Sunday, January 23, 2005

2 Soldiers "convicted Saturday on court-martial charges related to the shooting death of . . . Iraqi woman" and the story's buried inside the paper

With elections in Iraq scheduled to take place January 30th, it sure is nice to know that the Times can finally lay off the inauguration long enough to give us two front page stories on Iraq.

It's sad, however, that the biggest story (on Iraq or, I'd argue, anything in today's main section) is relegated to the inside of the page. Where they place a story speaks to how important they think it is. Apparently the House of Givinchy's troubles (no modern day Audrey Hepburn to shop there) and the "rapid rise and fall of body scanning clinics" are far more important than this:

Two American soldiers were convicted Saturday on court-martial charges related to the shooting death of a 28-year-old Iraqi woman who was working with them as an interpreter.
The soldiers, Specialist Charley Hooser and Specialist Rami Dajani, were both convicted of making a false official statement to investigators after the killing of the translator, Luma, a mother of one daughter. The court requested that the victim's last name be withheld for her family's safety.
Specialist Hooser was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter, while Specialist Dajani was convicted of accessory after the fact. Specialist Dajani had faced an involuntary manslaughter charge at the beginning of his trial but it was dismissed by prosecutors.

Reading through the story, which should be on the front page because it is news, there's a still a problem. Perhaps passages like the following will highlight it for you:

He said he then pointed the pistol at Luma's head, thinking it was empty, and pulled the trigger, killing her. "She was slumped over," he said.
Specialist Hooser told the court that he was sorry and agreed that he had acted negligently. "I should not have been playing with a firearm," he said. He wiped away tears several times as witnesses, mostly soldiers he went on patrol with, spoke of his excellence as a soldier.
Specialist Dajani later broke down in court as he described Luma slumped over, and then her being loaded into a medical Humvee.
The two men lied to investigators for 15 days, saying that Luma had shot herself. "I told him to blame me," said Specialist Dajani, saying that he had encouraged Specialist Hooser to lie about the death.

Is the dead woman a prop in this story? The woman is identified only as Luna (and we learn that she was a mother in one sentence). The court may have an interest in protecting the woman's identity, but I'm finding it hard to believe that an Iraqi woman, acting as a translator for the military, who turns up dead is a cold lead.

Point? Where's the response from her family? Where's the effort to sketch in her story?

Oops, the gun went off and we cried and didn't want to lie and we're crying now.

That's the thurst of the story. We learn about the two soldiers (whom I'm sure will carry this memory with them for the rest of their lives). But there's no attempt to flesh out Luna or what her life meant to anyone who knew her. The point I'm making is that the Times didn't go to the trouble of telling us about the woman. Didn't want to bother her family? (Yeah, like that's likely to happen with the Times.) She worked with the US military, I'm sure they could have turned up some soldier to describe the type of person Luna was.

She was killed accidentally. She was rendered invisible in the Times today. I'll assume that was accidental as well.

The Iraqis are not an after thought to any of these stories. They are very much players in them. Yet to read the press accounts, you'd rarely know that. A woman died because someone thought a gun was unloaded. And she's not even a key point of this story?

Since her death was an accident and since she was helping the US troops, one would think she'd get the benefit of coverage that so many other Iraqis who've died haven't gotten. That's not the case today. She's just one more statistic that the Times doesn't bother to illuminate.

The faces of most Iraqis are all but hidden in the paper. I hope that's an issue they consider addressing very soon.