Sunday, April 24, 2011

Andy Martin: Please don’t call them “photojournalists”

Republican Presidential Candidate Andy Martin, the only presidential candidate with extensive overseas experience, remembers combat photographers Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros and places their deaths in perspective.

On the cusp of Easter Andy Martin stops to remember two combat photographers who were killed in Libya last week



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Republican Presidential Candidate Andy Martin remembers the brave combat photographers who perished in Libya

(NEW YORK)(April 24, 2011) Saturday night some of my young supporters dragged me away from my desk to a dive bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Holy Saturday is actually a challenging day for Christians. Good Friday memorializes a death and burial. My experiences in life teach me funerals are relatively straightforward to bear. It’s the day after that is shattering. So the disciples were probably weeping, drinking wine, and deeply depressed on Holy Saturday. After all no one knew that Jesus would be rising on Easter morn. Saturday was a sad, sodden day.

In the Episcopal Church we do have a “Great Vigil” on Saturday, but no “Midnight Mass” (Episcopalians have “services,” not “masses”). Episcopalians also have the discipline to wait until Easter morning to celebrate.

And so Holy Saturday found me in a dive bar with young friends that were playing music and having a good time. The joint was noisy and stuffy. In the midst of that alienating confusion my mind drifted back to the deaths of the two combat photographers who were killed in Libya this week, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros.

There is a tendency today to call men and women who risk their lives in combat “photojournalists.” “Photojournalist” is an anodyne term and I don’t like it one bit. Call them what they are: combat photographers. They are risking their lives and being shot at in combat to bring us the face of war.

There have been a lot of memories and flashbacks for me this month. This year is a tough one for memories.

In Palm Beach I saw an article on Sean Flynn’s mother (see link below). I knew Sean Flynn and Dana Stone (the “mini-grunt” as he was called). We weren’t close friends but I knew them well enough to say hello. I know I went on my first combat operation with Dana Stone, and I think Sean Flynn was also along. The first time you get shot at is an interesting experience. It changes you.

Later, Sean and Dana got on motorbikes and drove along Highway 4 into Cambodia. They disappeared. Completely. No trace has ever been found.

A year later Highway 4 almost swallowed my life as well. I know that road. You never forget a narrow escape.

After reading about Sean’s mother and how she could not recover from the loss of her son, I was saddened by the capture of four New York Times reporters in Libya (link below). One of them is someone I know and think highly of. When you have connected personally with someone who is captured, you share their sense of endangerment. It also reminds me of my own capture many years ago.

Earlier this year I was reminded of the death of Henri Huet. Henri was the bravest, and maybe the craziest, combat photographer I ever met (link below). If there was a firefight, Henri would get in the middle to get angle shots of the combatants. He died in a chopper crash following a route I loved to fly. On that terrible day, they got hit.

In war, you lose perspective. You jump out of helicopters into rice paddies, or dangle off helicopters, or take off down a road without knowing who is in control. I had that experience in Laos, where we landed in Luang Prabang, Laos and ran straight into the Pathet Lao. And afterwards we joked about it. I vividly remember dodging mortar shells in Laos on another day.

And so I can understand how Hetherington and Hondros felt on the day they were killed. There were risks to be taken, and they took them.

There is nothing more dangerous than urban warfare. When people are fighting across streets, and snipers are firing from building to building, anything can happen. Tragically it did for two brave men last week. (Two other colleagues were wounded. In the case of the New York Times reporters, their driver may have been killed by Ghaddaffi forces.)

I saw Hetherington’s film “Restrepo,” and wrote a review for my readers (see link below). Tim and Sebastian Junger spent over a year shooting tape and being shot at along with the solders that were holding a small post in Afghanistan. All of their lives were in danger every day. How ironic that Tim survived the perils of Afghanistan only to perish in an urban battle in Libya.

Republicans today (one of whom I have criticized for her ignorance) like to say we “don’t know” who the Libyan rebels are. Hetherington and Hondros were there, photographing the rebels in action, risking their lives to tell the story of men fighting to rid their nation of Mohammar Ghaddaffi. Senator John McCain should also to be commended for going to Libya to stand up for the Libyan freedom fighters.

War is always a dangerous place to be. Urban warfare is even more treacherous. I count myself lucky to have escaped with nary a scratch. I spent a lot of 2003 living in Baghdad and criticizing the invasion and subsequent management of the occupation. But although I was always in danger I was never endangered. I’m older now, and more conscious of the risks. But I was also lucky, again.

Hetherington and Hondros will never grow old. They will be forever enshrined in our memories as young and vigorous, fearless searchers for the truth. Their families and loved ones can never replace them, and we can never repay them for the bravery they exhibited in documenting the horrors of war.

As the music got louder in that Lower East Side dive bar Saturday night, I slowly slipped off to the side and sat alone, thinking about the Easter morrow, and the loss of two brave men last week.

I don’t know if Tim and Chris were at all religious. But on Sunday morning I will remember and pray for them. May they rest in peace with God’s eternal grace. Truly, they have now seen the end of wear.

For the rest of us? A prayer for a joyous Easter and Happy Passover.


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ABOUT ANDY: Chicago Public Radio calls Andy Martin a “boisterous Internet activist.” Andy is the legendary New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, talk television pioneer, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He promotes his best-selling book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” [] and his Internet movie "Obama: The Hawaii’ Years” []. Martin has been a leading corruption fighter in Illinois for over forty years. He is currently sponsoring See also;

Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” He comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of investigative and analytical experience.

He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).


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