Thursday, February 01, 2007

Does the New York Times Hate the Military?

Back in June, I linked to another military blogger's open letter to New York Times editor Bill Keller condemning the Times arrogant exposure of a legal and effective classified anti-terror program. In a subsequent personal correspondence with SGT Boggs, I told him I agreed with his main point regarding the Times astonishing recklessness, but that I didn't agree that journalists hate America. Instead, I suggested that based upon my experience, journalists instead confuse cynicism with objectivity, and therefore treat the military more skeptically than they do the terrorists.

(Or something like that. It was seven months ago).

However, after this piece by Damien Cave on the 28th, I'm beginning to think that maybe SGT Boggs was on to something.

The article itself is not so bad: it is a riveting account of the danger, confusion, and sometimes tragedy that our combat units face everyday here in Iraq. The problem, however, lies in the photos which accompanied the article in the New York Times' print edition.

The third photo shows SGT Hector Leija being carried out of a building on a stretcher after having been shot in the head, a medic applying pressure to his skull. The caption reads: "Army soldiers and medics carry Sergeant Leija to an armored vehicle after he was shot in the head."

At the end of the article, Cave tells us the SGT Leija died from that gunshot would.

Although the story of the challenges and the dangers our troops face (as well as that of the human cost of the war) needs to be told, imagine how Leija's family has to feel when seeing this photo.

The media ground rules which all embedded reporters and photographers sign includes the following ground rules: "Media will not be prohibited from covering casualties provided the following conditions are adhered to: (a) Names, video, identifiable written/oral descriptions or identifiable photographs of wounded service member will not be released without the service member's prior written consent."

The reason for this is so that families do not find out their loved one was wounded or killed via the media rather than the proper military chain.

So thanks to the New York Times, the Leija family has a photo to capture the moment as their son/husband/brother is dying.

I still can't go so far as to say the Times hates the military, but it sure does not appear to have much sensitivity to how their families feel.