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Reporting Iraq AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE WAR BY THE JOURNALISTS WHO COVERED IT

EDITED BY MIKE HOYT, JOHN PALATTELLA, AND THE STAFF OF THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW

MELVILLE HOUSE PUBLISHING HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY


Fallujah, November 13, 2004. AP Wide World/Anja Niedringhaus


The Journalists

This oral history knits together excerpts from interviews with forty-four journalists. Noted below are the periods during which these journalists have reported on the war from Iraq and the media organizations for whom they have worked while in country (unless otherwise indicated) through June 2007 (the “present”).

HANNAH ALLAM

JANE ARRAF

REPORTER

SENIOR BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT

KNIGHT RIDDER

CNN

(McCLATCHY)

March 2003–present

July 2003–September 2005 LUKE BAKER CHRISTOPHER ALLBRITTON

BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF

FREELANCE WRITER, BLOGGER

REUTERS

Back to Iraq March 2003–present

February 2003–December 2005

TIME,

ANNE BARNARD GHAITH ABDUL-AHAD

REPORTER

REPORTER, PHOTOGRAPHER

THE BOSTON GLOBE

THE GUARDIAN,

March 2003–December 2005

GETTY IMAGES

March 2003–present

YOUSIF MOHAMMED BASIL STRINGER, TRANSLATOR

DEBORAH AMOS

TIME, CNN

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

September 2004–present

NPR

May 2003–present

JOHN BURNS BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF

JON LEE ANDERSON

THE NEW YORK TIMES

STAFF WRITER

October 2002–May 2007

THE NEW YORKER

February 2003–present


REPORTING IRAQ

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ANDREW LEE BUTTERS

ALI FADHIL

FREELANCE WRITER

TRANSLATOR, REPORTER

NEW YORK SUN, PEOPLE, TIME

NPR, FINANCIAL TIMES,

October 2003–July 2004

THE GUARDIAN, THE NEW YORKER

October 2003–January 2006 THANASSIS CAMBANIS REPORTER

FARNAZ FASSIHI

THE BOSTON GLOBE

REPORTER

March 2003–December 2005

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

January 2003–December 2005 RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN REPORTER, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF

DEXTER FILKINS

THE WASHINGTON POST

REPORTER

March 2003–October 2004

THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 2003–August 2006 PATRICK COCKBURN REPORTER

ANNE GARRELS

THE INDEPENDENT (LONDON)

CORRESPONDENT

March 2003–present

NPR

October 2002–present BORZOU DARAGAHI REPORTER

MARCELA GAVIRIA

LOS ANGELES TIMES

PRODUCER

September 2002–present

FRONTLINE

July 2003–December 2006 WILLIAM DARLEY FORMER U.S. ARMY PUBLIC

PATRICK GRAHAM

AFFAIRS OFFICER, EDITOR IN CHIEF

FREELANCE WRITER

MILITARY REVIEW: THE PROFESSIONAL

OBSERVER (LONDON) ,

JOURNAL OF THE U.S. ARMY

NATIONAL POST, THE NEW YORK TIMES

August 2003–March 2004

MAGAZINE, THE GUARDIAN, OUTSIDE, HARPER’S, CBC RADIO

THOMAS DWORZAK PHOTOGRAPHER MAGNUM PHOTO

October 2002–December 2005 RICHARD ENGEL CORRESPONDENT NBC NEWS

February 2003–present

November 2002–September 2004 CAROLINE HAWLEY CORRESPONDENT BBC

April 2003–December 2005 JAMES HIDER REPORTER THE TIMES (LONDON)

May 2003–present


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THE JOURNALISTS

PAUL HOLMES

SCOTT PETERSON

EDITOR, POLITICAL AND GENERAL NEWS

REPORTER, PHOTOGRAPHER

REUTERS (BASED IN NEW YORK CITY)

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR,

September 2002–present

GETTY IMAGES

September 2002–present CHRIS HONDROS PHOTOGRAPHER

MITCH PROTHERO

GETTY IMAGES

REPORTER

March 2003–present

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

April 2003–present LARRY KAPLOW REPORTER

NIR ROSEN

COX NEWSPAPERS

FREELANCE WRITER

March 2003–present

TIME, ASIA TIMES, THE PROGRESSIVE, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, THE NEW YORKER,

TOM LASSETER

THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE

REPORTER

March 2003–present

KNIGHT RIDDER (McCLATCHY)

March 2003–February 2007

ALISSA RUBIN REPORTER, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF

PETER MAASS

LOS ANGELES TIMES

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

April 2003–present

THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE

March 2003–April 2005

ANTHONY SHADID REPORTER

GEORGES MALBRUNOT

THE WASHINGTON POST

REPORTER

March 2003–present

LE FIGARO

February 2003–December 2004

LIZ SLY REPORTER

DAN MURPHY

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

REPORTER, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF

March 2003–present

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

September 2003–December 2006

MARTIN SMITH PRODUCER

ROBERT NICKELSBERG

FRONTLINE

CONTRACT PHOTOGRAPHER

April 2003–December 2006

TIME

March 2003–present

VIVIENNE WALT FREELANCE WRITER

ELIZABETH PALMER CORRESPONDENT

USA Today, Time, The Boston Globe September 2002–present

CBS NEWS

December 2002–present

NANCY YOUSSEF BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF KNIGHT RIDDER (McCLATCHY)

April 2003–January 2007


I

IN THE BEGINNING DEXTER FILKINS | THE NEW YORK TIMES

If you look at the whole arc of this thing, it used to be easy in the beginning, but it was never easy. I remember literally the first day I went into Iraq, and it was the day of the invasion. I drove in on my own; I was one of a very small handful of people that actually got across the border in Kuwait. And I was what the American military called a unilateral [laughing], which is, I just had my own car. I think it took about twelve hours that day to find my way across the border into Iraq. In the invasion I was on my own completely; I had an Arabic translator and I had a photographer, and we made our way to Baghdad by ourselves, basically, and it was pretty insane, and I probably wouldn’t do it again.

I remember, literally the first day, driving into Safwan, which is the first town on the border when you cross over. It’s where they signed the surrender in 1991. And I went in there thinking that this is probably going to be something like what I saw in Afghanistan, which was cheering crowds and people throwing their turbans off, and everybody happy to see the American forces. And that wasn’t the case at all. To me, it looked like we’d pried the doors off a mental institution, and there were a bunch of people standing around with their jaws hanging open. Some people were absolutely horrified, people were crying, some people were cheering, some people were—you could tell how afraid they were. Some people, you could sense that there was emotion that they didn’t want


REPORTING IRAQ

to express, so they didn’t. There was a lot of uncertainty. But it was pretty scary, too. I remember that moment when I arrived in Safwan: the great concern of many of the people there—they were all Shiites—was that there were secret police all over the place, and as soon as the Americans left, the secret police were going to come in and arrest everybody and kill them. So everyone was totally horrified and really afraid to talk to us, and it was really, really dangerous because there were Iraqi Army people all over the place, and there were guys taking their uniforms off, there were tanks up the road and stuff going off, and it was really, really crazy, and it wasn’t anything like Afghanistan. I mean, Afghanistan was like a tea party compared to Iraq, just in terms of size and just insanity. Iraq was just orders of magnitude greater. Whatever expectations that I brought in across the border that day, I just chucked immediately because it was totally different. It was clear immediately that it was going to be a lot harder to work. It really was. PETER MAASS | THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE

The marines took a bridge [on the way to Baghdad], and then took the other side of the bridge, and seized the road that went from Baghdad to the bridge, and they set up a perimeter. And unfortunately, because this road was actually an escape route for civilians who were trying to leave Baghdad, there were cars that came up the road to leave Baghdad

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by the bridge that the marines had just taken. And, because the marines had not been able to drive vehicles over the bridge, because the bridge was damaged, civilians who were driving up the road to flee Baghdad over the bridge did not see any American military vehicles and thought, “Fine, it’s safe,” because the marines were dug in, into camouflage positions, setting up their new perimeter on this road. So what happened was, civilian vehicles drove up this road, and the marines shot them up. I was two hundred or three hundred meters back. The road bends just a little bit, and there are some small houses and stores on the side of the road. So I could not see what was happening down the road. I was with the commander. I knew that there were vehicles coming up and they were taken care of. We assumed they were all military vehicles. Or ordinary vehicles carrying Republican Guard or whatever, because, you know, we didn’t really know the situation. But the marines, particularly the snipers who were on the front line, who were looking through scopes and could see faces in vehicles, knew what was going on. And the photographers were there. So, the photographers heard the sniper commanders saying, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot.” The snipers would fire to disable the vehicles, hit the engine block, hit the tire so the vehicle can’t go forward. Even though the orders were, let the snipers handle it, when the marines, the ordinary grunts, heard one or two shots from a sniper, they’d all open up.


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IN THE BEGINNING

So, you had all these civilians, women and children, getting killed on that road. [In the morning] I just kind of walked down there and looked at the vehicles and saw the civilian bodies. And on the side of the road there were a couple of civilians who were burying the bodies, and one of them spoke a little bit of English. He had been in one of the vehicles and told me what had happened. And so I was able to see with my own eyes the result of what had happened. I was able to see dead civilians, cars along this road that were shot full of holes, the bodies were still there, and there were witnesses there. The title of the story in The New York Times Magazine was “Good Kills,” because the battalion commander, [Lieutenant Colonel] Bryan McCoy, when I was with him during the battle, I had asked him, “How are things going?” And he had a cigar at that moment, I think, and he said, “Oh, you know, it’s a day of good kills.” And that, “good kills,” is kind of a military term that officers and soldiers will use, meaning their job is to kill people, the right people. But he didn’t know, at that time he didn’t know that there were civilians being killed. He did realize afterwards. And a lot of people in that battalion knew, not just the ones who shot those vehicles. And I think, actually, when they were shooting, they didn’t know whether there were civilians in them or not, they were just scared. There was one marine who I quoted in the story, who was on the road checking out the bodies. And one of the photographers was with me at

that moment, and the photographer was saying, not in a whisper, “This should not have happened. This was wrong.” And, this particular marine heard that and swore, said something. So I went up to him and said, “Well, what do you think about what happened?”—because he was amid all the bodies, as I was—and he kind of said, “Look, you know, you can’t second-guess it. We’ve got to keep ourselves safe. We didn’t know who was in the vehicles. This is war, and this is what happens in war.” And so I put that in, paraphrasing his words, into the story. Two days later, Baghdad falls. This battalion, by the way, was the battalion that took down the statue of Saddam. DEXTER FILKINS | THE NEW YORK TIMES

This is during the invasion, and I was hanging out with some soldiers and these two very young guys came back, and their eyes were burning, they were really, really pumped up. They’d just been in a big firefight, and I remember—I can’t remember the guy’s name—he said, “Yeah, we were just mowing people down. We were just whacking people.” And I said, “Are the insurgents mixing in with civilians?” And he said, “Yeah, and we just shot the civilians too.” And I remember he said this remarkable thing. He was describing some woman who had kind of stepped in front of—the insurgent had stepped behind her, so he said, yeah, he shot this woman, and he said, “The chick got in the way,” and so he killed her. He wasn’t especially troubled by it.


© C OLUM B I A J O UR NA L I SM R E V I E W, 2 0 0 7 MELVIL L E HO US E P UB L I SH I NG 3 0 0 OB S E RV E R HI GH WAY THIR D F L O O R HOB O K E N, NJ 0 7 0 3 0 WWW.MHP B O O K S .C O M ISB N: 9 7 8 - 1 - 9 3 3 6 3 3 - 3 4 - 3 F IR ST ME LV I L L E HO US E P R I NT I NG: O C T O B E R 2 00 7 BOOK D E S I GN: BL A I R & HAY E S A CATA L O G R E CO R D FO R T HI S B O O K IS AVAI L A B L E F R OM T H E L I B R A RY OF C ONGR E S S . ON T H E C O V E R : I R A Q I S H I I TE ME N C A R RY R E L I G I O U S FLA GS O N A P I L GR IMA GE TO K A R B A L A . THE P ILGR IM A GE , B A NNE D UNDE R S A DDA M HUS S E IN , H A D L A ST B E E N M A DE I N 1 9 7 7 . A P R I L 1 9 , 2 0 0 3 .RE U TE R S / YA NNI S B EHR A K I S /L A NDO V

Reporting Iraq: An Oral History of the Way by the Journalists who covered it  

Included are contributions from fifty international journalists, including Dexter Filkins, The New York Times correspondent who won widespre...

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