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February 07, 2005

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Robin Burk

I can see both sides of this issue. I certainly understand why journalists do not want to be limited to embedding.

I have nothing like firsthand knowledge, but I can also understand what I suspect the military point of view to be. The sort of operations happening in Iraq right now demand that soldiers and marines respond quickly to unexpected attacks at any moment from any direction. In such an environment, it's hard for me to see how the military can guarantee that a journalist a) will be recognized as such instantaneously and b) not be in the line of fire. Moreover, in Fallujah, for instance, one got the impression that some network correspondents were more than sympathetic to the insurgents. There were a fair number of times when photographers seemed to be just at the right place and time to see what were supposedly hit and run sort of attacks. I'm not saying they were helping the insurgents. But I am saying that being around attacks is a pretty dangerous thing to choose to do. I salute their courage. I'm not clear on how the military could protect them, given that choice however..

It's a dilemna. What is happening in Iraq - what the military calls the non-linear battlefield, in which there is no clear distinction between the front line and "behind the lines" - is probably going to be the paradigm for any armed conflicts for some time to come. And that means the question of how to operationalize protected status for journalists will probably continue to be a difficult one.

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