Los Angeles Times [In March 2004], people in Fallujah had been laying IEDs [improvised explosive devices], and we knew that a serious assault was coming. We had someone with the Marines, writing about the Marines, and some civilians in Fallujah were killed, and so I felt that we needed to tell the story also from the point of view of the civilian Fallujans. So I went out there to talk to them. And I was in a hospital and a relative of someone who had just been killed came in and he was very angry that there was a foreigner there, although I was properly dressed in an abaya and a hijab, but he became furious and he pulled out a gun. An Iraqi translator I was working with was there and [the angry man] basically held the gun far closer to his head or my head than either of us ever want to see again.
And Suhail [Rubin’s translator] told him, “Calm down, stop it. We didn’t mean any harm.” That sort of thing. And he told him that we were trying to explain what had happened to his relative who had been killed. No one offered to help us or pull the man away, and we walked out of the hospital and survived. Although we were very afraid as we walked out that we’d be shot in the back.
The Washington Post
I spent more than two weeks with the U.S. Marines in Fallujah in April 2004 during the first Marine incursion into Fallujah, the one that would eventually result in the Marines’ pulling out and then bringing back a bunch of former Baathist officers called the Fallujah Brigade, which turned out to be a disaster. This was in the spring of 2004.
I was with a Marine battalion in the city. We were camped out in an abandoned soda pop factory. We went out on patrol with these guys. We ate the MREs with them. We were taking incoming fire in the evenings with them. We were in the same degree of danger as them. I was just blown away by how a bunch of eighteen-, nineteen-, twenty-year-old kids, from often very broken homes, inner cities, you name it, how they had come together and were exhibiting what I felt to be very great discipline. We all know there are exceptions to this, but by and large I was just really impressed by their ability to exercise restraint, to have such a disciplined chain of command. The Marines would have to go back in again with greater numbers and greater force in the fall of 2004.
Knight Ridder (McClatchy)
I think the beheading of Nicholas Berg [in May 2004 was a turning point]. And then after that it really seemed almost overnight. I guess it was the realization that reporters were not immune as targets. That we were considered foreigners, there was no distinction. That what we are doing here is noble and truth-telling, there was no distinction. A foreigner is a foreigner is a foreigner.
The Washington Post
I think after April 2004, it changed pretty dramatically in all respects. I remember pretty vividly that moment of standing in the street when there was a militiaman manning a checkpoint, wearing a bandolier of bullets, and on a street over there was either a Bradley or a tank, and you got that sense of the street fighting that was talked so much about before the invasion was actually happening at that point.
I had done a story back in 2003 on the village called Thuluyah and I’d gone there quite a few times in 2003. I’d ended up doing a story on a father who’d been forced to kill his son for being an informer for the Americans. And it felt pretty relaxed in 2003 doing those stories. I met the people who had forced the father to kill his son and I met the father himself. I moved pretty casually through the village. And as you move through these villages, you look for people who know everything. You look for the barber, the pharmacist, the people who talk to everybody. I latched on to those people early on, I latched on to the pharmacist, and he really made it easy, getting around the village, talking to people.