is what raises some crucial questions. It is common knowledge that the Americans are exceedingly annoyed by the reports that war correspondents are sending from Baghdad. Shocking images of bombed areas and crowded hospitals negate in the most uncompromising fashion Washington’s claims that care has been taken to protect civilians. It is hard to believe that the attacks on journalists were ordered. On the other hand, the events are too eloquent to ignore. The most lenient interpretation is that the Americans are guilty because they were completely indifferent to the safety of the journalists, making them vulnerable to the cowboy antics of any Marine.