A long time nemesis of the West has died, Vietnamese Gen. No Nguyen Giap. During the siege of Khe Sanh, Ford Jennings, one of the main characters in The Five O’Clock Follies, insisted that the U.S. Marine outpost there was going to fall on the same day in the same that the French had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu 14 years earlier.
The correspondent’s thinking: General Vo Nguyen Giap, the mastermind of the French rout, was thought to be calling the shots in Khe Sanh.
The New York Times staff photographer Tyler Hicks was nearby when gunmen opened fire at an upscale Nairobi mall, killing at least 39 people in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Kenya’s history. He was able to go inside the mall as the attack unfolded. Here’s what he saw: NY Times Lens Blog Sept 21, 2013
We remember the pictures of the last horrifying 1975 flights out of Saigon, but Da Nang? A disgusting picture of South Vietnamese deserting soldiers shoving aside women and children to fight their way aboard a rescue flight. The stampede was so awful that the plane couldn’t close its boarding stairs, and took off with men dangling from its wings, baggage holes and wheel wells. The desperadoes who couldn’t clamber aboard fired shots and damaged the plane as it took off. Of the 268 who finally were in the cabin at takeoff, 5 were women and there were 2 or 3 small children. The rest were thugs trying to save their own skins.
A CBS video report by Bruce Dunning that was voted by Columbia University’s School of Journalism one of the 100 best pieces of reporting by its graduates in this, the school’s centennial year.
It’s interesting to note that with all the concern about Mali as a haven for terrorists, the New York Times doesn’t even seem to have a correspondent there. A page one story on March 18, talking about possible U.S. involvement is datelined Mauritania, which is on Mali’s northwest border. The French made headlines by sending in troops in January to push back Al Qaeda forces from the cities of Gao and Timbuktu. There were stories of grateful citizens thanking the arriving French troops, but beyond that nothing much except puffery about how President Francois Hollande’s poll numbers have shot up. Paris Match reported that Monsieur Flan had become Mr. Big after the lightening fast and unexpected move. There is such a lid on battlefield reports that Reporters Sans Frontieres claims that at one point, 50 journalists were rounded up and flown out of the country. No one else seems to have reported that or confirmed that, but with no one there to report on it, who knows? The French weekly, Le Point says “the French Army has confirmed its nickname of ‘grand mute’ by locking up information on its operations.”
For many the Vietnam War is no more than history. For those of us for whom it is a vivid memory, the 45th anniversary of the Tet Offensive this year is a time to wonder if we’ve learned any lessons from the war.
Photographers on assignment in Oakland, Calif., are robbery targets to such an extent that they need security guards to accompany them. The New York Times reports that the Oakland Tribune’s chief photog, Laura Oda, has had her cameras taken twice at gunpoint. Police say they have no idea where the secondary market is for the equipment, because it’s not showing up through the usual fences.
There is a serious dispute over the death of Gilles Jacquier, of France-2 Television, the first Western journalist killed in Syria during the current conflict. The Huffington Post reports that two journalists who were with Jacquier the day he died, Jan. 11, 2012, don’t believe the government story that rebels killed Jacquier. Other doubters include the French government and human rights groups. An investigative piece on the matter has aired on French TV.
Patrick Vallelian of the weekly L’Hebdo and Sid Ahmed Hammouche of the daily La Liberte newspaper, said they believed the attack was part of an elaborate trap set up by Syrian authorities.
“It felt like it was all planned in advance,” Vallelian told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/22/gilles-jacquier-dead-syrian-authorities_n_1221906.html
Things have gotten so bad for journalists in Syria that The Sunday Times of London is refusing to accept freelancers photographs from the conflict. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists in a Feb. 6 posting, the paper for which American Marie Colvin was working when she was killed last year in Homs, doesn’t want to encourage those willing to risk their lives to get the story out. The site reports that 28 journalists were killed in Syria “in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces,” as of mid-December, 2012. CPJ says two more have so far been killed this year in Syria.
CPJ quotes Paul Wood, a BBC Middle East correspondent who covered Iraq and numerous other wars, as saying the Syrian conflict “is the most difficult one we’ve done.” Bashar al-Assad’s government sought to cut off the flow of information by barring entry to international reporters, forcing Wood and many other international journalists to travel clandestinely into Syria to cover the conflict. “We’ve hidden in vegetable trucks, been chased by Syrian police—things happen when you try to report covertly.” http://www.cpj.org/
The newspapers sitting on my desk since August are already almost yellow. I’ve been thinking since then of writing this. The capture and release of NBC’s Richard Engel and his crew lifted me from my ennui.
Why in the collective conscience are soldiers the only heroes in combat boots, why not the messengers of the bad news? ITEM: From the New York Times of 8/22/12 – “Two days after a Japanese journalist, Mika Yamamoto, was shot and killed in the Syrian city of Aleppo, her news agency released some of the footage she recorded in her final hours. The video, posted online with subtitles by The Telegraph of Britain, shows that Ms. Yamamoto, 45, was filming Syrian rebel fighters alongside her partner, Kazutaka Sato, when she was shot and killed.”