WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the play, Richelieu, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the English novelist and playwright, wrote, "the pen is mightier than the sword." Were Lord Lytton alive today, he would likely concede that the pen has been supplanted by a television camera -- and swords by lethal projectiles and explosives. But it's doubtful that the author would have claimed that those who use pens -- or cameras for that matter -- were more important than those who wield the weapons. Yet that seems to be the way it is today for those who fight in, and cover, the war in Iraq.
Earlier this week when ABC's Bob Woodruff and his cameraman Doug Vogt were badly wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) near Taji, Iraq, the incident was instantly reported on every network and news wire. The following morning it was front-page news in every major newspaper.
The course of the two men's treatment, their evacuation -- first to a field hospital in Iraq, then to Landstuhl, Germany, and finally to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland -- has been detailed on TV, talk-radio, in news magazines and Internet blogs. In the aftermath, the incident has been cited as "proof" that the war is going badly.
On Monday night, CNN's "Chief Foreign Correspondent" Christiane Amanpour told the number two news network's Larry King that the war in Iraq "has basically turned out to be a disaster, and journalists have paid for it, paid for the privilege of witnessing and reporting that and so have many, many other people who have been there." She then continued, "… for some reason, which I can't fathom, the kind of awful thing that's going on there now on a daily basis has almost become humdrum. So, when something happens to people that we identify, like Bob and like Doug, we wake up again and realize that, no, this is not acceptable, what's going on there, and it's a terrible situation."
Statements like these -- so full of self-importance and clearly made to advance a political perspective, obscure important facts. They also illuminate some very unflattering aspects about the modern "news business."
All but ignored in the "noise" was the poignant and extraordinarily sensitive statement of Bob Woodruff's wife Lee: "We realize that our family is going through something that thousands of military families have experienced over the last three years since the war began and throughout our history. Bob's name may be more recognizable, but his story is no more important. He would be the first to insist that the attention should be focused on the members of the U.S. military whose heroic actions he has reported on for years."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.