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Stephen Elliott

Stephen Elliott

Posted: October 4, 2005 04:11 PM

Eulogy For A Knight Ridder Stringer Killed By American Soldiers At A Roadblock In Iraq


Yasser Salihee. Because this is war and you were buying gas.

Because this is war, and in war you kill journalists. The problem with living in a society where everybody is shooting at you, where car bombs are going off in crowds, where you never know where a road block might suddenly materialize with soldiers warning you to stop your car, firing warning shots across your hot tin roof, is that you might not notice. One day, you might be driving along, and you don't know that a road block has been put up minutes earlier. You're on your way to get gasoline. From forty meters away, when you have not stopped after three warnings, a bullet slides through the windshield, slicing your head open. Dead, just like that.

You were a stringer. They've stopped sending American journalists out into the field. Too dangerous. An American can't go anywhere in Iraq without a convoy these days. The whole country's a boilerplate left on high, a burning building. The journalists that are there from the major American papers are huddled in hotel rooms in the Green Zone, afraid to go outside even to the heavily guarded cafe, waiting for reports from people like you, the locals. The ones who can speak the language, blend in. But sometimes you blend in too well. You don't hear the warning shots. You're on your way to get gas. Just another Iraqi. The bullet pierces the glass.

The military will say that the killing was necessary. It wasn't necessary to leave you dead in your car, that wasn't good for the moral of the neighborhood, but the killing. The killing was justified. Because you live in a country that was thought to have weapons of mass destruction. Where you live we can not leave because if we leave the terrorists have won. If we leave, there will be another 9/11, and it will be bigger than that last one. We're fighting them over in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here at home. And that is why you were shot in your car at a distance of 40 meters. Glass and blood covering your lap; a corpse left in the sun. You didn't recognize what was going on around you. You were going to get gas. You were a doctor, a newspaper correspondent. A father.

Your family gets $2,500 for you death, plus another $2,500 for damage to the car. There is your equivalency. You and your automobile are worth the same. It makes sense, in some twisted way, if there weren't all these cars, all these automobiles drinking gas from sand, there might not have been a roadblock. There might not have been a 9/11, an invasion of Kuwait, a war with Iran. So much might not have happened if we didn't drink so much oil.

You were going to take your daughter to swimming practice. But you could have been a suicide bomber. How could anybody know? You were, after all, driving. We were there for the WMD, and we brought you freedom, if we leave you the terrorists have won. I imagine, before you died, you were just thinking about your daughter, a family man. You were not thinking - The Americans have made things worse. You were not thinking - The terrorists have already won. You didn't know you were going to join a statistic, one of thirteen journalists killed by the military, one of tens of thousands of Iraqis (maybe more?). Dead. In the name of weapons of mass destruction, in the name of freedom. Because we're taking the fight to the terrorists. It just so happens you live there. Yasser Salihee, you happened to live where we were taking the fight to the terrorists. Whose fault is that?

R.I.P.

- Stephen Elliott