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The Numbers And What's Behind Them

(CBS/U.S. Army)
Estimating the numbers of people killed in any war is an inexact science. But the deaths of CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan, who were killed by a car bomb while accompanying a military patrol in Baghdad, along with a U.S. soldier and an Iraqi interpreter, may represent a milestone.

According to Ann Cooper of the Committee To Protect Journalists, 71 journalists and 26 support staffers have been killed in the Iraq war. "That number [71] is more than the 63 killed in Vietnam, the 17 killed in Korea, and even the 69 killed in World War II, according to Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan free speech advocacy group," notes the New York Times. The Times thus determines that, at least by some estimates, "the death of two journalists working for CBS News on Monday firmly secured the Iraq war as the deadliest conflict for reporters in modern times."

It's important to note that while an estimated 71 journalists have been killed in the war, more than 2,450 American soldiers have died. More than 200 foreign military personnel have been killed. There have been, according to estimates, more than 4,700 Iraqi police and military casualties, and an unknown but certainly significant number of Iraq civilians killed.

Some commenters have complained that CBS News has given too much coverage to its own personnel at the expense of coverage of soldiers. Certainly, their deaths are just two among many, and the tragedy one of countless that have occurred in this war. Douglas and Brolin, along with injured colleague Kimberly Dozier, risked their lives telling the stories of these tragedies, as well as other stories of the war. When they were killed, they were working on a story about how Memorial Day is a day just like any other for American troops.

While there is value in considering the figures, they can never really tell the story of a war. I think Bob Schieffer did a nice job articulating what many at CBS News are feeling last night when he said that "days like today are reminders that this is not about numbers -- each of those numbers is a person, a person that others know or love or depend on."

Ned Parker, a British journalist in Baghdad who knows Dozier, wrote about that side of it today. "One does not have to spend too much time in Iraq to know someone, whether American, British, Iraqi or some other nationality, who has died, been kidnapped or seriously wounded," he wrote. "Trouble finds you and sometimes it just hits too close to home."

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