Monday, August 18, 2003

Sometimes A Camera Doesn't Look Like A Camera

It is quite certain that the death of Reuters cameraman at the hands of US soldiers in Iraq would serve the cause of all those who were uncomfortable with war and with US military presence at the country. The incident would be branded "a murder" or "an attempt to silence the truth by brutal occupiers".

However, a similar incident which had occurred in my country's past leads me to provide more prosaic explanation. In summer of 1991 the war was slowly escalating and Croatian militias fighting "Krajina" Serb rebels began to exchange fire with nominally neutral JNA – Serb-dominated federal military. Near the town of Osijek, one of Eastern Slavonia's flashpoints, Croatian state television cameraman was killed by JNA tanks. Soon afterwards JNA held press-conference called that "an unfortunate incident" and tried to provide explanation – the camera was mistaken for anti-tank launcher by trigger-happy tank crew. This explanation made perfect sense, because "Armbrust" anti-tank rockets had taken a (relatively) heavy toll among JNA tanks during Slovenian "war" few months earlier. Unlike in Slovenia, JNA in Croatia didn't take any chances. Needless to say, Croatian media, at the time irreparably in chauvinist mode, laughed at the JNA explanation and stuck to "murder of truth" story.

Cameras being mistaken for anti-tank weapons could be applied for yesterday's incident. From the perspective of an average American soldier in Iraq – exhausted, tortured by heat, lack of trust towards civilians and more than aware of death that awaits from every corner – shooting first and asking questions later is more sensible option than worrying about possible PR disaster for his country in case of mistake.


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