Skip to comments.Editorial: Michael Kelly 1957-2003
Posted on 04/05/2003 4:04:16 PM PST by hope
Editorial: 'Michael Kelly, 1957-2003'
"I am Catholic and my wife is Jewish, so in our house we celebrate both Hanukka and Christmas, which our sons, Tom and Jack, regard as an excellent thing. People sometimes ask me if it is hard to raise children in respect and love for two great faiths that have a slight doctrinal disagreement between them, and I say: Not if you give them presents every day for eight days of Hanukka and for Christmas. The more Gods, the merrier is Tom and Jack's strong belief."
So wrote Washington Post columnist and Atlantic Monthly editor-at-large Michael Kelly, in a column dated December 12, 2001. On Thursday, Kelly filed another another dispatch, this one from Iraq, which ran on the front page of this newspaper.
"Near the crest of the bridge across the Euphrates River that Task Force 3-69 Armor of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division seized Wednesday afternoon, was a body which lay twisted from its fall.
"He had been an old man, judging from his blood-matted gray hair, and he was poor and not a regular soldier, judging from his clothes. He was lying on his back, not far from one of several burning skeletons of the small trucks that Saddam Hussein's willing and unwilling irregulars employed. The tanks and Bradleys and Humvees and bulldozers and rocket launchers, and all the rest of the massive stuff that makes up the United States Army on the march, rumbled past him, pushing on."
The report ran under the headline, "No surprises, no casualties, no trouble for Task Force 3-69." The next day, Kelly was killed when his Humvee overturned, making him the first American reporter to die in the conflict thus far.
As the passages quoted above show, Kelly combined things not often found together in a journalist: decency, clear-sightedness, good humor, and an immense talent for writing. All were reflected in nearly everything he published, one reason why The Jerusalem Post began running his column earlier this year. Kelly was also rare in another sense: A Democrat in the old-fashioned Irish way, he was also a vocal proponent of this war, and he had no patience for the fashionable postures pacifist, anti-American, anti-Israel of the radical Left.
"I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications, of America as a liberator," he wrote from Kuwait on February 26. "But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?"
Or take a column he wrote about Israel, a month before the September 11 attacks: "Now the other great founding myth of the peace process is also dead. This is the great falsehood of relative morality. For decades, the European Left has maintained that the Palestinians held a morally superior position to the Israelis: They were an illegally subjugated people who were striking back in what may have been violent but were also appropriate ways. The claim of Palestinian moral superiority ended when the world saw Palestinians cheer in the street a young man holding up hands red with the blood of an Israeli soldier beaten to death, or perhaps it was when Palestinians stomped two boys, one a US citizen, to death in a cave, or perhaps it was some other moment of gross and gleeful murder."
Remarkable about these columns is their plainspokenness. Kelly was a writer of enormous gifts; gifts that, in another writer, would be turned to archness, irony, equivocation, and counterpoise. But very much like George Orwell, his style was entirely in the service of his point, and his point was always forceful, clear, and morally informed. Kelly did not traffic in exquisite neutralities. He believed there was such a thing as "the good guys." And he stood by them, against the bad guys, and against those who pretended there wasn't a choice to be made between them.
We wonder what Kelly, the columnist, would have made of his death in this war, a war he advocated from the beginning, a war in which he willingly and bravely took part. A tragedy? Certainly: From what he wrote about his family, his loss to them is too great for words. An irony? Absolutely not. Kelly died in the service of a mighty cause in which he passionately believed. He died not just as a reporter or a pundit, but as a patriot, an American to his core. There is great honor in this. The Jerusalem Post mourns him as a columnist, as a thinker, as a humane and sensible man and as a mighty pen for the right. May his memory be a blessing.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1049509369770
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A very sad bump.
His brilliance, economy of words, and sincerity of heart will be missed, by me, for a very long time.
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