Combat journalism: A function of our Constitution and a necessity

I was challenged recently. I had to bite my tongue at one of the most ignorant statements I’ve ever heard. This statement involves the war in Iraq and the U.S.’s role in such a military conflict.

The topic of war is so often on the tongues of young people. “Why are American soldiers over there in the first place?” and “What is the point?” are questions raised on a regular basis.

I do not know the exact answers to these questions. I know what I believe in and what I have been told to believe, which are two completely different things.

Yet when I was told that reporters who go to Iraq and join our soldiers in order to record a first-hand account are “unnecessary,” I was more than slightly offended.

Take into consideration that I write this as a reporter and a humanist. I take great offense at practically any criticism of the profession and go to great lengths defending the American tradition of journalism.

My voice and my anger at that statement also come from the lack of respect with which it was delivered and the ignorance that will continue to result from such assumptions.

No one who takes a job or an assignment seriously while doing so with dedication and passion is “unnecessary.” It was suggested that these reporters in Iraq are “in the way” because they not only put their own lives in danger, but those of the soldiers, “more importantly.” On top of that, apparently many soldiers themselves do not know why they continue to be deployed to Iraq or what their purpose in the country truly is.

I narrow it down to the existential dilemma.

What is the purpose of life? Before anyone can question another’s pursuits, they should be aware that their stabs leave them open for the same criticism and attack.

Perhaps it is not in the eyes of a narrow-minded person to see how reporters are doing people a service, in actuality. How many times has someone said, “I wish I could have been there” or “I wonder what it is really like”?

It is not possible for ordinary citizens to be everywhere and experience everything in the world. But they can want to know. This is why institutions such as newspapers exist.

To those who question a reporter’s presence in a foreign country, I say this simply and without malice: ‘Shut up.’

I know men who have been to Iraq and back. I know soldiers that will be deployed in June. I know people who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 and many more in the innumerable complications that have resulted since. Lives are taken in horrible situations every single day. How dare you deem which ones are necessary or not.

What is ironic about this entire situation is that human beings have a tendency to be curious. People want to be in the know. Reporters do not exist for their own egos. They have a job and most do it well, generally speaking.

In essence, I believe reporters in Iraq are exercising their Constitutional rights in ways far more enriching and deeper than anything we can ever experience in the U.S. itself, and for that I am both grateful and jealous.

I suppose it just comes down to the fact that some people are born with an avid desire to live and experience as much as they can in the time they are given.

There will not always be opportunities to report on the war in Iraq. People will, ultimately, always die. Selfish people will always be critical of those who serve selflessly.

I believe reporters will never be unnecessary as long as their critics continue to pound away. Talking heads obviously have little to do otherwise.

PHOTO: The sunset in Iraq, sent to me via e-mail by a Marine. I wrote to him for the majority of his deployment about two years ago. (Brandon Nofire)

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Filed under Existentialism, Iraq, Journalism, War

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