Sunday, February 11, 2007


Another reason recent helicopter crashes in Iraq are so disturbing

The first segment of WNYC's On the Media podcast (it also airs on Hawaii Public Radio KIPO on Fridays 5-6 p.m.) covered media attention to the recent downings of American helicopters in Iraq. Go to their segment notes for the link to hear the audio:
Bird Shot

February 09, 2007

Helicopters are falling in Baghdad, and making big headlines here at home. Why do chopper crashes resonate so loudly in the news? We parse the cultural significance of helicopters with reporter Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down.
I think there could be one more reason. For many of us of a certain age, the photo of a helicopter taking the very last Americans to safety from the rooftop of the American Embassy in Vietnam is burned into our psyche forever.

(See for the picture and background story. The photo wasn't shot at the American Embassy, by the way.)

But what if we can't count on that helicopter to get us out this time?

I've thought about the Hubert Van Es photograph many times recently--whenever I hear President Bush insist he won't pull out the troops. If we do "stay the course" that means we stay until we win or lose. It means no orderly withdrawal, as I believe the majority of Americans would prefer. And fewer and fewer believe we can win, which leaves... ?

There probably is little speculation about how the fall of Baghdad might compare with the fall of Saigon. It would be premature. There's still the flashback of that famous image to haunt us, though.

I don't know what the American Embassy complex in the Green Zone looks like, but it probably does have a helicopter pad on the roof, and if we stay there long enough, it could see similar service. But what will happen if that last helicopter no longer can provide safe transport out?


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