Thursday, July 01, 2004

Wolfman or Cowardly Lion

I think I have seen too much of the Wolfman lately. I’m talking about Paul Wolfowitz the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

I saw him in Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11 where he was particularly revolting.

I saw him on the television being interviewed by White House reporter Campbell Brown. And I saw him testifying before a congressional committee. He seems to me a devious sort, but the thing he said about reporters being cowards really got my dander up.

What he said was: "Frankly," part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad, and they publish rumors. And rumors are plentiful."

I have been in the news business for a long time – in combat zones and elsewhere. I don’t ever remember seeing a reporter back away from doing his job because it was dangerous. Danger goes with the job whether it’s in a war zone overseas or a riot in a city or on the police beat in any town.

I have seen plenty of reporters who were afraid, but they went to work anyway.

Mr. Wolfowitz, who reminds me of Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in the movie "Wizard of Oz," has been to Iraq several times since he helped the president get the war started. He should know if reporters are hold up in Baghdad hotels because he stays in one of them, too. Wolfman would probably notice if they were not on the road to Fallujah or Mozul.

But wait a minute, Wolfman does not travel by road. He travels in a big Black Hawk helicopter with a couple of fearsome Apache choppers escorting him. He is not walking and he is not in a taxi that might hit a landmine or be targeted by a rocket-propelled grenade or a shoulder-fired missile. He’s probably about as safe in Iraq as he is being chauffeured around Northern Virginia near Washington where a lot of drivers tend to be a little nutsy.

For longer in-country Iraq trips, the Wolfman flies around in a huge C-130 transport plane. He always has plenty of heavily armed guards around him.

Protection for the Big Brain behind the war is prudent from the Department of Defense point of view.
But the guys and gals who don’t have that protection and still go out into the boonies are the brave ones. It sure isn’t a job for cowards.

More than 30 media people have been killed in Iraq in the last couple of years. Some were very good, well known and held in very high regard by their colleagues and the public. All of them took risks.
No deputy secretaries or other high-ranking DOD personnel have been slain.

Later on, after his congressional testimony, the Wolfman wrote a one-page open letter to journalists to apologize.

That might make things better for some of those reporters who are not dead yet. But I doubt it.

... kenmatthews@yahoo.com

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