So far, no American or British soldiers have been killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan. The Western press corps has not been so fortunate. Bob offers a few thoughts on the four reporters killed this week.
Four Journalists Killed in Afghanistan
November 24, 2001
BOB GARFIELD: Here's a striking statistic. As of Friday the grand total of Western military personnel killed by the enemy in Afghanistan is zero. The number of journalists killed is 7. The latest calamity happened on Monday on a strip of dusty highway halfway between Jalalabad and Kabul. A convoy of reporters, photographers, translators and their drivers was stopped by gunmen identifying themselves as Taliban fighters.
Most of the vehicles were able to flee, but in two episodes a short while apart, 4 journalists were pulled out, verbally abused, stoned and finally shot dead.
They were Azizullah Haidari, a photographer for Reuters, Julio Fuentes, a writer for Madrid's El Mundo, Maria Grazia Cutuli, a reporter for Corriere della Sera in Milan and Harry Burton, a Reuters videographer.
Take note of their names. By next week they will be footnotes regarded by some as anonymous heroes and by many others with a shrug as reckless, macho fools. Their grieving colleagues and their indifferent critics say the same thing -- they knew the risks.
Yes, and it's worth rehashing them. Imagine this for a moment. You go to another country, a stranger in unfamiliar terrain, unable to speak the language. You sleep badly. You bathe seldom. Food and water is scarce and suspect.
You drive roads that are often mined or patrolled by combatants. A brutal enemy despises you. The civilian population may hate you as well. And the good guys' warplanes can damage you collaterally in one explosive instant.
In Afghanistan add to the mix the shifting alliances of ruthless warlords, and the only weapon you have to protect yourself against the Kalishnikovs is a laminated press badge.
As we have seen in recent conflicts beginning with the Gulf War, superpower air and armored warfare can be accomplished at great distances, well-insulated from hostile fire. War reporting offers no such luxury. It can be accomplished seriously only on the ground at the front in harm's way.
That may or may not be foolish, but it sure as hell is macho, and not to belabor the obvious about the four who lost their lives on Monday, and their fellow future footnotes, the free world cannot live without them. [MUSIC]