About that Rescued New York Times Reporter

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 11 months ago

Jules Crittenden has a roundup of reactions to the British Special Boat Service troops’ rescue of the NYT reporter (also see The Washington Post).  Its’ impressive to me that the British took on this responsibility.  But it is the solemn duty of a country to mourn its lost, grieve its wounded, and bear the national burden of moral judgments during a time of war.  To be sure, there are limits as we have discussed in the release of the photo of young Joshua Bernard.  The concern there is not national exposure but protection of the family.

But as a country laments and engages in outrage, sometimes it’s simply appropriate to listen rather than critique.  My own feeling about this is that I support embedded reporting.  Ernie Pyle did it, and still maintained his independence from the story lines coming from the public relations efforts.  Ernie Pyle died too, but embedding is still the way to go.  But when embedding is done the reporter is obligated – morally and legally – to follow the rules set in place by those who are protecting him or her.

If a reporter wants to get the scoop or turn the story without the aid of or reference to our troops (Nir Rosen comes to mind), then my feeling is that when you play the dice you take your chances.  In a world that increasingly looks for cradle to grave security from the state, taking chances is seen as a way to strike it rich but a way to do so while relying on the government as a safety net.  It shouldn’t be that way.

But on a more personal level (as a Marine father), it needs to be remembered that every casualty is a son of America.  It’s easy to depersonalize casualties for those who are not close to someone who has lost a child to the war(s).  The country blocks out the information, but when it’s in front of you every day it’s a difficult task to accomplish.  As casualties mount, the country increasingly needs to see the moral imperative for the losses.

It’s just the way it is.  War is a costly and awful thing, and a country must be dedicated to the cause for what it sees as good and morally justified reasons in order to maintain commitment.  I cannot possibly see how the UK can justify the loss of one of its sons for a New York Times reporter.  Some discussions on this issue will foray into policy.  I’m not talking about policy.  I’m talking about value judgments.  In order to understand this from the perspective of a British parent who has lost his son to save a reporter, one needs to think viscerally and personally.  Policy just won’t do.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to ponder over the dark things that other people experience.  It helps to form values.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Britain,Media and was published September 10th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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