Incidents Raise Suspicions on Motive: Killing of Journalists by US Forces a Growing Problem
During the Vietnam War, which US forces fought from 1960 through 1974, and which cost the lives of several million Southeast Asians and 58,000 Americans, eight American journalists died. Not one of them was killed by American fire.
In the Iraq War, 136 journalists were killed. At least 15 of them -- about 11% of the total -- were killed by US forces, sometimes apparently with deliberate intent. (Consider that if some 500,000 US troops rotated through Iraq over the course of the way and 4000 of them were killed, that meant soldiers had a 1:125 chance of being killed there. With 136 dead journalists, there would have had to be more than 14,000 journalists covering the war for them to have the same odds of getting killed.)
In Afghanistan, nine journalists have been killed, at least one by US forces, and in that case, the killing was deliberate, though it is unclear whether the victim was known to be a journalist.
One thing is clear: it is dangerous in the extreme to be a journalist covering America’s wars, at least beginning with Vietnam, and in Iraq it was more dangerous to be a journalist than to be a soldier.
Why this might be the case is hard to say, but it seems that an antipathy towards journalists within the military may have something to do with it.
Back in 1983, the US, in one of the more ludicrous military actions in its long history of war, invaded the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada, on the pretext that it feared Cubans were building a military airbase there (actually Cuba had sent construction workers to the impoverished isle to help the country build a better commercial airport so as to improve its tourism business). During that invasion, which was conducted with a total media blackout despite almost no opposition (the main “enemy” putting up any resistance was the Cuban construction workers! There were no Cuban troops there), a group of seven journalists, including a reporter from the New York Times, attempted to reach the island on a small boat. They were blocked by a US destroyer, which warned them over a loudspeaker to turn around or be “blown out of the water.” The journalists gave up and retreated.
That little “war,” which was conducted from beginning to end with no reporters allowed in the battle zone, marked the beginning of a new relationship between the Pentagon and the press -- one where the military maintains complete control over access and information, both what is provided to the media, and what the public gets to learn.