Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Pamela Hess
UPI Defense correspondent Pamela Hess appeared on Washington Journal to field questions about her latest trip to Iraq.

've seen Pamela Hess a few times over the past couple of years being hosted at Washington Journal by one of the best interviewers in the business, Brian Lamb. She always impresses me with her ability to communicate with clarity, and with her even-handed fairness in presenting the difficult realities she encounters over there in Iraq.

But her appearance last Friday (morning in Washington, evening in Bangkok) had me absolutely riveted. As one viewer emailed to Brian just as the interview ended, "Brian, just go home. And let Pamela speak for the next hour and a half. I've learned much more from watching this segment than I have from 3 years of following the news accounts."

If you can possibly spare 56 minutes out of your life, do yourself a favour and watch the whole interview (which of course includes the questions, comments and polemics of callers-in from all sides of the war issue). One point which she returned to several times, is that whatever one's position on the rationale for overthrowing Saddam -- whether you believe it was necessary and right, or you believe it was illegal, immoral and absolutely wrong -- one must be able to look objectively at the present reality (the good, the bad and the ugly) before passing judgment whether it's now a tough but necessary noble mission, or a hopeless criminal quagmire (my words, not hers).

So here, go to the Washington Journal full archives, scroll down to the March 9th program, and you'll see Pamela's segment listed as a separate video. Even quicker is to click here (warning: RealPlayer link) which will launch the program in Real Player (if you have it installed and set up properly within your browser).

Pamela got a little emotional in this interview, and if anything, this made the impact all the greater. I was so moved by her appearance, and wanted as many people as possible to see it, that on Saturday morning I shot an email to AllahPundit at Hot Air, and asked him to check it out -- hoping that he'd pull out a few minutes of clips and make it available to readers of the best little video blog in the galaxy. He did, and then some. Seems that RealPlayer is almost universally hated on the intertubes, but that's the format C-SPAN streams its archives, so the esteemed AP converted the juice (about 10 minutes) to Windows media format -- now available to download from that page. A YouTube version appeared as well, and that will be coming right up (or coming right down, below).

One of the Hot Air commenters remarked how cool it was, that someone in Thailand sees something from US television, contacts someone in NYC, who then makes it available for him to watch in the midwest. By now a number of blogs and news sites with large readerships have linked to the Hot Air piece, and what I'd hoped for has happened. Ms. Hess' appearance is getting the attention it deserves. Sorry about that, Pam.

She had caught herself after her emotions bubbled to the surface, seemingly annoyed by her brief loss of composure and remarked that it was "so unprofessional." Callers-in afterwards nearly all mentioned it until she said, in mock exasperation, "I guess I'm never going to live this down." She probably hoped that nobody but the early morning viewers would see it. Sorry about that, Pam. But it's not unprofessional to have your compassion. It's real life; you saw and felt the evil, and those few minutes that you felt were unprofessional carried a power rarely seen in our media. You responded, in telling those real stories, like a real human being does. I know how it feels.

Ms. Hess described how she had been puzzled by the confidence and optimism of the officers she has talked to, and wondered why this was at such a disconnect with the overall mood of the American public. What were they seeing that the rest of the country can't see? Are they "drinking Administration Kool-aid?" Tricking themselves because they just can't deal with the reality of the wasteful wrongness? Something else? She found that it was something else, something difficult to define in so many words, but yet simply apparent in many varied examples of "incredible idealism and incredible humanity over there." She spoke of Captain Matt Tracy, a company commander in downtown Haditha, who told her,
"Every morning I wake up, and I feel like I'm pushing a little girl out of the way of a bus. And I pick her up, and I bring her to the other side of the road, and I've saved that little girl. Every day I feel like that."
How hard would it be, to find such commitment and optimism, under those circumstances? Which of us, with that responsibility, would choose to walk away saying it's just "too hard"?

She also described her desire to trace back one of the horrible stories she had heard, which had taken place in Haditha. She went there, got to the bottom of the story, and it was gruesomely true. It had a powerful impact, and you must listen to her describe it in her own words.
This is what these people outside of the Green Zone are seeing and dealing with every day. And it's real evil.
The "E" word... and there's really no other word that works. Many of the people who do these things, besides the foreign al Qaedas and other jihadis, are among the thousands of hard core criminals that Saddam released from prison on the eve of his downfall, and criminal gangs which existed even before the law enforcement and security apparatus was dissolved.
So it's completely, sort of separate and unrelated to the case for war. These are people that existed there, but because we invaded and handled it the way we did, we sort of allowed this power vacuum to exist, and so those people took over, and that's the real evil that they're fighting. And one of the interesting things that was said to me, by Matt Tracy and by others, is that you know, "I'm fighting real evil, and this is no longer, for me... about American national security. This is about saving humans."
Save the humans.

Pamela Hess' articles for UPI can be found here.

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