Carol Platt Liebau

Friday, December 10, 2004

Here's a little reality check from The Washington Post: "U.S. Combat Fatality Rate Lowest Ever." And it's good news.

What's amazing is to read the second paragraph of the story: "But the remarkable lifesaving rate has come at the enormous cost of creating a generation of severely wounded young veterans and a severe shortage of military surgeons, wrote Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston."

What exactly does that mean? After all, one would presume that most -- if not all -- of these "severely wounded young veterans" want to live and that their families would want them to live, too. This paragraph, begun with "but," seems to suggest however that all of us would be better off without this "enormous cost." As long as war is war, there will always be people who are desperately injured. But if we are saving their lives, that's a good thing, isn't it? And even if the number of injured is at 10,000 -- well, 10,000 brave men do not a "generation" make.

While we're on the subject of the war, let's talk about the brouhaha that's built up around this story -- about an embedded reporter coaching a soldier to ask Secretary Rumsfeld a question about armor. The question, not incidentally, was cheered by the rest of the troops.

I have no problem with the substance of the question -- to my mind, vehicles in Iraq should certainly have the proper armor to protect the people in harm's way. And I have no problem with the question being asked of the Secretary, so long as it's done in a way that doesn't hint at insubordination.

In fact, if this were a Clinton or Kerry administration that wasn't getting our men the supplies they need, I'd be running down the street screaming like my hair was on fire. There is no excuse for our not doing EVERYTHING to protect our troops. And I certainly hope the Administration is addressing these problems NOW -- not to do so would be indefensible.

That being said, there is something underhanded about the way the reporter went to work. I can understand him mentioning to some of the men, "You ought to ask about thus and such" -- and then seeing if they did so. But the subterfuge and the coaching does look bad -- it seems to cross the ethical line between a reporter covering a story, and a reporter creating a story to cover. After all, it's one thing to cover a barroom brawl. It's quite another to incite one.

So the reporter doesn't have much to be proud of here. But if they don't get going to take care of these problems, neither will members of the Bush Administration.


Post a Comment

<< Home