Under Fire: A comparative study of the not-war-hero, me, and my anti-doppelgänger Bill O’Reilly: How to actually get shot at and not be an idiot
By Nate Thayer
February 20, 2014
O’Reilly interviews a Boston Globe photographer who was at the finish line when the Boston Marathon bombs were detonated (well sort of because he doesn’t let the guy actually talk because he wants to talk about his own hardened combat resume as a war correspondent, where he makes up all kinds of stuff) :
O’Reilly: “Now, when you are confronted with someone bleeding and injured, do you help them and then shoot and do all that–and I will tell you a story about what happened to me in a second– but I want you to answer that question first.”
John Tlumacki, Globe photographer: “You know, another great question. Right after it happened, you are at the finish line and whenever you are at the Marathon there are so many EMT’s and firefighters and paramedics and police they literally jumped over that barricade first…”
O’Reilly (interrupting photographer): Alright, so you had it covered so you really didn’t have to do anything?
Tlumacki: Right, I…”
O’Reilly (interrupting photographer again, clearly not interested in what he had to say): “Because I was in a situation in a war zone in Argentina in the Falklands where my photographer got run down and hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete and the army was chasing us and I had to make a decision and I dragged him off, but at that same time I’m looking around and trying to do my job and I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.”
Since we are on the topic, here is a true story from Nate Thayer’s heroic life as a combat war correspondent defending the front lines of freedom:
I was in Cambodia with non-communist Freedom Fighters, and we were capturing this town held by the communists, and lots of bombs dropping around us and stuff. I let the forward infantry guys do their thing and I stayed with the rocket position, which was 7 kilometers from the town because that was the range of the DK-75 recoilless rifle, which was what my team had at the time. That was better because if you are a lot closer people can see you and shoot at you with automatic rifles–like Bill’s horrific encounter with an M-16.
The Freedom Fighters started the fisticuffs so I was able to get excellent pictures, because we shot the rockets first and started the kerfuffle, but within about five minutes the other team figured out where we were and started firing back. That was very scary, because 122 mm rockets and 130 mm artillery shells and 81 mm mortar rounds are really, really loud and really, really scary and they can really, really hurt you. So I stayed in a trench that the Freedom Fighters dug because we already knew that after the Good Guys–that was us–started lobbing rockets and mortars at the Communists the communists would shoot back.
Which they did.
And I have a personal rule when heroically reporting in combat (which is, of course, all about me, and has nothing to do with whatever backwater country has people trying to kill each other I am reporting on): The rule? It is very, very difficult to write a good story for your news organization when you are dead, so I try really, really hard to avoid being dead at all costs.
But after a while, the guys on my team who were ACTUALLY trying to kill that day’s bad guys did a pretty good job and they killed a lot of the bad guys, but quite a few of the good guys on my team also got killed so the good guys were in a very bad mood on account of their buddies being dead. But they did capture this irrelevant little town, which for whatever fucking reason that week, had strategic significance.
So, being the heroic combat reporter that I am, 15 guys were assigned as my personal bodyguards and took me to the now burnt to the ground town. I took pictures and I asked questions of people who were very unhappy on account of them being shot and they really hurt.
I also took pictures of some dead bad guys who had been dead for a couple of days. They had no eyeballs on account of the maggots had eaten them out of their heads, and they smelled really bad on account of if you are dead for a few hours in the tropical heat you smell bad and they were covered with flies. I didn’t stay very long taking those pictures, because I knew no publication would publish them because most readers don’t like seeing pics of dead guys covered in maggots and flies with no eyeballs when they are eating breakfast reading the newspaper in Long Island, where my colleague and fellow war correspondent Bill O’Reilly lives. It also makes for bad TV.
Lucky for me, they had captured some bad guys, who not only were prisoners but they had been shot. Fortunately they could still talk, and the pain of their being shot and all made for great pictures because they grimaced a lot. Plus they were really, really scared because they were captured by the Good Guys, who had a well-earned reputation of doing very bad things to Bad Guys. I think most had not studied up on the Geneva convention Rules of War, and all. So it was very dramatic–or at least I could, if I wanted to, make half the shit up and write it as very dramatic and document it with pictures–I could.
And even better, we had captured the Bad Guys Russian military transport trucks, and they even left the keys and 10 litre plastic jugs of petrol, so we would not have to walk, like we did to get there, through that very unpleasant landmine strewn unspeakable dry season tropical heat back from whence we came. So we all piled into the back of the Russian truck, bringing along the captured Bad Guy the Good Guys had shot (who looked like he was about 14) and headed home, victorious.
Some of the Good Guys were quite upset, despite the brilliant defeat of the Communist enemy, because a few of their pals were dead and they had not been dead earlier that morning. And one of the Good Guys seemed particularly upset. We were all lying in the open bed of the capture military truck. I for one, was hungry and thirsty. But there was no water. So I was suffering terribly.
The shot POW also seemed unhappy.
So did one Good Guy whose Singaporean made fake US M-16 (which the Americans and the guerrilla soldier bosses had lied and said was American made military aid to show that the biggest Good Guy on the planet was supporting their Fight for Freedom against the communists, who had, of course, communist AK-47’s, which came from the communists, which were More Bad) had a bayonet attached to it.
I was sitting next to the bad guy who was in pain on account of being shot and concerned about his future on account of the Good Guys having a reputation for killing them. They didn’t do that in my presence, but the Good Guy with the Bayonet did start torturing the wounded Bad Guy by repeatedly stabbing and poking him with it and yelling things because he was very angry because some of his friends were dead who were not dead a few hours back.
Being, like Bill O’Reilly, a heroic combat reporter who has suffered the Heck of War, I did nothing to stop this. I did feel very guilty for doing nothing. But I felt very more scared that the Good Guy might try that anger management technique on me–or even shoot me if I offered my opinion that all this stuff going on 2 inches from me was a violation of International Law, the Rules of War, and the Geneva Conventions guidelines on POW’s.
Fortunately, eventually, we all came home. Well, some of us. Well, to be honest, I can only confirm I did. Honestly, I don’t know what happened to the Bad Guy, in the end. But I came home and slept in my hotel that night, and to me, that was what mattered most. If I said otherwise, I would be fibbing. That is another point that Heroic War Correspondent O’Reilly and I might not think alike.
So, as Bill O’Reilly can attest, war can be very dangerous. We agree on that. Where we might have a parting of the ways is on the Reporter War Correspondent as Hero. I don’t feel like a hero. Because I am not. I am a good reporter, but a hero? No. Brave? Not so much? Sometimes really stupid? Most likely. But at least I don’t make shit up, unlike my fellow combat report, Bill O’Reilly. And, I would feel much more of an asshole and a fraud if I went on TV and made stuff up–especially if I never even did anything I could even use as reference to fudge if I wanted to, which I don’t.
War is very complicated Bill. In the future, many people would appreciate if you would not make stuff up. War is not a John Wayne movie, Bill, and, unlike Hollywood, you don’t get to win. Nobody does.
Combat Journalist War Hero