To: Nick Meo
From: Not an American blogger
Re: Your “defence” of your actions in Afghanistan
I have been reading the ongoing discussion that has arisen from your ill-advised column in the Telegraph when you were embedded with a US unit in Afghanistan. [For the original, go here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/3223963/Afghanistan-The-night-I-was-killed-in-action-by-a-Taliban-ambush.html]
Nick: You are a fool, a dangerous fool.
First, let me assure you, I am NOT an American blogger, although I DO – indeed – write for a few American blogs, (milblogs as well as political sites) as well as have my own site. I also write for an international online news site.
However, first and foremost, I AM British and a trained, professional journalist. (I have the parchment to prove that.) Just like you, you might say!
However, Nick, there is where our similarities end.
To read your original article, and then your pathetic attempts in your own defence, is to know you are a sorry specimen of what SHOULD be a noble profession. During the course of my own journalism training and studies, I was required to grasp a working knowledge of both the ethics and the legalities relating to reporting. From both examples of your work from your embed in Afghanistan, I am presuming you didn’t take those classes.
I am not going to enter into a line by line analysis of all the things I find abhorrent in your work, since that has been taken care of far more eloquently by American military. [For that, go to Bouhammer here: http://bouhammer.com/wordpress/?p=1841 or BlackFive here: http://www.blackfive.net/main/2008/10/if-you-are-in-t.html or here: http://www.blackfive.net/main/2008/10/nick-meow-the-m.html ]
You would do well to study what these fighting men, with first hand experience in the sandbox, have shared with you.
I have a number of issues to raise with you. First of all you say “the taliban tried to kill me.” Well, sheesh Nick, what did you THINK they would do to you? You are in a war zone, and you ARE the taliban’s enemy. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the damn kitchen.
You are on the record as saying that you kept your camera rolling, despite being told by the US troops with you, to stop filming. Yes, I understand that you may have felt you had a legal “right” to keep filming, and oh yes, it would have been rare footage, but Nick: at what price? Are you too young to remember how there was worldwide condemnation for the footage of American soldiers being dragged through Somalia? Where the hell have you been?
As a journalist, we all know our legal rights, and those can be taught. But ethics are not a teachable subject; you either have them or you don’t. Your callous filming of one of the fallen American soldiers proves to me you do not have ANY ethics at all. Filming this US soldier would add NOTHING to your story. Really. You write and poke fun at the American soldiers and their hairstyles and their behaviour. You refused to be part of the ramp ceremony to honour the fallen soldier who you previously had no hesitation filming. Quite apart from the fact that various military have already taken you to task for the LIES you told, it seems to me that you need to get out more, and explore the real world, other cultures.
You are a fool. To openly mock, in print, those very soldiers who were going to do all in their power to keep you alive, was beyond foolish, on so many levels. The total lack of respect you showed for them, or their mission, is incomprehensible to me. Did you honestly think that our American allies don’t have access to British papers? Did it not for one minute cross your mind, that the soldiers who were there, would call you out for the untruths you tried to hold up as gospel? Idiot. It may surprise you to know that most of the soldiers in the sandbox do have access to phones and the internet. No sooner would your story have hit the wires, and the troops who were THERE were able to correct your inaccuracies. And there are many inaccuracies from what I have read.
You are a fool for confirming what many global readers and media consumers have long believed: journalists are NOT to be trusted to tell the truth.
You are a fool for pandering to an ill-conceived stereotype of the American soldier. I am guessing you don’t personally know any American military or their families as friends. Yes, I understand all too well about objectivity and “getting the story at all costs”, but not at the expense of lies, or by broadcasting video which can only add to the grief of the fallen’s family and loved ones. You also are apparently clueless as to the protocol that is followed for informing families back home when their loved one has fallen in battle. There is a reason for that protocol.
You are also a dangerous fool. Do you not understand – at all – that video such as you so proudly refused to give up to the military can and will be used as propaganda by the people trying to kill the troops? Where have you been?
Your whining tone that the military could not tell you what to do, was beyond absurd. Newsflash, Nick. In a war zone, when you are embedded in ANY unit, they can tell you to do whatever they deem in the best interest of the mission, and you DO IT! Part of their mission is to ensure that as few lives as possible are lost, and yes, that does include the innocent (or in your case, ignorant) civilians.
NO military unit has to take an embed with them. After your behaviour, I wouldn’t blame any of them for refusing to take either you, or any other journalist, along with them. You were a liability. And I won’t even get into your nonsense about how you got out of there. Nonsense that has been more thoroughly debunked by those who were there. KIA, indeed! NOT!
I am not suggesting that you throw your objectivity away when reporting. I know what your job is, and believe me, I would go to the sandbox and report in your place in a heartbeat. But, I would suggest that while you are busy filming your scoops, or trying for the clever language as you describe (inaccurately as it turns out) what is going on, that you remember that every one of those men and women there are loved by somebody.
Try this next time you feel the urge to rush to print or film with your scoop: Imagine that the person who has just been killed, or the driver who you are glad you didn’t talk to because he died, or the young warriors who are drawing enemy fire all around you; imagine for just one minute that they are your son, your brother, your sister, your mother, your friend. Imagine that they are someone you love. Try that, and then honestly tell me, you would repeat what you did.
If you can’t do that, imagine that those men and women were British troops.
Nick, you are a fool, and I do feel great pity for you. In your rush to tell an untrue story, with rare footage and all, you forgot your humanity, your decency.
From where I sit, and knowing what I know, that makes you a fool; a very dangerous fool, both to the men and women you embedded with, and to yourself.
Finally Nick, a little guiding principle I have lived with for many years: Just because I know something, does not mean I have to share it. No matter what the circumstance of ANY story, I always ask myself: What or who is served by my sharing this?
Bottom line, being a journalist is not – EVER – about self-aggrandizement. It is, or should be, about serving a higher calling. In this instance, your self serving stories – and the abysmal defence you offered in hindsight – did a disservice to every professional journalist.
I will not tell you what I think you should do in this aftermath. It is my humble hope that you will KNOW what needs to be done now, and do it.