Monday, March 24, 2003

Al-Jazeera has just shown footage taken from Iraqi television of two captured Apache helicopter pilots. They looked in good health, and one was drinking water. The official Iraqi story is that someone firing an old rifle shot them down, but that might be taken with a hefty grain of salt--though footage of the downed helicopter did not show major damage, so a lucky bullet might have scored.

Just a thought on showing POWs on television: while we can all agree that parading them in front of the cameras is in bad taste, aside from very likely being against international law, there may be an upside, at least from the U.S. perspective.

First of all, if the prisoners are not mistreated--and the Iraqis did not mistreat the batch captured yesterday or the two pilots taken today before the camera (though who can tell what happened off camera?)--then it is a way of ensuring they are alive. Better that than (a) being uncertain as to what happened to them and (b) sending out search parties to find them, which might divert resources. One thing to recognize, also, is that the Iraqis, by showing POWs publicly, become in a way responsible for them in the eyes of the world.

If being put in front of a camera is the worst the Iraqis do, then fine. If only it stays that way.

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