Sometimes a Duck is Just a Duck

Judging from some of the comments about my post yesterday on the deadly attack on my CBS News colleagues, it is clear that many of you are eager to debate the war in Iraq and America's role in it. Makes sense to me. After all, if you aren't passionate one way or the other on what's happening over there what are you going to be passionate about?

What's fascinating, though, and not a little unfortunate, is that so many of you dear readers were so quick to riff negative off my quite apolitical homage to my fallen co-workers. The post was supposed to share with you my sorrow at what happened to people I know, or to people my friends know. It wasn't intended to be a critique (or an endorsement) of our war aims or the means by which we are carrying them out. I was trying on Memorial Day to wite about the pain and loss we feel when our loved ones leave us too early. I wasn't trying to defend (or denounce or even discuss) war coverage here or abroad.

One commenter said he "noticed the picture smiling for this article," meaning, I suppose, that he thought my standing head-shot that accompanies this blog inappopriately contradicted the sad tone of the post. Hopefully he'll read more of my posts to know that the shot stays the same, regardless of what I write about. One gentlemen objected to my use of the word "shitty"-- he probably wants to wash my mouth out with soap. What he does not know is that I used the word not just to convey my sense of disgust over what happened to Paul Douglas, James Brolan and Kimberly Dozier but also because a friend of mine, who serves in our military, used the word to describe what happened.

Several people took advantage of the post to declare that the trio were not "heroes"-- a term I did not use-- but rather simply a part of the media machine that has served as an apologist to the Administration. Several others used the forum to deride me for comparing the casualties to casualties suffered by military personnel-- which I also did not do. A handful of people, fortunately, saw the piece for what it was; a personal tribute to three people who deserved a better fate. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It is painfully clear to me that there is so much anger over the war in Iraq that it is capable of spilling over even into a topic like the one I focused upon. And I think the comments worked best when you all began to discuss among yourselves the global questions arising out of our involvement in Iraq without even mentioning my post. Remember, Bench Conference isn't a political blog, although we touch on the intersection of law and politics from time to time, and it isn't a foreign affairs or military blog. It is a legal blog and I diverged from that focus yesterday only because of the extraordinary nature of what happened to people who get their paychecks from the same place I get mine.

The fact is, you can write about life and death in Baghdad, on a micro-level, without making some grand statement about the war itself or about how it is being prosecuted. You can say you are sorry that your friend is injured without implicating or boosting the Administration or its critics. Sometimes, a duck is just a duck.

By  |  May 30, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
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Well said.

Posted by: rt | May 30, 2006 11:52 AM

I "second" the well stated. Too many of us try too hard to subject our views upon the words of others. Can't we all strive to be respectful of one another even if we don't see eye to eye? It's part of what makes us the great country we are!

Posted by: | May 30, 2006 12:06 PM

From reading the comments to Mr. Cohen's previous post, it becomes painfully clear, that it is a very difficult job to be a journalist, in Iraq or here - to have the courage to choose a controversial subject, pick the "right" words, and stand up for the story that you believe needs to be told! Mr. Douglas, Brolan and Ms. Dozier chose a riskier way to do so.

Even in death, or struggle to live, the journalists Mr. Cohen writes about are able to stir so many provocative thoughts and comments (apparent from the replies to yesterday's post)! Isn't that what every journalist, who is passionate about his or her profession, hopes to achieve!? And if along with expressing our consent, disapproval, or plain anger in response to a story, we also acknowledge unknown victims and unmentioned topics, all the more praise for that journalist's talent to make us think, feel, and speak up!

Posted by: S.P., Denver | May 30, 2006 12:25 PM

I hate to say this, but saying that you're sorry for their loss is really not saying much.

If you really cared about them, you'd have done everything in your power to keep them from going there, knowing what they were getting into. Or to get them out, once they were there. Professional detachment only goes so far.

There is some legitimacy to the "aiding and abetting the enemy" argument because there is some good done for them, it is that simple [yes it is stupid and simplistic but there is some truth to the statement that the world is flat, too. Depending on how you look at things]. The problem is that it is not clear who the enemy is, here, exactly...and draping onesself in the American flag does not clear the waters. Neither does claiming journalistic integrity. Reporting on the war either furthers the cause of the insurgents, or of the administration. There is no "middle ground" or "neutral observer" position (especially when one is embedded with American troops). And it's just damm unsafe.

It is just bad sport to complain about being broken, when one allows oneself to be used as a tool for the ends of others. Think about that the next time you cash that paycheck.

Posted by: cc | May 30, 2006 04:53 PM

True, you didn't use the word "heroes" but the article was little short of a hagiography. And thus, I think people were quite justified in pointing out the myth that embedded journalists are bringing us some sort of truth about Iraq. Mostly, it seems to me, their coverage demonizes, trivializes and sensationalizes. I am sorry for the CBS crew and their families but I don't find their kind of work in the least bit"inspirational". Maybe that's the fault of soundbite radio and television - more likely, it's the result of once-over-lightly journalism that's totally insular and monocultural. I respect your desire to honor your friend but perhaps that is better left as a personal matter rather than a published column.

Posted by: Brent Haselden | May 30, 2006 07:09 PM

Being myself a combat veteran of an unpopular war,and being totally disabled as a result of my service,I am astonished by the endless rhetoric on these pages in regard to who is on the right side and who is on the wrong side of this issue of war.As I see it,those who have not given up thier basic values and yes, thier ideals are the ones that will prevail. War is NOT hell--hell is hell. War is an immoral,insane,heartless thief, stealing not only the lives of those killed and maimed,but the lives of children, wives sons,daughters mothers, fathers,brothers, sisters, friends----just ask the man who feeds the birds in the park--look into his eyes--all your answers lay deep inside them.

Posted by: jcain | May 31, 2006 02:39 AM

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