Howard Kurtz’s report (via Instapundit) on Eason Jordan’s comments on the killing of journalists by the U.S. military in Iraq reveals what I think is Jordan’s real problem: he is ignorant of, or careless with, the nomenclature of the field he is supposed to be reporting on.
Kurtz quotes Jordan as saying:
“I was trying to make a distinction between ‘collateral damage’ and people who got killed in other ways,” Jordan said last night. “I have never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist.”
BBC World Services Director Richard Sambrook explains Jordan as meaning:
They had been deliberately killed as individuals — perhaps because they were mistaken for insurgents, we don’t know. However the distinction he was seeking to make is that being shot by a sniper, or fired at directly is very different from being, for example, accidentally killed by an explosion.
First, of course, the phrase “collateral damage” refers only to inanimate objects. People who are injured or killed are “collateral casualties.”
More important, Jordan and Sambrook seem not to understand that the entire concept of “collateral” concerns the question of intent, not the question of means. In this context, “collateral” is functionally a synonym for “unintended.” It has nothing to do with the type of weapons used or whether a person harmed was targeted as an individual or not.
Intention itself is judged by the information available to a soldier at the time he pulls the trigger. If a sniper carefully aims at an individual and kills him because he believes the individual is a combatant, but later information reveals that the individual was a noncombatant, that individual’s death is unintended and therefore a “collateral casualty.”
So what cognoscenti heard Jordan say was:
I was trying to make a distinction between unintentional killings and people who got killed in other ways,
Since the the only way of getting killed other than unintentionally is to get killed intentionally, Jordan’s statement clearly implies that members of the US military killed the journalists knowing that they were journalists at the time.
What Jordan really needs is a vocabulary lesson. This entire contretemps could have been avoided if Jordan would educate himself on the area he is nominally responsible for reporting on.