[In 2005] I wanted to go back because I was trying to do a story on what life with the insurgents, you know, what life in liberated Iraq was like. I thought this would be a good village because it very much was off limits at this point. The Americans just didn’t go in there and, when they did, there was fighting. And I spent three days in Balad, trying to set up some sort of guarantee.
I had met some doctors at the hospital in Balad from this town, on another trip a couple of months earlier. And they had said at that time that they thought they could get me into this village. And so I went and talked to them. On the first day, they said, “Let us make some more calls.” And I went the second day — it’s not that safe of a drive from Baghdad to Balad — and they said, “You know, give us one more day.” And on the third day I went back, and two of the doctors said they couldn’t guarantee my security and the third doctor said he could.
And I thought about it, and I thought, if I were ten years younger and desperate for the story I would have done it. But you think, two out of three isn’t great odds. It just kind of hit me that this is an important story, and it’s a story about where Iraq is headed and where it’s been. And it just wasn’t possible.
The Christian Science Monitor
Probably the way Fallujah was leveled [in November 2004] was not as well reported or understood as it could have been. But press had great access to that story. They were there. They were banging away with the Marines, so they saw a lot. And there was an incredible amount of destruction in that city. And you have to remember you didn’t have to be in Fallujah to cover the Iraqi side of the story. There were a lot of refugees that fled Fallujah and came to a refugee camp right up the road from where I’m staying. Of course, the people who ran that refugee camp took to kidnapping foreign reporters who wanted to talk about the situations those families found themselves in. So that story got a lot less coverage as time went on because they were shooting the messenger. But you know we did a couple of stories about them. We tried.
In the battle of Fallujah, it was one of the first times the Iraqi forces, the newly trained Iraqi forces, were deployed with the American soldiers. Two of these new Iraqi special forces soldiers were given to our unit, and the officers who were concentrating on the battle made absolutely no effort to integrate them, to give them the equipment they needed; they didn’t even have body armor; they didn’t have sleeping bags. There was no understanding that these guys, these Iraqis, would be their best allies in the field, that it was important to find out where they were from, whether they were Shia or Sunni, and what their unit was. I was able to write some of this for the Web page, but it never made it into mainstream television news because that needed to be the headline, the big story of the day. This is more peripheral stuff that’s softer — very telling — but certainly not hard.
The Guardian, Getty Images
I remember that day in Fallujah [when I was embedded with insurgents, in November 2004]. It’s raining. The night before the town was bombed — it was a really rough night — we didn’t sleep. And in the morning I was sitting in this yard outside the house we were staying in, and there was this Yemeni guy, and he was a normal guy, he is a guy that you would meet everywhere. And this guy was cleaning his weapons. I was sitting next to him, taking a couple shots of him cleaning his weapons, taking pictures, and it was raining.