In a British newspaper as chock full of feelings as the Independent, very few things will trump an injured child in a war-filled hospital. But today, the usual weep-and-wring of Robert Fisk, normally alone at the bedside of whatever poor injured soul he wishes to exploit for his cranky ideological fix of the day, is surrounded by a whole stack of front-page tales of suffering and anguish. Orphanage explosion? Maternity-ward mayhem? No. Yesterday’s big story in the Brit press wasn’t about injured or dying Iraqi children. It was about dead journalists. A U.S. tank, reportedly taking shots from small arms and grenade-launchers in neighboring buildings, apparently fired a round into a hotel room killing two news cameramen who had been standing on the balcony aiming video cams at the street below. The same day, an errant air strike hit an al Jazeera office, killing a correspondent. Baghdad’s press corps now has rooms with views on the front line, and it’s not a safe place to be.
Of course, you can’t beat Fisk when it comes to capturing the ambiance of genuine injustice that descends on the unfortunate death of innocent people. But the guy just can’t stop yelling. His Indy item
today is filled not only with his usual outrage — by now at a pitch audible only to Left-wing hounds — but also with wimpy accusation. The headline: “Is there some element in the U.S. military that wants to take out journalists?” The answer: “Was it possible to believe this was an accident? Or was it possible that the right word for these killings — the first with a jet aircraft, the second with an M1A1 Abrams tank — was murder?” Come on, Bob. Just point your finger and shoot! To explain: Robert Fisk thinks that the Americans looked around for journos to murder and passed him up in favor of a Spanish and a Ukrainian camera crew. Such humility is touching in a man so great.
But the Times was there, too, in a Fiskified piece by Stephen Farrell: “The crew of the M1 Abrams tank had many enemies in Baghdad, but none was in suite 1501 of the Palestine Hotel. Shortly before noon, and several hours into a bloody firefight across the Tigris river, the American tank changed its aim and fired a high-velocity round directly at the one building in the Iraqi capital that was filled with Westerners.” The Daily Telegraph’s report focuses on the back-and-forth between the military’s justification and the journalists’ assertions. The Guardian does the same thing, but at a much higher level of volume (the Suzanne Goldenberg factor), but the paper let its cartoonist, Steve Bell, do a better job of talking for them. The BBC World Service last night carried several pieces accusing the U.S. of targeting journalists deliberately; their online report is somewhat more responsible. Despite the assertions in today’s Le Monde editorial, the journalists’ largest complaint: lack of protection.
Meanwhile, there is some space reserved for what will increasingly occupy news space both her and in the U.S.: the fall-out from yesterday’s Blair-Bush live concert in County Down. The main issue surrounds Bush’s declaration that the U.N. would have a “vital” role in post-war Iraq. The justifiable fear among the Euro-left, according to a report in today’s Suddeutsche Zeitung, is that “vital” will mean humanitarian work, and not the really good stuff (technically, the “spoils”) that comes to the victors in a war. In fact, only hours after they shut off the microphones in Northern Ireland, Jacques Chirac turned them on again in Paris, saying that only the U.N. — not Washington, not London, not NATO — could play a “key role” — “vital” being seen in Paris as less-than-key — in the reconstruction of Iraq. The obvious threat: go along with France and Germany or risk yet another defeat in the Security Council. According to the Telegraph, in a well-said editorial and in its news coverage, French demands have, predictably, caused a “transatlantic row.” According to the British Press Association’s afternoon report, however, Jack Straw seemed happy to go along with Dominique de Villepin’s request for “key” status. Must be a French thing.
— Denis Boyles is a journalist based in Europe.