New York Reporters On Covering ‘Civil War’

Powerful first-hand accounts from reporter covering Iraq, via CJR:

Richard Engel
NBC News

I’ve been in Iraq for a while. I’ve been there longer than any of the military guys, and they rotate through, and they’re always the same: at first, you know, they come in with a message, and they treat you badly — I’ve gone through so many divisions. It drives me crazy.

Dexter Filkins
The New York Times

When you’re a target, it’s different — it’s weird, you know? It’s really strange. Any number of times I’ve been in a car driving down the road, and suddenly a car will come after me, and you don’t want to hang around and figure out why they’re trying to run you off the road or cut you off. And I’ve been chased, cut off, guys with guns, the whole thing. It so suddenly kind of turns on you. You will not unwind while you’re there in Iraq. You just can’t. You’re just kind of cranked up for however long you’re there. You’re just kind of wound up. The last time I was there I did seventeen weeks, so I stayed out for a long time, but — so it’s usually a couple of months and you’re pretty fried. But it’s mostly the isolation. It’s just very, very isolated. There’s nothing much else to do except work.

And like almost any other story, perceptions differ between reporters from New York and L.A.:

Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times

I used to go and hang out here [in Baghdad]. I used do kind of fun things once. We used to go to a hair salon and just hang out, or a barbershop. We used to go to restaurants. I still try to go to my favorite little DVD shop, but recently a friend of mine went and it was closed. It’s like our world is getting smaller and smaller. The opportunities for interacting with ordinary Iraqi people have gotten fewer and fewer. Now I’m determined to be able to do this, so we invite people. I recently invited an Iraqi family that I wanted to interview for a story over to the compound for lunch. And we brought the whole family over, sat down to lunch, and had like a two-hour conversation. They weren’t afraid. But I offered to go to their house and they said, “No, we don’t want you to come to our house.” And I said, “Oh wow, are you guys afraid that your neighbors will see me and come and get you later?” And they were like, “No, our neighbors know we interact with foreigners, they know who we are, but we’re afraid that you’re gonna get killed at one of the rolling checkpoints.”

  • The Continuing Story [CJR]