Why Now?
Friday, February 18, 2005
  Collateral Damage
Leah at Corrente has an extended post, Have You Heard The One About Eason Jordan?, that provides you with all that is currently known about the incident that was the proximate cause of his resignation.

If you have an interest in reporting, especially war reporting, you should take the time to read it. It is long for a blog post but it covers all of the basic information on the Davos incident.

I read it as a former intelligence analyst and criminal investigator and it confirms something I have long held: eyewitness testimony is worthless. I see no reason to believe that anyone was lying or distorting what they heard, but the limiting context of what Mr. Jordan was saying was lost in the firestorm that followed his comments.

From the post I learned that Congressman Barney Frank said that many journalists were "collateral damage" in the Iraq war, and Mr. Jordan corrected him, saying that up to ten journalists were not "collateral damage", but were targeted by the military. Mr. Jordan was right, but it is a distinction that most do not understand.

"Collateral damage" means that those killed were not the "targets" of those who fired the weapons, i.e. they were hit by ricochets, were too close to explosions, etc. These are people who were at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

There is a whole different class of deaths: those who were the target of those who fired the weapons, but shouldn't have been. These are people who mistaken for "the enemy", but weren't.

Jordan talked about journalists, but most would be more familiar with the picture of a little girl, covered with the blood of her parents, crying. Her father didn't stop when US troops wanted him to, and the family car was riddled with "targeted" gunfire. The troops assumed that the car was a threat. The troops didn't intend to kill the parents of that little girl; they intended to kill the "enemy" driving the car.

I do have some advice for journalists: in a war zone, don't point cylinders, like large camera lenses, at nervous troops. Troops who are worried about being blown up by RPGs react very badly to people carrying large cylinders. The difference between a television camera on someone's shoulder and an RPG launcher on the same shoulder is not that great to a jumpy soldier.


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