Photographers: The First Casualties of War

When journalists die in some foreign field, they die for you. Without them, your knowledge of the world in which you live would come from government spokesmen, corporate flacks, and pundits who don’t leave their television studios or think tanks. Two frontline photographers, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, have just been killed in Libya. Hetherington was forty and Hondros forty-one. Both were first-class journalists who went by sea from Benghazi to the frontlines in Misrata. After another of the endless skirmishes between Colonel Gaddafi’s army and the rebels, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in their midst. It killed both men and severely wounded their colleagues Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown.

The Oxford-educated Hetherington had a brilliant career, now cut lamentably short. His film on Afghanistan, Restrepo, earned an Oscar nomination last year and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Festival. He won the World Press Photo of the Year Award for 2007 and had also taken a prize named for another photographer killed in the line of duty, the Rory Peck Award.
Hondros, who worked in Kosovo and Afghanistan among other wars, was responsible for a startling series of photographs of a family that failed to stop abruptly at an American checkpoint in Iraq. US soldiers shot the parents dead and wounded one of their five children in the backseat. The armchair warriors would say it’s an everyday occurrence in war, as if that provided absolution. Hondros explained later:

Almost every soldier in Iraq has been involved in some sort of incident like that or another, I would say. Their attitude about it was grim, but it wasn’t the end of their world. It was, “Well, kind of wished they’d stopped. We fired warning shots. Damn, I don’t know why the hell they didn’t stop. What’re you doing later, you want to play Nintendo? Okay.” Just a day’s work for them.

Such testimony makes it all the more difficult to believe that sending in the Marines will solve all problems everywhere.
Read the rest on Taki’s Magazine.