A journalist who has covered both Vietnam and the Iraq war spoke this week at a symposium on Martin Luther King Junior at Grinnell University. Robert Hodierne, a Grinell College graduate, says there are some similarities that immediately stick out about Vietnam and Iraq.
Hodierne says we got into both wars based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what the threats were, and in neither case had a clear understanding of what the enemy was and what the issues were, which made it hard to formulate a plan to proceed to victory.
Hodierne says the Vietnam war provided unprecedented access for journalists to the action. He says the Iraq war began that way with embedded journalists. Hodierne says as the Iraq war has worn on, the rules haven’t changed, but logistically it is very difficult to get out with the units in the field. The Vienam war was the first where photographs and film from journalist like Hodierne were brought directly into the living rooms of Americans.
Hodierne says technology has made it easier, and faster, to get photos back from Iraq — but we don’t see many images of the fighting. He says you see "surprisingly few" bloody pictures from the war, and he says that’s because the logistics have made it dangerous for reporters to get out into the field. And Hodierne says the fighting in the war in different.
Hodierne says the fighting in Vietnam included battles that lasted for days and a photographer could get out to the battle and back. He says the Iraq battles are mostly individual bombs that explode, and unless you’re right there at the time, you don’t get many combat pictures. Hodierne has been a journalist for 35 years and has worked as a writer, editor and photographer for a number of newspapers, wire services, magazines, radio and television stations, and Internet publications.