Embedded Redux: Reports from the front lines

Just because the book‘s been out for ages doesn’t mean that the stories our embeds get from the front lines are any less compelling. In today’s NYT, Michiko Kakutani uses her own voice to praise that of the Chris Ayres’s in “War Reporting for Cowards,” his memoir of a soft, neurotic, coddled reporter suddenly roughing it in Iraq (which reminds us of the story of a similarly-unprepared reporter being up and sent to Iraq – but the Times didn’t cover that one). Kakutani is clearly impressed with Ayre’s self-deprecating humor but also with his rendering of the realities of service; it’s pretty powerful to juxtapose the survival tip he picks up in his “Surviving Dangerous Countries” training course (“carry a Ziploc bag in our backpacks, for severed fingers or toes”) with his appreciation of the simplest, simplest luxuries back home (” I sang in the shower this morning because the water was hot and because no one was trying to kill me”). Powerful stuff.

Over at WWD, Sara James reports that Vaity Fair scribe and Dever City Magazine 5280 exec editor Maximillian Potter has returned from his two-and-a-half week embed in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, travelling with (and protected by) “the selfless men of the Marines’ Detachment 4 of the 5th Civil Affairs Group,” a unit that included his childhood friend Tim McMenamin, chief warrant officer second class.
Sounds like Potter’s pieces will be gritty must-reads (and possibly controversial since he cops to a more hawk-like stance now, telling James that “I am convinced that regardless of how the U. S. got to where it is in Iraq, we absolutely must stay until we get the training wheels of civilization screwed on that place”).

Whatever the conclusions, the important thing is for the stories to keep coming out – between the constitutional crisis, Saddam’s upcoming trial, the continued insurgency and the reality of the U.S. presence there, there’s really nothing about Iraq to be fatigued about, actually.

It’s worth remembering, too, especially now that we’ve officially reached a milestone, of sorts: more journalists killed in two years of the Iraq war than during the entire conflict in Vietnam.

We’re glad Potter and Ayres are back safely and are sharing their experiences – here’s hoping for the safe return of our other colleagues over there.

UPDATE: And while we’re worrying about them over there they’re worrying about things over here: Newsweek just sent out a story by correspondent Michael Hastings in Baghdad who reports on a batallion of National Guardmen from Louisiana, anxiously trying to get information on their Katrina-ravaged homes and families from Iraq (not surprisingly, they’re watching Fox). The men have only eight days remaining in their tour of duty – but who knows if they will even have homes to go to. It’s an interesting perspective on life over there, and over here; Hastings quotes a soldier with as good a closing line as any: “It’s the perfect f–ked-up ending to a perfect f–ked-up war.”