The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.
February 22, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Marie Colvin, an American journalist working for The Sunday Times of London, and French photographer, Rémi Ochlik were killed this morning in the city of Homs, Syria. The two Western journalists were among 20 people killed in a makeshift media center, raising suspicions that Syrian security forces targeted their location by tracing satellite signals. Their deaths follow 19 days of shelling that activists say killed hundreds of trapped civilians in one of the deadliest campaigns in nearly a year of violent repression by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

CNN has a video and transcript of Colvin's final report from Syria, an interview with Anderson Cooper:
Anderson Cooper: The regime in Syria claims they're not hitting civilians, that there is no armed conflict, that there is no war inside Syria, that they are basically just going after terrorist gangs.

Marie Colvin: Every civilian house on this street has been hit. We're talking about a very poor popular neighborhood. The top floor of the building I'm in has been hit, in fact, totally destroyed. There are no military targets here. There is the Free Syrian Army: Heavily outnumbered and out-gunned -- they have only Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades. But they don't have a base. There are more young men being killed, we see a lot of teen-aged young men, but they are going out to just try to get the wounded to some kind of medical treatment. So it's a complete and utter lie that they're only going after terrorists. There are rockets, shells, tank shells, anti-aircraft being fired in parallel lines into the city. The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.
New York Times journalist Anthony Shadid died last week while reporting in Syria (previously).
posted by 2bucksplus (104 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Srebrenica redux
posted by incandissonance at 9:20 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


A sad loss. "While many might long since have sought a prosthetic eye, Colvin chose instead to wear a black eye patch, something of a badge of honor for conflict journalism, instantly making her the most distinctive journalist in any combat zone."
posted by exogenous at 9:21 AM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


The New Yorker has a moving tribute on Colvin (via Gawker).
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:21 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


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posted by hermitosis at 9:21 AM on February 22, 2012


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My condolences to the families of Ms. Colvin and Mr. Ochlik, and all the innocent civilians who have died at the hands of the evil regime of Bashar al-Assad. I send my prayers for a peaceful and democratic Syria to emerge from this chaos and destruction.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:23 AM on February 22, 2012


> Srebrenica redux

No, this is not the same as that. As disgusting as it is, what's happening in Syria isn't genocide and ethic cleansing like that which took place in Srebrenica.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder what the propagandists at fox think when they see stories like this. We should have such journalists in this country.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2012


It is hard to imagine the courage it takes to voluntarily put yourself into the kind of situation that she was reporting on.
posted by thelonius at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


How sad. Thank you for doing your best to shed light on this and report the truth, Marie & Rémi and any other journalists still in danger. Rest in peace.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:27 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by pemberkins at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by HandfulOfDust at 9:29 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by bicyclefish at 9:29 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by saturday_morning at 9:30 AM on February 22, 2012


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Also, she looks like she was a total badass
posted by melissam at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


I buy the Sunday Times regularly, but when I started reading it I didn't pay attention and wondered when exactly Marie Helvin had become a war journalist and why she was suddenly wearing a patch.

Anyway, Colvin absolutely hunted danger. It does not surprise me she was killed. The superlatives are true - she is one of that rare breed of foreign correspondents so committed to telling the stories lesser men would not dare. In the UK she was considered the grande dame of foreign correspondence.

Ironically, if you read the Time obit you see she was urging her colleagues to break the Times paywall and get her story out there. A fitting tribute: Marie Colvin, scourge of despots and tyrants wherever they may be.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


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The New York Times article implies that the Syrian Army may be actively targeting journalists to close off the independent sources for news from the conflict.
posted by Atreides at 9:32 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by kmz at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2012


What an amazing person. It may sound a little ghoulish but I would watch the hell out of her inevitable biopic.

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posted by Doleful Creature at 9:40 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by Megami at 9:41 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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Angering and disheartening at the same time.
posted by LMGM at 9:41 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by Gelatin at 9:43 AM on February 22, 2012


Yes, disheartening describes it for me. And sad.
posted by Forktine at 9:44 AM on February 22, 2012


If the Syrians are targeting traced satellite signals, it's hard to believe they aren't getting their information from the Russians or Chinese.
posted by jamjam at 9:46 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hope Assad breathes his last breath in the Hague, an irrelevance condemned by history and international justice.
posted by jaduncan at 9:49 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


> it's hard to believe they aren't getting their information from the Russians or Chinese.

Or possibly Iran. Hard to say, really.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:51 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:55 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by kimdog at 9:58 AM on February 22, 2012


> Srebrenica redux

No, this is not the same as that. As disgusting as it is, what's happening in Syria isn't genocide and ethic cleansing like that which took place in Srebrenica.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 AM on February 22 [1 favorite +] [!]


Ah, but once again the world community stands away and wrings its hands.

Murder is murder.
posted by incandissonance at 10:07 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Too many good journalists are dying.

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posted by Fizz at 10:09 AM on February 22, 2012


The last story she filed for the Sunday Times is here, free from paywall restrictions.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 10:14 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is a significant ethnic/communal element to the Syrian conflict. The Assad family have long held themselves out as the protectors of the country's non-Sunni minorities against the supposed depredations the Sunni majority would impose if allowed power, and Christian and Allawite support for Assad remains significant.
posted by MattD at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's the story behind the eyepatch? It would seem this is not the first time Ms Colvin has been shot at.
posted by three blind mice at 10:18 AM on February 22, 2012


she lost an eye covering events in Sri Lanka per exogenous' link
posted by Hoopo at 10:23 AM on February 22, 2012


I hope Assad breathes his last breath in the Hague, an irrelevance condemned by history and international justice.

I am again having to come to terms with my own moral failing here, as I think it is too late for that. Up to maybe 5 months ago I would have been happy for this outcome. At this point, nothing short of the Qadafi treatment will seem just to me. He should not get to consult lawyers and raise objections - he should die frightened and disoriented at the hands of angry Syrians.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:24 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


People like Marie Colvin me ashamed to call myself a reporter. I just write stuff. SHE was a reporter, and she died shining a light on terrible, terrible things.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:27 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


He should not get to consult lawyers and raise objections - he should die frightened and disoriented at the hands of angry Syrians.

The reach of the Syrian mob reaches to the edge of Syria. The reach of the ICC is slowly becoming global. I think you're also underestimating the ignominy of criminal imprisonment when compared to the death of a political martyr...but I guess at heart I'd say that the rule of law is what separates us from them. I also think this about US political assassination, to be honest.

"William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"
posted by jaduncan at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


She was a victim of violence herself, having lost her left eye after coming under government fire in Sri Lanka in 2001.

OK. So not the first time she was in the line of fire. Like an extreme skier, she engaged in a dangerous sport perhaps as much for her own sake as for ours.
posted by three blind mice at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Ok So not the first time she was in the line of fire. Like an extreme skier, she engaged in a dangerous sport perhaps as much for her own sake as for ours." With all due respect, I'm going to just say - I so hope you actually don't mean that the way it sounds.

This was a courageous woman doing something there are far few in the media today with the guts to do - speak truth to atrocities and to do so from the reality of the atrocities themselves. This was a brave woman and journalist of immense integrity.

She wasn't in it for the "sport" .... and may she rest in peace. Along with all the other tragic victims of these ... atrocities.
posted by cdalight at 10:41 AM on February 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


But it's so easy to dismiss others who are doing something.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:44 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Like an extreme skier, she engaged in a dangerous sport perhaps as much for her own sake as for ours.

No, not like an extreme skier. Other than the occasional Youtube video, extreme skiers do not produce anything of significant value to society. These journalists, on the other hand, died performing an essential public service for the good of humanity.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Like an extreme skier, she engaged in a dangerous sport perhaps as much for her own sake as for ours.

I've seen my share of loaded, unfair, and gross analogies. This one takes the cake.
posted by kmz at 10:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


So not the first time she was in the line of fire. Like an extreme skier, she engaged in a dangerous sport perhaps as much for her own sake as for ours.

There appears to be a sentence missing between your first one and your second one that would make the whole make sense.
posted by reynir at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2012


These types of reporters are the true heroes. They risk their lives with no weapon other than words and images, and are constantly the targets of those with weapons who want to silence them. Even bigger heroes when not embedded with one side who only lets them show what they want them to show. There are times my suicidal tendencies have me tempted to go into war reporting, but besides not having a single clue how to go about it, and being horribly out of shape, i keep coming up with excuses not to.
posted by usagizero at 10:52 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, but once again the world community stands away and wrings its hands.

Oh, for fuck's bloody sake. The UN has no standing army. The international community, like the pope, has no divisions. What we've got are nations. And what it would take to stop what's happening in Syria is an invasion. And after the past nine years, are you really quite, quite happy that would end well? Swords stop swords and no swords are clean.

Like an extreme skier, she engaged in a dangerous sport perhaps as much for her own sake as for ours.

No. Not like an extreme skier, because we are not entertained. There are no saints in this world, and people who can't stand the gig --- sensible people, people with families they love and gardens to tend --- don't do it. This job don't get done without people nuts enough to do it. Be grateful that there are those few.
posted by Diablevert at 10:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


No, I'm with three blind mice on this one. I'm not saying Colvin didn't produce value in her work, but she knowingly engaged in extremely dangerous activity. The whole eye patch thing demonstrates a certain machisma (yes, mixed gendering there) that indicates she viewed her work with a sporting aspect, trying to prove how badass she was.
posted by Doohickie at 10:54 AM on February 22, 2012


I am again having to come to terms with my own moral failing here, as I think it is too late for that. Up to maybe 5 months ago I would have been happy for this outcome. At this point, nothing short of the Qadafi treatment will seem just to me. He should not get to consult lawyers and raise objections - he should die frightened and disoriented at the hands of angry Syrians.

The idea behind giving him a trial really doesn't have much to do with him, as a person, really. It's about Syria. Say this all ends, they shoot him in the head, it's all over, Syria is free... ok, then what? How do they even begin to build a functioning society with a functioning rule of law, trustworthy government institutions, justice, all that good stuff?

Starting off their tenure as a free country by putting Assad on trial is a way of asserting that, hey, Syria is better than this, Syria holds people accountable for their actions, Syria is willing to put in the work to address its atrocities instead of just shooting one guy and then saying "ok, all better now!"

(Not that I'd be heartbroken if he was found shot dead, or anything. But still.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:55 AM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying Colvin didn't produce value in her work, but she knowingly engaged in extremely dangerous activity.

So do police and firefighters and soldiers and trawler fishermen. If one of those gets injured while doing their job and goes back to doing their job, we don't tend to then assume that they do this because they are engaging in a dangerous sport for selfish reasons.
posted by reynir at 11:00 AM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh my ... please, please - human nature is really such that one of us is actually typing this??!!: "I'm not saying Colvin didn't produce value in her work, but she knowingly engaged in extremely dangerous activity. The whole eye patch thing demonstrates a certain machisma (yes, mixed gendering there) that indicates she viewed her work with a sporting aspect, trying to prove how badass she was."

Have we truly reached a point in society where this amazing woman's life and work - and her eye-patch that she wore as a testament to the horrors in the world that made it necessary - is SO mis-interpreted & seen through the stupidity that is in general our media now - that it gets summed up as an attempt to being "badass?!"

Stunned by that ... just stunned. And dis-heartened. And if I'm honest? More than a little pissed off.
posted by cdalight at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2012 [24 favorites]


I would encourage anyone interested in this issue to listen to Carol Off's blistering interview with the Syrian Ambassador to Canada on CBC Radio's As It Happens yesterday. The hubris and denial exuded by the ambassador is just astonishing. It's a remarkable interview and a fantastic example of the CBC at its best.
posted by oulipian at 11:01 AM on February 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm not saying Colvin didn't produce value in her work, but she knowingly engaged in extremely dangerous activity.

We are different, you and I, in that I find courage admirable.
posted by Diablevert at 11:03 AM on February 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Deliberate attacks on the media are symptoms of a criminal state...
posted by ennui.bz at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, she looks like she was a total badass

Seriously, an eyepatch? I'm sure it adds some cred during the war journo interviews.

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posted by Ironmouth at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2012


Have we truly reached a point in society where this amazing woman's life and work - and her eye-patch that she wore as a testament to the horrors in the world that made it necessary - is SO mis-interpreted & seen through the stupidity that is in general our media now - that it gets summed up as an attempt to being "badass?!"

It isn't an attempt to be badass. It is badass.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:09 AM on February 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


"In an age of 24/7 rolling news, blogs and twitters, we are on constant call wherever we are. But war reporting is still essentially the same - someone has to go there and see what is happening. You can't get that information without going to places where people are being shot at, and others are shooting at you. The real difficulty is having enough faith in humanity to believe that enough people be they government, military or the man on the street, will care when your file reaches the printed page, the website or the TV screen.

We do have that faith because we believe we do make a difference.

And we could not make that difference - or begin to do our job - without the fixers, drivers, and translators, who face the same risks and die in appalling numbers. Today we honour them as much as the front line journalists who have died in pursuit of the truth. They have kept the faith as we who remain must continue to do."
Marie Colvin

I agree Ironmouth - she is "badass" ... in the true courageous and integral definition of the word one might give it with the right intent. To say however that she viewed what she did with a "sporting aspect" and to say that she was trying to prove she was badass? Read her own words in the transcript of the speech I linked to above that the quote was taken from & it seems clear just how ignorant a comment I personally believe that was.
posted by cdalight at 11:21 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


She clearly enjoyed her work. To some people that would be self indulgent. Others think that self indulgence is defined as eating ice cream that someone else left in the refrigerator.

Her work was important. Her work was altruistic - she put herself at risk to expose the truth. That is courageous.

But you are seriously kidding yourself about human nature if you think she didn't get a kick in the pants from being in the thick of things. Some people would say that's self indulgent.

It's okay to be both. You can do good things and enjoy your work. Even if it's thrill seeking.
posted by Xoebe at 11:24 AM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't believe in Valhalla, but if it exists, these two got to skip to the front of the line.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:33 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hope Assad breathes his last breath in the Hague, an irrelevance condemned by history and international justice.

There seems to be quite a few members of the Syrian Army who deserve the same fate.
posted by Gelatin at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck. I don't watch Anderson Cooper very often, but I turned his show on last night just in time to catch the interview with Colvin. She was an amazing person.

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posted by homunculus at 11:46 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by angrycat at 11:47 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by whatgorilla at 11:49 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by lalochezia at 11:53 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by Jubal Kessler at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2012


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posted by humanfont at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2012


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posted by Vibrissae at 12:07 PM on February 22, 2012


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posted by motty at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2012


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:20 PM on February 22, 2012


> Srebrenica redux

No, this is not the same as that. As disgusting as it is, what's happening in Syria isn't genocide and ethic cleansing like that which took place in Srebrenica.

An interesting point, Burhanistan. Continual shelling of a purely civilian neighborhood is a sort of annhilation of a definable group without regard to their activities, so in that sense, perhaps it is genocide on a small scale.

But what is the reason genocide of 1,000 is viewed as distinct from "merely" killing 1,000 (chosen more randomly)? I submit that it is the component of rejection of an entire group's very humanity, and the message of terror it shouts to others of that group.

In this sense, shelling a neighborhood into oblivion, long after any semblance of resistance is abandoned, both reduces the occupants to mere targets, and sends a message that this army responds to threats with indiscriminate slaughter of the innocent. Again, in my mind, it meets the bar for genocide.

YMMV.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect I wasn't clear when I said
without regard to their activities
by which I meant, as opposed to killing everyone who wore the enemy's uniform, or shot at you, or chanted "End ___ Now!", because those are separate acts from genocide.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2012


Red Cross seeks Syria ceasefires; more than 100 killed
posted by homunculus at 12:30 PM on February 22, 2012


U.S. appears to allow for possibility of arming Syrian opposition
posted by homunculus at 12:32 PM on February 22, 2012


> U.S. appears to allow for possibility of arming Syrian opposition

That headline seems suspect since there's nothing mentioned in the article other than "additional measures". I would think that given the State Department's stance that they don't want to see further militarization in Syria that "additional measures" would mean some sort of NATO airstrikes against Syrian army positions that are witnessed to be engaging against civilians.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2012


It isn't an attempt to be badass. It is badass.

I assume her wearing an eye patch is to cover up her empty eye socket. Which is probably kind of unsightly, so wearing an eye patch is practical as opposed to badass, since just leaving the thing open would be way more badass, if you go for that. Maybe she could have used a false eye, but there are plenty of reasons why she would have chosen not to -- I admit it offers a certain rakish charm that I doubt she was unaware of.

Honestly. I had brain surgery, and it left me with a huge visible incision held closed by staples. Leaving it out there for everyone to see would have been badass, but it also would have been gross for people walking behind me and my head would have been cold. So I wore a bandana, which had the added bonus of keeping my knitted cap from getting tangled on the staples.

Get excited by the woman's life, people, not her choice of eye covering!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I hope Assad breathes his last breath in the Hague... SOON
posted by BlueHorse at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a shame.
posted by Elmore at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2012


Xoebe: "But you are seriously kidding yourself about human nature if you think she didn't get a kick in the pants from being in the thick of things. Some people would say that's self indulgent. "

Plaudits for a job well done will only be awarded to those who wept openly while doing it.

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posted by vanar sena at 1:08 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another death: Rami Al-Sayed, Syrian Citizen Journalist, Is Killed During Attack On Homs
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Now communication between Syrian Army officers intercepted by Lebanese intelligence staff has revealed that direct orders were issued to target the makeshift press centre in which Colvin had been broadcasting."
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:39 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


The WH Loves Aggressive Journalism — Abroad

And remember: Afghan insurgents BAD, Syrian insurgents GOOD.
posted by fredludd at 3:23 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before we attack Syria, can we try fixing Libya? Thanks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:26 PM on February 22, 2012


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posted by no relation at 4:12 PM on February 22, 2012


I wonder what the propagandists at fox think when they see stories like this. We should have such journalists in this country.

Yes, if only a Rupert Murdoch vehicle had the brass to hire someone like Marie Colvin oh wait
posted by chavenet at 4:17 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


> It's okay to be both. You can do good things and enjoy your work. Even if it's thrill seeking.

But it's a disingenuous point at best in this context. This woman made the ultimate sacrifice to report on issues that matter to everyone. Sure, you can step back and philosophically ponder the myriad influences that will make people be willing put themselves in harms way for the greater good. I can only respond that, in the context of remembering a life ended too soon by those opposed to the greater good, who fucking cares?
posted by Brak at 5:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no way we can improve the situation in Libya by dropping more bombs. Syria on the other hand we can possibly improve by bombing. We've demonstrated in the last ten years that we are pretty good at the shock and awe part of the regime change business, but really not the people you want to bring in for reeconstruction and rebuilding.
posted by humanfont at 5:24 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:26 PM on February 22, 2012


Humanfont, that's what we thought about Libya, too! We thought that Gaddafi was horrible and that if we stopped him killing people then it would provide a break in which a civilian government could arise. But it didn't, and I will bet you that it won't arise in the next five years. I don't think we know enough to tell if our intervention has been a net positive, but the present situation is certainly not much better.

I hate the massacres going on in Syria and I would unhesitatingly support any genuine solution. I just don't think any have been proposed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:38 PM on February 22, 2012


The situation on Libya is much better than when Ghaddafi was murdering the shit out of everyone.
posted by humanfont at 6:56 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Colvin, Ochlik, and Shadid were the type of journalists we at my college paper aspired to be. I don't know if I'll ever be fully okay with myself for not going down that path.

Rest in peace.

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posted by halonine at 7:22 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This one really really hurts. Marie Colvin was a reporter who was willing to be part of the story, to live with and as the locals even when they were fighting losing battles in support of unpopular causes (eg with the rebels in Chechnya, or with the Taliban in Afghanistan), and to do that so that light might be shed on the plight of civilians (particularly those most vulnerable in war - civilian women and children) who would otherwise be ignored, or whose plight might be obscured by more clinical journalism based on the "pure facts" of press briefings and guided/embedded tours.

In short, she was a fucking champion of the weak and the helpless. She was deeply compassionate, brutally honest, and wise in how she pursued her advocacy for those people. Talk of her being a badass or an adrenaline junkie or deserving the death she eventually suffered is not just shallow and callous, but outright wrong. She was open and on the record about the fear she suffered in pursuing her job, and the recurring nightmares that plagued her even when she wasn't on assignment. She lived with that fear, she fought it, she overcame it (often through and in her writing). Then she continued to do what she did because she knew it to be right. In short, she wasn't a badass, she was just brave in a way that few people ever are.

Marie Colvin, may you rest in peace.
posted by Ahab at 8:03 PM on February 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


My condolences to the families of Ms. Colvin and Mr. Ochlik, and all the innocent civilians who have died at the hands of evil regimes. I send my prayers for a peaceful and democratic world to emerge from this chaos and destruction.
posted by vicx at 9:11 PM on February 22, 2012


"I'm not saying Colvin didn't produce value in her work, but she knowingly engaged in extremely dangerous activity. The whole eye patch thing demonstrates a certain machisma (yes, mixed gendering there) that indicates she viewed her work with a sporting aspect, trying to prove how badass she was."

So, you object to the fact that she actually liked her necessary, dangerous and ultimately lethal job?!

In order to help maintain the healthy, respectful discussion required by MetaFilter guidelines, I'll say no more than this: you must be a very sad, frustrated person.

Oh, and: .
posted by Skeptic at 1:40 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I really hope that this article in today’s Daily Telegraph might give those of you wittering on about ‘machisma’, ‘self indulgence’ and – gasp! – eye-patches some much-needed food for thought.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 5:44 AM on February 23, 2012


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posted by eviemath at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2012


French journalist Edith Bouvier pleads for evacuation from Homs: France calls for humanitarian corridor to Homs after video plea from journalist injured in shelling that killed Marie Colvin
posted by homunculus at 7:15 PM on February 23, 2012


Syrian regime accused of crimes against humanity by UN: A UN list of senior Syrian officials who should face investigation is reported to include the president, Bashar al-Assad
posted by homunculus at 7:19 PM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interesting perspective by Guy Rundle:

Nothing captures the absurdity of the debate around Syria better than an exchange yesterday on BBC Radio 4's flagship Today program. Veteran broadcaster John Humphrys was interviewing Syrian expat Rim Turkmani, who is opposed to any form of military intervention. "But what if it was your family in Homs?" Humphrys probed. "I have family in Homs. At least a dozen," Tukmani replied. "I'm terrified for them, but intervention will only increase the bloodshed." At which point the interview lost its easy structure.

True, Humphrys was playing advocatus diaboli, but he was a lot less diaboli to the other guest, a Syrian advocating Western arming of the Free Syrian Army. Why? Because he fitted the now tiresome narrative -- beleaguered people crying out for help, spurned by the West. Yet Tukmani made clear the full absurdity of the situation, in that no one is seriously contemplating any sort of full-scale Western military intervention in Syria -- whatever is going to happen will depend on what Turkey wants to do.

So the debate about it has become entirely virtual -- it is now an occasion for the wringing of hands, and the abstract discussion of moral obligations that no one proposes acting on. And just in case attentive readers are wondering how your correspondent can say this having supported Western involvement in Libya -- it's the very difference of the situations that suggest when one should and shouldn't support involvement.

Libya was a revolution by the Libyan people across the board -- whatever the shadowy nature of the leadership -- against an autocrat with no social base to speak of, merely mercenaries and weapons. We assisted a process they had begun themselves in a clear manifestation of the general will, and in a military situation where strategic assistance was limitable and feasible.

Syria has several separate peoples penned within a colonial-era boundary. The uprising is partial, ethno-religiously based, and does not appear to have general or national consent. Assad's brutality in Homs and elsewhere is indefensible, and it is possible that Turkey will wave a stick as part of negotiating a political solution. Anything else, would be attending to the horror of witnessing the killing of Homs, rather than doing what is possible to stop the killing itself.

That division -- between our own needs and those of the actual Syrian people -- is no better illustrated than by the treatment of the death of Marie Colvin, the veteran war correspondent, who was killed (with a young French photographer) in Homs two days ago. Colvin was famous as a three-decade veteran of dangerous war assignments, and became iconic, due to the adoption of a black patch, to cover an eye lost in the line of fire. She stayed in Homs, after her editor urged her to get out to get "one more story", and appears to have been directly targeted by the Syrian government. Her death has dominated the news for a full 36 hours, with the always added subscript that "we should not forget ordinary Syrians are dying in large numbers".

Amidst all this, no one has really asked whether her death, or her extended mission, had any real purpose. By the day she died, Colvin had already filed a long piece in The Sunday Times about the effects of the shelling on Homs, and added this comment to the BBC, which has gone round the world:

"I watched a little baby die today," Marie Colvin told the BBC from the embattled city of Homs on Tuesday in one of her final reports.

"Absolutely horrific, a two-year old child had been hit ... They stripped it and found the shrapnel had gone into the left chest and the doctor said, 'I can't do anything.' His little tummy just kept heaving until he died."

The hard question to ask is this: did Colvin's reports add anything to our understanding of the situation? We were pretty clear about what a lethal siege looks like, even if we hadn't been from lethal sieges of the past. Colvin could argue that by simply being there, she was making something happen -- her presence in East Timor during the Indonesian attacks was said to have saved the lives of a whole community, though the story is not undisputed -- but was that really the purpose of journalism per se? Or had she succumbed to what she herself mused upon last year, the confusion of bravery with bravado, of reporting with war junkiedom?

That suspicion is reinforced by remarks she made, about her continued work after losing the eye in Sri Lanka in 2001: "So, was I stupid? Stupid I would feel writing a column about the dinner party I went to last night ... Equally, I’d rather be in that middle ground between a desk job and getting shot, no offence to desk jobs." Front-line reportage or dinner party gossip, are those really the only alternatives? What about something more interpretive, that explained to readers the roots of the conflict, and the complexities of the situation? Would that not be -- desk job though it is -- in service to the Syrian people, perhaps more so than reportage, sometimes shading into war p-rn?

The suspicion that something more is going on -- as it is with many war correspondents -- is reinforced not only by that damn eye patch, a largely superfluous affectation that seemed to emphasise the narcissistic dimension of war reporting -- but also by her comparison of Homs with Srebrenice, despite the many differences between the two situations. Having decided that the West should intervene, Colvin was, by her own account, trying to gather stories that would shame the West into acting. She seems to have achieved that with her death, with Nicolas Sarkozy stating: "That's enough now ... This regime must go," the death of two European journalists apparently capable of tipping any scale you might want to offer.

Thus the whole cause is neatly contained within the Western drama of salvation, and the Syrians themselves become a backdrop in their own country -- as in the last photo of her that has now become iconic, and a more telling picture than many war correspondents would want to admit to. Did her death add to our understanding? Or become part of the drama in ways which make clear-sighted action less possible?

The question can be widened to one that is rarely asked, and that is abut not merely the personality, but the class basis of many such journalists. Overwhemingly drawn from a fairly privileged elite --especially in Britain -- or ex-forces personnel, their default setting seems to be a cynicism about organisational politics of any type, and a celebration of individual "conscience", tied in with eye-witness, and often uncontextualised, accounts of suffering. For many such correspondents, trying to understand the meaning of a conflict is what Colvin disparagingly called the "desk job", a hint of the wilful anti-intellectualism that often pervades war reporting (making all the more visible the quality of the work of those -- such as Robert Fisk and John Pilger -- who do put in the desk time).

Such journalists' careers also serve the interests of other journalists, trapped in a profession that is increasingly devolving to rewriting press releases to wrap around advertising on a page of lifestyle features. The exploits -- constructive or otherwise -- of war correspondents becomes a way of retaining some meaning in a diminished profession, and their deaths consequently become a rallying point for professional self-celebration.

Bravery is a virtue, and Colvin clearly had it in spades, but it's a virtue of means, not ends -- and when attached to a series of agendas that are anything but those of the wider Syrian people, such exploits can have a contrary effect. At a time when an ever larger proportion of war reportage is being done by the people themselves, and then posted/smuggled/emailed to the wider world, there's all the more reason to cast a critical eye over large organisations such as the BBC, and individual hero correspondents and the narratives they bring to complex struggles.

posted by wilful at 8:10 PM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


An Israeli Embeds with the Free Syrian Army

Wow.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:23 AM on February 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Syria Hit List Targets Thousands: A detailed document obtained by Mother Jones appears to identify a vast group of Syrian dissidents targeted by Bashar al-Assad's regime.
posted by homunculus at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2012


THE SYRIA CONUNDRUM
Given these grim realities, we are facing an onslaught of elite opinion that 'something must be done' to remedy the increasingly intolerable situation... The longer the denouement, the bloodier it will prove. So why not act now? To be frank, I agree, but with many reservations... Syria's strategic location in the Levant implicates far more complex regional dynamics implicating at minimum its immediate neighbors of Lebanon, Turkey (particularly with respect to Kurdish areas of Syria emboldened amidst the chaos to pursue irredentist claims), Iraq, Israel and, lest we forget, Jordan (heretofore a reasonably stable, reliable ally amidst the Arab Spring despite widespread dissatisfaction among its Palestinian majority with the Hashemite throne)... Assad enjoys large stock-piles of perilous chemical weaponry...

Ultimately, however, I believe the Assad regime has crossed various red-lines and the international community must become more proactive in its approach. To me, in the main, this largely rests with the Turks. I say this as I don't believe 'safe havens' can credibly be erected on either the Lebanese or Jordanian borders (putting aside Iraq's), for reasons alluded to above, at least not as of today. This leaves Turkey, and Nakhleh is right to point to the example of northern Iraq in 1991. The Arab League must work closely with Ankara to assure that Turkey would be willing to maintain and supply the zone (funded by the Arab League, particularly the Gulf States), and as Nakhleh says, if Syrian forces cross a further red-line and "violate the sanctuary" (assuming it were credible to create one after discussion with Turks), select members-states of the Friends of Syria could then move to arm the opposition (depending on Assad's posture and actions as these pressures mount, timing and scope of the arming of opposition forces could be re-appraised on an ongoing basis). The Turks may be resigned to needing such a buffer zone regardless given internally displaced and refugee flows increasing in the coming weeks and months. The internationalization of the conflict in this more limited fashion could actually prove more realistic while at the same time ramping up the pressure on Assad. Importantly, there would also need to be reasonably concrete, pre-agreed protocols in place to restore full-fledged sovereignty over the entirety of Syria's territory at a later point, perhaps guaranteed by a concert of powers in collaborative manner with Ankara.

Meantime, and putting aside China and Iran (the former I believe will conclude they may have over-stepped with the UNSC veto so downplay next moves, the latter are more constrained given no direct border with Syria and major issues at home given the ever brewing nuclear imbroglio), Obama must better work with Putin to persuade him that his client in Damascus is doomed, and that the Arab League (and/or Friends of Syria) and Ankara's move to establish a 'safe haven' in the north is but another death knell in his coffin... the regime has already crossed the rubicon, its true character revealed, and there is no going back, as we can be quite sure atrocities will continue moving forward.

Speaking of such atrocities, the name Ibrahim Qashoush may not be familiar to many readers, but this amateur poet found his voice during the uprising as this embedded YouTube attests.

Reportedly, in revenge, the regime not only killed him, but with sadistic savagery tore out his vocal chords and dumped his mutilated corpse in the Orontes River which flows through Hama's ancient, and beautiful, water-wheels. This malice painfully showcases the character of this increasingly odious regime. The Arab Awakening is about many things, from disgust with chronic corruption, limited prospects characterized by chronic unemployment, and much more, but it is certainly also about disgust at the grotesquely brazen totalitarian thuggery of episodes like these. The Arab peoples are sick and tired of being 'warned' and cowed by such brutalities.

The U.S. has tried to navigate on a country-by-country basis its reaction to these inspiring, wide-spread uprisings, attempting to calibrate its approach to no one's true satisfaction (including I suspect, the Administration's, if they are being honest with themselves). But these are immensely complicated problems, none more than Syria. For instance, listen carefully to the YouTube above, including the passing comments made about America in this spirited, revolutionary anthem. Recall too, after the hundreds of thousands of fatalities in Iraq (civilian and military), after the trillions spent there by the United States, all this blood and treasure expended, the Government in Baghdad is not even quite sure of its wherewithal security-wise to host an Arab League summit in late March. Let us show some humility and dispense with the farcical notion that Libya changed everything (particularly here given no NATO airpower is being contemplated), and recall the disaster that was Iraq, while keeping too a wary eye on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Having better acknowledged this will not be easy, and that it is not that we fear only phantoms, like fretful cowards per Ajami's caricature, but rather have very legitimate concerns. We cannot know the precise consequences that lie ahead in Syria, but if some combination of the Arab League, Friends of Syria and Turkey are willing to create and subsidize a territorial enclave in Syria's north, this should be the beginning of better internationalizing the Syrian situation, elevating the status of the SNC and opposition forces, ratcheting up the pressure on the regime, and hopefully allowing for more defections amidst the majority Sunni conscript army on the heels of this greater international involvement. But let us cast a calibrated die with modest expectations, and with utmost sobriety. The situation in the Levant is littered with unknowns, unknowns that have not remotely been convincingly answered by the intonations that 'something be done'. And yet, something must. This is the conundrum that Syria today presents the international community.
posted by kliuless at 6:55 AM on February 28, 2012


.
posted by mkb at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2012


Syria army stops Red Cross entering Baba Amr to deliver aid: Red Cross evacuates bodies of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik, but warns refusal of aid risks humanitarian crisis in Homs
posted by homunculus at 11:44 AM on March 2, 2012


What Russia taught Syria: When you destroy a city, make sure no one -- not even the story -- gets out alive.
posted by homunculus at 7:23 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Yorker: Letter from Syria: The Implosion. Long article on the situation in Syria, by Jon Lee Anderson. Update: The fall of Homs.
posted by russilwvong at 10:54 PM on March 3, 2012


Cue McCain calling for airstrikes. How bout you get in the plane yourself and start dropping a few bombs.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2012


It's only before the action occurs that airstrikes are magically 100% accurate, effective, and risk-free.
posted by mkb at 1:28 PM on March 5, 2012


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