< Friction Tape

Transcript

Friday, February 09, 2007

BOB GARFIELD:
Last Sunday, the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda reportedly took credit for the video of a downed Apache helicopter posted on an Islamist website, accompanied by verses from the Koran. We seem to be awash in images from the theater of war, but the horror seems to come closer with each new video.

Late last month, Damien Cave, a New York Times reporter embedded in Iraq, captured the death of a soldier on video. It was posted on the paper's website. A warning about this audio – it's pretty raw.
[VIDEO SOUNDTRACK]:
MAN:
Somebody talk to me!
MAN:
Sergeant Leija hit in the head!
MAN:
[ ? ] hit in the head, yes, sir.
[OFF-MIKE COMMENTS]
MAN:
Is he – breathing?
DAMIEN CAVE:
Sergeant Leija, the squad leader, has been hit, possibly by a sniper. It's a horrible scene.
MAN:
Huh? Well, let's drag him in here!
[OVERTALK]
MAN:
Someone get him in here!
[END VIDEO SOUNDTRACK]
BOB GARFIELD:
Apparently Sergeant Leija's family did not know of the existence of the photos and video before they were published, and now the embed status of the Times reporter and a Getty photographer is unclear. But Fox News Watch commentator Cal Thomas enjoyed complete clarity.
CAL THOMAS:
I think not only having the picture and the name of the person but the whole dying process is obscene. It's certainly insensitive to the family. The Times put out a statement saying, you know, they apologize for any hurt caused. Well, that's like shooting somebody and saying, while they're dying, hey, I'm sorry I killed you and you're not feeling well.
BOB GARFIELD:
Meanwhile, his liberal Fox News Watch counterpart Neal Gabler had doubt enough for all.
NEAL GABLER:
I think it's a very tough call, because I think that journalists have a moral responsibility to the family, obviously, to be sensitive, but they have a professional responsibility to report the news. And there is a public interest here. I don't think that families can be given veto power over the kinds of images that are shown.
BOB GARFIELD:
There was, at least, general agreement that Sergeant Leija's death on Haifa Street in Baghdad was horrific and tragic. There was no doubt about that. After all, verified recordings of events are supposed to end arguments over what happened.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
But not always. Another recording has emerged this week. This one captured a case of friendly fire shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In this cockpit recording, we hear American pilots argue over whether a perspective target is foe or friend. Ground control says there are no friends in the area, so they fire on what turns out to be a British convoy. Ignorant of what they've done, they briefly congratulate themselves on the hit. Then they learn the truth and that a British soldier was killed.
[AUDIO RECORDING]:
MAN:
I'm gonna be sick.
MAN:
Did you hear it?
MAN:
Yeah, this sucks.
[OFF-MIKE COMMENTS][SCREAM]
[END OF RECORDING]

BROOKE GLADSTONE:
How do they sound to you? To our ears, shattered. But not to British columnist Alexander Chancellor, who wrote in Friday's Guardian that, quote, "The Americans were sorry to have killed British Lance Corporal Matty Hull in Iraq, but you get the feeling that they were not quite sorry enough. There is no act more grave than killing people, but the Americans seem to shrug it off with alarming ease, at least when those who die are not Americans."

People who oppose the invasion have learned to distinguish between those who declared war and those sent to fight it. But would we be as enraged at British soldiers if they fired on our troops? Would we, like the British media this week, call them "trigger-happy"? Would we call them cowboys? Those words are often applied to our president overseas. Now it seems his voice has drowned out those of the anguished pilots. It drowns out the evidence of their remorse.

The tape cannot redeem them in the face of so much loss.