It is beyond dispute that the unrelenting television coverage of the war in Vietnam shortened that war. Americans grew repelled by the carnage.
The Bushes learned, and so they kept the media at a distance for the 1991 Gulf war and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. When journalists wanted more access during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration embedded journalists with the troops, giving them access, but also controlling them tightly. The photographer Chris Hondros, who died in Libya on April 20, was one of them.
Chris Hondros did what many wanted to do, but few dared. He was an artist but also -- it is hard to find the right term -- a "man of action" is too trivializing, an "activist" too limiting. Let me say that he threw himself into the struggle to see and know and show what was censored. Americans would go along with unjust wars if they didn't know what was going on. But if they were shown the dead and wounded innocents, the little Iraqi girl suddenly orphaned by American soldiers, they would oppose the war.
Chris and I met at the wedding of mutual friends, Rebecca Marks and Greg Campbell, in Estes Park, Colorado, in the fall of 2004. He was the best man. I was there because I had become long-distance friends with Rebecca. Doing book editing with her for the past four years had been a great joy, she in Boulder and I in New York, and we never met till the wedding weekend.
Greg and I had the same publisher, which was bringing out his book Blood Diamonds: Tracing the Deadly Path of the World's Most Precious Stones and mine, The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now.
In early January 2005, the publisher of The Gospel According to RFK, Holly Hodder, Chris, and I had dinner at Home restaurant in Greenwich Village. The restaurant's owner told me that she had never seen anyone so intense as Chris.
A week later, Chris was back in Iraq and photographed an incident at Tal Afar, when U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint shot and killed Camille and Hussein Hassan in front of their five children.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
When we saw Chris's photo of the five-year-old Samar Hassan crying, my domestic partner, Miguel Cervantes, said it should become an iconic image of the war like the naked Vietnamese girl screaming and running after a napalm attack. It has.
At that time, I was writing a poem called "The Coming of Fascism to America," about the years of the Bush 43 regime. And Chris is in it:
Hondros kept shooting
as they shot
Iraqi couple dead in their car
screaming, the littlest girl
in her red dress
We had dinner a week before.
He looked "so intense,"
We keeping vigil.
The last line is from Dante's The New Life: "To keep vigil for the good of the world."
In April 2006, Chris won the Robert Capa Award for the Tal Afar photos.
In February 2010 in New York, Chris and the violinist Mark Huggins presented Crimson Overtures: Mark performed Bach partitas as Chris presented a slide show of his war photos from Iraq and Afghanistan.
I attended, but Miguel could not, so we planned for Chris to come to our apartment and show the photos on our television monitor with the Bach partitas. We would invite other interested people. We discussed adding poetry by me and others and presenting Crimson Overtures at a friend's arts festival.
My last email to Chris was on February 14, 2011. He was in Cairo at the time. I forwarded a message from the Robert F. Kennedy Center seeking nominations for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. I wrote that I hoped we would see each other on his return to New York. In the back of my mind was that Chris deserved the award.
But then Libya exploded.