Article Overview:   Baghdad Bob stands up and reports the news as he sees it without blinking an eye.   He's the prime target for many snipers, for he's Iraq's Information Minister.   Find out how Baghdad Bob stands up to U.S. and Allied war correspondents, and whether he deserves a plaque when he dies.


Tuesday--April 8, 2003Ground Zero Plus 573
Will We Cry When We Kill Baghdad Bob--Iraq's Top War Correspondent?
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Apr. 8-- War's ultimate price is death.   It isn't surprising then, that journalists covering the war die.   Sometimes it only surprises journalists.
Some 600 journalists are "embedded" with coalition forces fighting in Iraq.  To date, six have died in a combination of accidents, combat deaths and land mine explosions.   NBC's David Bloom died of a pulmonary embolism, and Michael Kelly, former editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly, was the first American journalist to die in Iraq.

Michael Kelly, editor-at-large of the Atlantic Monthly, in Iraq , March 11,'03

  Kelly, 46, was embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division when his Humvee came under Iraqi fire.  The driver's evasive actions caused the vehicle to roll over.  It was trapped in water for over 25 minutes, Army spokesmen said.   Both Kelly and the driver were killed.
      Kelly's death represents the risk reporters face when they ferret out combat news.   As the former editor-in-chief of the Atlantic Monthly and New Republic, Kelly had achieved a peak in his career.  From some viewpoints, he didn't need to prove his worth as a reporter.  In 1991 he covered the Gulf War and wrote a book, Martyr's Day.   He was fired as editor-in-chief for the New Republic for his attacks on President Clinton.  He left the Atlantic Monthly after revitalizing it to write a book, and when the war broke out, jumped at the chance to embed himself so he could write another book.
      David Bloom was also deemed a shining star of international journalism.  The NBC network devoted a full day of tribute to him, noting his heroism and his grace as "man with a mission" to report the news.   Two British and one Australian journalists have also died.

The Palestine Hotel was attacked by U.S. forces

      This morning, the Palestine Hotel was attacked by U.S. forces after receiving sniper fire from one of its floors.   Five journalists were wounded, one seriously, and one killed in the retaliatory strike by a U.S. tank against sniper fire.
      Arabic reporters are not exempt from death.   Al-Jazeera, the major Voice of the Iraqi people and Arabic news, reports that Tareq Ayoub died as a "martyr of duty" when a U.S. air strike mistakenly hit the satellite T.V. network office located on a road along the Tigris River that links the Information Ministry with the old palace presidential compound.  The network's cameraman, Zuhair al-Iraqi, was wounded.  
      Al-Jazeera broadcast pictures of American POW's being interrogated by Iraqi's, plus explicit photos of American dead bodies.
      However, in keeping with the open-book policy for international news coverage of the war, the U.S. includes al-Jazeera in all press briefings.   It has a front row seat, ahead of the New York Times.
      While there is a great deal of tribute being paid to journalists braving the dangers of combat to report stories, one particular journalist stands out in my mind.
      He, in his own way, is the bravest of them all.

Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf, Iraq Information Minister

      His name is Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf.   He is the Iraqi Information Minister.
      Almost daily, he stands in the open and broadcasts information about how the U.S. and coalition forces are losing the war.  When U.S. tanks were parked in front of Saddam's presidential palace, the Information Minister was telling the viewing public how Iraqi forces had driven the Americans from Baghdad.
      Broadcasting next to the Palestine Hotel where journalists from throughout the world are clustered, Mohammed al-Sahhaf represents a prime and easy target for "decapitation."   His face, however, continues to be among the most recognized Iraqi faces of the war.
      One can't help but appreciate the stone-faced lies Mohammed al-Sahhaf issues.   To hear his comments, one would think American and British troops were on the run, and Iraqi Special Guard troops were in victorious control over Baghdad and all other key Iraqi cities.
       It would be easy to discount the Information Minister as being foolish or even "insane" for exposing himself to virtual "instant death" each time he speaks.   Or, one could issue the Minister a series of kudos, extolling his bravery and his commitment to issue the best of news up until the last moment.
       There is probably no other news reporter who has daily taken as many risks as he has, for each time he pops up his head, he risks being blasted by air strikes, killed by tank blasts, or eliminated by snipers.  Some might say Baghdad Bob, as he is coined by the news media, is the bravest of all journalists.

The news media represents.......

        Then there is another important factor about the news media.   The news media represents the eyes of the world.   The United States and Britain invited the world to watch the war from their reporter's viewpoints.   The only censorship imposed is releasing the exact position of any unit, or its movements toward an objective.

.......the Eyes of the World

        Otherwise, the media from any country can say what it wants.  Peter Arnett, for example, was fired by NBC and National Geographic, not by the U.S. government for his interview with Arabic news saying how the U.S. war plan was failing.  
         Al-Jazeera, the media that sits in the front row of all briefings, is one of the harshest critics of American policy and maintains a high profile in the news gathering world of the embedded press corps.
         One could easily say that the United Nations is witnessing the war through the cameras and lenses of its individual reporters.   Every major country is represented, plus hundreds of other media representatives.  This morning there was a tribute to the "embedded journalists" in the China Post, written by Dr. William Fang.  

       As a former combat correspondent, I know the excitement of reporting the news from the front lines.   For many, there is no more exhilarating  feeling than putting one's self at risk for a story--to be witness to the dangers of war and as vulnerable to dying for the story as the warrior next to is to die for his country.
          But I keep going back to Baghdad Bob.
          In his own way, he's a Sentinel of Media Vigilance.
          He has more courage than most can imagine, for he appears to be fearless when it comes to facing the truth.   He refuses to accept it.   Then, there is his conviction.  He isn't intimidated by U.S. tanks sitting on Saddam's palace steps, or U.S. troops crossing bridges, or bunker bombs blasting all around.    Then, there is this thing called Complacency.   It just doesn't seem Baghdad Bob has any room in his body for Complacency--he just doesn't flinch.

Baghdad Bob  unflinchingly reporting the Baghdad news

        I wonder if maybe Baghdad Bob isn't really Saddam Hussein with plastic surgery.   Who else could stand up to the truth with more blindness than Saddam himself?
          I don't mean to depreciate the strength of Baghdad Bob.
          Many might criticize him as being a propaganda puppet, but then many of the world press claim that Fox News, and American journalists in general, are waxing softly the American role in the war, presenting only one side, white-washing the brutality of it that al-Jazeera reports.
         They are saying that Baghdad Bob and NBC may not be too far apart, for it was NBC that fired Peter Arnett, gagging, what many would call the other side of the truth.

Baghdad Bob deserves credit for his convictions

         Some claim it takes incredible guts and massive courage for Baghdad Bob to stand on a roof or in an open air forum and issue reports of Iraq's defiance and victory when all around the smell of death and defeat strangle one's senses, and make it clear the end is not only near, but may have already passed.
          I guess I hope they don't kill Baghdad Bob.
          While he may not be run up the flagpole as a journalistic hero, he certainly deserves credit for his convictions.   He has reported his news with unflagging devotion, and, if a journalist is measured by doggedness and commitment to filing stories, then Baghdad Bob has earned the top award in his field.
          Odds are, however, Baghdad Bob won't make it.   He'll probably file his last story in a cloud of dust and fire.   I'm sure he'll be announcing that U.S. troops have been banished from Baghdad even as the last bullet is fired.   For that, he deserves some recognition.

War means destruction: Palace of the Republic hit

          And, he's certainly not afraid to die.
          When war correspondents become alarmed that one or more of them get killed, its oxymoronic at best.   War means death.   War means destruction.
          War correspondents deal in death--reporting it.   Daily, American news-briefers are hounded by the press to issue casualty figures, for the measure of any war is the number of people killed and wounded, both civilians and military.
           Blood writes brutal stories.
           The more blood, the more brutal the story.
           So when journalists die in war, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.   Journalist's blood mixes  easily with Iraqi and American and British and Australian blood.   The earth soaks it up just as thirstily as it does any other blood.

War is about death

           War is about death.  To journalists, it is always about the waste of human life.   Without such waste, there would be no news.   War means waste.   That's why we cry over the loss of any life in war--especially over the innocent.    We cry when our troops are killed, when the enemy troops are killed.   I might even cry when Baghdad Bob dies.  It will be a loss, as severe as any other journalist who braved war's madness to report the war, to tell about death and its waste.

Iraqi giving prayer beads to Marine: beauty in war

   In the last article published by Michael Kelly, the first journalist to die in Iraq, he summed up the beauty and ugliness of death.   Here is the lead paragraph from his last column published in the Washington Post.  It tells us a little about the waste of war.

"Near the crest of the bridge across the Euphrates that Task Force 3-69 Armor of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division seized yesterday afternoon was a body that lay twisted from its fall. He had been an old man poor, not a regular soldier judging from his clothes. He was lying on his back, not far from one of several burning skeletons of the small trucks that Saddam Hussein's willing and unwilling irregulars employed. The tanks and Bradleys and Humvees and bulldozers and rocket launchers, and all the rest of the massive stuff that makes up the U.S. Army on the march, rumbled past him, pushing on."

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