What's at Stake in the Middle East

by Ariana Pekary, producer

Tim Hetherington (1970-2011)The story in Libya and the Middle East changes daily so it seems like it would be difficult to do it any justice in a single hour of a single day.  But when news broke last week that photojournalist Tim Hetherington died while covering the house-to-house combat in Misurata, Libya, we decided to discuss the events and feature Bob’s interview with Hetherington from February. 

What’s happening across the Middle East is important on many levels. Whether we like it or not, the Arab world is changing as a new generation makes its voice be heard over the previous generation’s kings and dictators. Second, anytime the U.S. military is involved in combat operations, there should be a sober discussion.  If for no other reason, each time a $1.4 million Tomahawk missile was launched thanks to American tax dollars (and approximately 200 were in Libya), the financial cost hits home. Third, there is the human cost, for US troops and for civilians.  And the danger for journalists is very real and important as well. Not to navel gaze about our cousin colleagues, but to be aware of significant events that could otherwise remain unknown.  In this day and age, it’s easy to take journalism for granted.  Between the 24-hour news cycle and the infinite number of news sites, email updates and blogs, you would think that it’s impossible for something to happen anywhere without being witnessed and shared somehow, some way. 

The truth is journalists aren’t always welcome and are often threatened physically, as we’ve seen throughout the “Arab Spring.”  If it weren’t for brave journalists such as Anthony Shadid, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, we might not really know what is happening in critical parts of the world around us.

It is worth taking the time to look at Chris Hondros’ final photos.  The Huffington Post hosted the photos he took the day he and Hetherington were killed in Libya and the imminent danger that surrounded them couldn’t be any more obvious.

Today’s first guest, New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, survived being captured and beaten by Qaddafi’s men in Libya. Shadid and 3 colleagues were arrested and held by government forces from March 16 through March 21. Shadid is now back on the job, reporting on the violent government crackdown in Syria.  With the escalation in that country over the weekend, his reports brought a fresh and very meaningful update to the ongoing events.

Bob’s next guest, Robert Haddick, predicted how Qaddafi would react to the No Fly Zone.  In his “Small Wars” column for Foreign Policy magazine, on March 18, one day after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force in Libya, Haddick wrote: “Once coalition aircraft begin attacking conventional military targets, Qaddafi will switch to irregular warfare techniques.  His soldiers and mercenaries will abandon their uniforms and travel by bus…shielding against air attack.”  As we’ve witnessed, that’s exactly what happened, creating a stalemate for the rebels, and a sticky mess for NATO forces and for the United States which is already fighting two wars.

Then, Mohamed Abdel Dayem describes the danger throughout the Middle East for journalists.  He’s the Middle East and North African Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Since the uprising began in Libya last month, there have been more than 80 attacks on the press, including four fatalities and 49 detentions. 

Finally, Bob’s interview with Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger about their documentary Restrepo aired on February 2, 2011.  Today we present a shortened version focusing on Hetherington’s comments. Click here to read Junger’s final tribute to his friend and colleague.  It’s a deeply personal and touching note to the late photojournalist who believed deeply in witnessing the atrocities of war and human suffering in remote parts of the world and reporting them back to us.

Click here to listen to a longer version of Bob’s interview with Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger about their Academy Award nominated documentary Restrepo.

Click here to see a collection of Hetherington’s photos featured in Vanity Fair.