Monday, December 20, 2010

NYTimes: Afghan War Just a Slice of U.S. Coverage

Michael Holmes of CNN in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in April. 
A CNN executive said some Americans had “war fatigue.”
As the Obama administration conducted an Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review this month, the news media did too, and the coverage came peppered with question marks. 

The same week that ABC News scheduled a series of segments titled “Afghanistan: Can We Win?,” Katie Couric of the “CBS Evening News” devoted six minutes to a special report, “Can This War Be Won?”

A recent headline atop New York magazine repeated a question asked by dozens of opinion writers this year — and last year, and the year before — “Why Are We in Afghanistan?”

The questions reflect the complex nature of the Afghan war, and of the news coverage.

The grueling war there, where a day rarely goes by without an allied casualty, is like a faint heartbeat, accounting for just 4 percent of the nation’s news coverage in major outlets through early December, according to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an arm of the Pew Research Center.

That is down slightly from last year, when the war accounted for 5 percent.

“It’s never passed the threshold to be a big story week in, week out for Americans,” said Mark Jurkowitz, the associate director of the project.

One senior foreign correspondent for television, when told of the 4 percent coverage figure, said he was impressed — given the relatively small contingent of foreign journalists in Afghanistan.

“There are like seven of us there,” remarked the correspondent, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to call into question his network’s commitment to the war. Those who are there have done courageous work, exposing corruption and documenting military progress in rooting out insurgents.

The low levels of coverage reflect the limitations on news-gathering budgets and, some say, low levels of interest in the war among the public. About a quarter of Americans follow news about Afghanistan closely, according to recent surveys by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

“Inside the United States, you’ve got audiences that are beginning to suffer from war fatigue,” said Tony Maddox, who oversees international coverage for CNN.

Mr. Maddox said CNN had “worked very hard” to make the war resonate with viewers, sometimes through human interest stories. “It’s always the eternal challenge in terms of international coverage: making the important interesting,” he said.

As President Obama signaled last year that he would wind down the war in Iraq and refocus attention on Afghanistan, television networks largely withdrew from Baghdad, and moved staff to the Afghan capital, Kabul, though not on an equivalent basis. Newspapers and wire services also bulked up in Kabul.

American networks each generally have one correspondent in Kabul at all times, sometimes working on a freelance basis. The office space in Kabul is a home base for occasional visits by anchors, like Lester Holt of NBC, who spent Thanksgiving there, and George Stephanopoulos of ABC, who interviewed Gen. David H. Petraeus there two weeks ago.

Of the cable news networks, Greta Van Susteren of Fox News and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC also spent time in the country this year.

But there is no doubt that cutbacks by media companies have affected the way that the war is transmitted to American living rooms. ABC News cut roughly 25 percent of its work force last spring, and last summer, CBS News laid off most of its camera crews based in London, the jumping-off point for international coverage.

“There’s a general drive to do everything with less,” said another television correspondent, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to comment publicly.

At the same time, there are pockets of noteworthy coverage, including by national newspapers, the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” and the AfPak Channel, a Web site from Foreign Policy magazine and the New America Foundation. In July, The New York Times and several other news organizations published portions of the military and intelligence reports about the war made public by WikiLeaks, garnering widespread attention.

On the ground, the war remains a dangerous assignment for journalists. In January, Rupert Hamer of the British newspaper The Sunday Mirror was killed while traveling with the military near Nawa. In June, James P. Hunter, a staff sergeant and a writer, was killed in Kandahar. The Committee to Protect Journalists said he was the first Army journalist killed in action in Afghanistan since the war started nine years ago. And Joao Silva, a photographer for The Times, sustained critical injuries in a late October bomb blast in southern Afghanistan.

This year, American economic concerns, the midterm elections and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico each earned more than twice as much news media attention as the war, according to the Pew assessment, which comes from a weekly study of the nation’s major newspapers, radio and television newscasts, and major news Web sites.

The study started in 2007. In that year, Afghanistan — which was a relatively low-grade conflict at the time, with many fewer allied causalities — accounted for only 1 percent of the nation’s news coverage. The same held true in 2008. The coverage picked up markedly at the end of 2009, when Mr. Obama conducted a lengthy review of Afghanistan strategy, but still added up to only 5 percent for the year.

Four or 5 percent “may be the baseline, at least for now, no matter what the strategic stakes are, or even as U.S. involvement ratchets up,” Mr. Jurkowitz said.

This year, Mr. Jurkowitz estimated, roughly half of the coverage of Afghanistan actually emanated from the war zone. That suggests that “without a major Washington policy debate or strategy review ongoing, that Afghanistan remains a story that gets modest coverage,” he said.

Modest, with question marks. When the CNN host Eliot Spitzer asked on Thursday night, “Why are we even there,” his guests had few answers.

The skepticism was noticeable this month when ABC conducted another of its checkups on the war. The Emmy-winning series was titled “Where Things Stand” when it was started in 2004 for Iraq, but this month, for Afghanistan, it was renamed “Can We Win?”

Tom Nagorski, the foreign managing editor for ABC News, said it was not a political statement or change in tone; rather, it reflected the fact that Mr. Obama’s strategic review was under way. “It’s a chance to bring some great, old-fashioned, terrific reporting to bear,” he said.

Privately, some television executives say the Afghanistan coverage is an outgrowth of the self-evaluations made by news organizations in the wake of the Iraq war, when many were faulted for not broadcasting sufficient skepticism.

At the same time, there are antiwar voices who say the news media has been “compliant” with regard to Afghanistan — the word that Joe Scarborough used on Friday on his MSNBC program, “Morning Joe.”

He asked Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, “For years, we have had journalists wringing their hands and editorialists lashing out at the profession for not asking the tough questions leading up to Iraq. Ten years from now, won’t we be saying the same thing about Afghanistan?”

Mr. Haass said he feared that Mr. Scarborough was right. “I think history’s going to be brutal on the questions that haven’t been asked.” Or, alternatively, the answers that haven’t been heard.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anderson Cooper interviews Paul Refsdal for "Taliban" special

From CNN PR:

CNN’s ‘Taliban’ Exposes Lives 
and Motives of Fighters

Documentary Debuts Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8:00pm ET & PT on CNN/U.S.
CNN's Taliban takes you behind enemy lines, and face-to-face with the men our troops are fighting. The Taliban are a violent enemy that have killed hundreds of American troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Despite a nearly ten-year war with the Taliban, most Americans know little about how they fight and live – until now.

In Taliban, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper debriefs Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal about his unprecedented filming behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. No Western journalist has ever spent as much time with the Taliban, with as unrestricted access, as Refsdal.

CNN’s Taliban reveals the enemy at war – preparing weapons, planning attacks, and interacting with their families and fellow fighters. Refsdal risked his life to capture these never-before-seen images, and ended up being kidnapped. His harrowing escape is also documented in the film.

Cooper presses Refsdal about why he put his life in jeopardy to film the Taliban. Refsdal said, “The problem has been with the – the people [journalists] who meet the Taliban, they stay for one hour, and they ask the Taliban to...go around arranging some kind of training...And you have one commander with his face see the real Taliban, you have to stay for a while...”

The one-hour documentary, Taliban, debuts Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8:00p.m. ET and PT on CNN. It will air on CNN International in late December.

A multimedia report including historical timelines of the Taliban and the country of Afghanistan, video excerpts from the documentary, and an interview with journalist and Guerilla Reporter author Paul Refsdal can be found at after Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Taliban was produced and filmed in Afghanistan by Paul Refsdal, produced for CNN by Jennifer Hyde and Ken Shiffman, and edited by Cliff Hackel. Bud Bultman is managing editor for this production. Scott Matthews is the director of CNN’s Special Investigations and Documentaries unit.

* * * * *

Anderson Cooper also has an Afghanistan report on 60 Minutes this week:

(CBS)  Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
GOOD COP, BAD COP - The Afghan National Police force is more important to the security of the country than the army, but despite improvements, there are still drug abuse and corruption problems within its ranks. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports. Keith Sharman is the producer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Embedded journalism: A distorted view of war (The Indepedent)

An excellent article, well worth the read:

'Embedding' journalists is now the standard method for reporting conflicts. But, argues Patrick Cockburn, what makes a good story might not be the right story

Tuesday, 23 November 2010
The Independent
US reporters in Kuwait
US reporters in Kuwait

Embedded journalism earned itself a bad name in Iraq and Afghanistan. The phrase came to evoke an image of the supposedly independent correspondent truckling to military mentors who spoon-feed him or her absurdly optimistic information about the course of the war. To many, the embedded journalist is a grisly throwback to First World War-style reporting, when appalling butchery in the trenches was presented as a series of judiciously planned advances by British generals.

Many allegations against the system of "embedding" journalists, mainly with the American or British military, are unfair. Accompanying armies in the field is usually the only way of finding out what they are doing or think they are doing. Nor is there an obvious alternative way for correspondents to operate today. Given that al-Qa'ida and the Taliban target foreign journalists as potential hostages, it is impossible to roam around Iraq or Afghanistan without extreme danger.

It was not always so. When I first started writing articles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, it was probably safer to be a journalist than anything else. I used to joke that newly formed paramilitary groups appointed a press officer before they bought a gun. A few years later in Lebanon, militias gave journalists letters allowing us to pass safely through their checkpoints. The Lebanese are a newspaper-reading people and I used to hand out local newspapers as a friendly gesture to bored militiamen on guard duty. But it was also in Lebanon, from 1984, that Iranian-backed groups started to kidnap journalists as an effective way to pressurise governments and publicise the kidnappers' cause.

In these circumstances, over-reliance on "embedding" as the primary method of gathering information may have been inevitable, but it produces a skewed picture of events. Journalists cannot help reflecting to some degree the viewpoint of the soldiers they are accompanying. The very fact of being with an occupying army means that the journalist is confined to a small and atypical segment of the political-military battlefield.

"Embedding" also puts limitations on location and movement. Iraq and Afghanistan are essentially guerrilla wars, and the successful guerrilla commander will avoid fighting the enemy main force and instead attack where his opponent is weak or has no troops at all. This means that the correspondent embedded with the American or British military units is liable to miss or misinterpret crucial stages in the conflict.

Much of the British and American media reporting in Afghanistan since 2006 has been about skirmishing in Taliban strongholds such as Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south of the country. Problems are often reduced to quasi-technical or tactical questions about coping with roadside bombs or lack of equipment. Until recently, there was little reporting or explanation of how the Taliban had been able to extend their rule right up to the outskirts of Kabul.

In late 2001, in the days just after the defeat of the Taliban, I was able to drive from Kabul to Kandahar without hearing a shot fired. By last year, I could not move without risk beyond the last police station in the south of the capital. A few miles down the road to Kandahar, Taliban motorcycle patrols were setting up temporary roadblocks and checking all who came through.

This year, it is worse. The Taliban are trying, with a fair measure of success, to counter the allied offensive in the south by spreading their rule in northern Afghanistan, taking control of much of Kunduz and Baghlan provinces and cutting Nato's supply routes to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Just before the war of 2001, I travelled though the Hindu Kush mountains from just north of Kabul through Badakhshan province in north-east Afghanistan to Tajikistan. The journey took four days but there were no Taliban, though they still held much of the rest of Afghanistan. I could not make the same journey today because even in Badakhshan, overwhelmingly Tajik and supposedly anti-Taliban, the insurgents are beginning to make inroads.

A danger of "embedding" is that it puts journalists in the wrong place at the wrong time. In November 2004, the US Marines stormed the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which had been seized by insurgents, The troops were accompanied by almost all the Baghdad foreign press corps, at great risk to themselves. Their accounts and pictures of the battle were compelling and the outcome was an undoubted victory for the US.

But reports of American success were misleading because the insurgents had used the concentration of US forces around Fallujah to launch their own assault against the much larger city of Mosul in northern Iraq, which they briefly captured. The Iraqi army and police fled, 30 police stations were occupied, and $40m-worth of arms seized by the insurgents. Given that Mosul is Iraq's third-largest city, it was a stunning reversal for the US-led forces, but it was virtually unreported since there were no American troops there and hence no embedded journalists.

There is a more subtle disadvantage to "embedding": it leads reporters to see the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts primarily in military terms, while the most important developments are political or, if they are military, may have little to do with foreign forces. It has become an article of faith among many in the US that the American military finally won the war in Iraq in 2007-08 because it adopted a new set of tactics and sent 30,000 extra troop reinforcements known as "the surge". US troop casualties fell to nothing and Iraqi casualties dropped from their previous horrendous levels. This explanation was deeply satisfying to American national self-confidence and rescued the reputation of the US army. In the months before the 2008 presidential election, it became impossible for any American politicians to suggest that the "surge" had not succeeded without attracting accusations of lack of patriotism.

Yet the developments that ended the worst of the fighting in Iraq mostly had little to do with the US, which was only one player in a complex battle. The attacks on the US military came almost entirely from Sunni Arab insurgents , but by 2007, the Sunni were being heavily defeated by the predominantly Shia security forces and militias and could no longer afford to go on fighting the Americans as well. Al-Qa'ida had overplayed its hand by trying to take control of the whole Sunni community. The Sunni were being driven from Baghdad, which is now an overwhelmingly Shia city. Facing the annihilation of their community, the Sunni insurgents switched sides and allied themselves with the Americans. In this context it was possible for the US to send out penny packets of troops into Sunni areas which were desperate for defenders against Shia death squads and al-Qa'ida commanders demanding that they send their sons to fight.

But the same sort of tactics cannot be replicated in Afghanistan, where conditions were very different. Despite this, until a few months ago, it had become the accepted wisdom of American opinion pages and television talking heads that the US army had found an all-purpose formula for victory in its post-11 September wars. The author of victory, the present US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, became America's most popular, prestigious and unsackable military officer. The failure hitherto of "surge" tactics to work in southern Afghanistan has begun to undermine this faith in the new strategy, but American and British policy is still modelled on the "surge": foreign forces backed by Afghan troops will gain control on the ground; they will then hold it and prevent the Taliban coming back; and, then, finally, they will hand over power to Afghan soldiers, police and officials sent from Kabul.

It is unlikely ever to happen this way. As in Iraq, military actions on the ground in Afghanistan don't make much sense separate from political developments. The Afghan government is notoriously crooked and is regarded by most Afghans as a collection of racketeers. All the media reports of small unit actions whose ultimate purpose is to install the rule of Kabul in southern Afghanistan make little sense since the government is so feeble that it barely exists. In some 80 per cent of the country the state does not exist.

"The reality of the war in Afghanistan," one diplomat told me, "which embedded journalism never reveals, is that 60 per cent of the Afghan government soldiers sent to Helmand or Kandahar desert as soon as they can. They are mostly Tajiks terrified of being sent to the Pashtun south. They are taken from the training camps and put on buses and the doors are locked before they are told where they are being posted." But it is these same terrified soldiers, often not even speaking the language of local people, who are at the heart of Nato's plan for victory in Afghanistan.

It is worth asking how well the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been reported. Could the average newspaper reader and television viewer gain an approximate idea of what was happening in both countries over the past eight years?

War reporting is easy to do, but difficult to do well. Wars rouse such passions that editors and senior producers in home offices seldom retain healthy journalistic scepticism. They develop oversimplified ideas about what the story is, be it "hard-won victory" or "bloody stalemate". Viewers and readers expect drama from conflict and think they know what it looks like. The first pictures from the wars in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were dominated by shots of great gouts of fire rising from missiles exploding in Baghdad and Kabul.

But this melodrama was deceptive, obscuring what had really happened. The most important fact about these two wars was that, in their first, conventional warfare stage, they barely took place at all. Taliban fighters faded away to their villages or moved across the border into Pakistan. In Iraq Saddam Hussein's most elite and pampered units dissolved and went home as soon as they could.

It was very difficult to tell all this to news desks at the time. News organisations get geared up for war and feel short-changed when told that not much is really happening. I had followed the retreating Taliban from Kabul to Kandahar in 2001 and saw little fighting along the road. In a substantial city such as Ghazni there were half a dozen Taliban dead, mostly killed in gunfights over ownership of government cars. In Iraq 18 months later, there were plenty of burnt-out Iraqi army tanks on the roads but, when I looked inside, most had been abandoned before they were destroyed by air strikes.

The US and British governments drew precisely the wrong lessons from the failure of the Taliban and the Iraqi army to fight. In both cases, President Bush and Tony Blair had been warned that they were entering a quagmire and instead they had apparently won easy victories. They arrogantly believed they were in control of events while in fact they were only powerful players, who ought to have been paying attention to how Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians and Pakistanis were reacting to their actions. Their blindness is easy to criticise in retrospect, but at the time, this sense of American omnipotence was shared by most of the US media.

In one respect I found Iraq easier to report than the Afghan war. In Britain the split was so deep over the war that from the beginning, there were plenty of sceptics willing to believe that they were being lied to by the government and that the venture was going badly. American correspondents had a more difficult time because their home offices were still nervous of being seen as unpatriotic well into 2005. Three years later, American correspondents on the ground were often appalled to see self-declared pundits on Iraq firmly claiming on their own television channels or in newspapers that the "surge" was a famous victory. Iraqis were still dying in their hundreds, but as soon as the US military ceased to suffer casualties, US television largely stopped reporting Iraq.

The Iraq war may have been a "last hurrah" for the US media because so much of it has slimmed down or gone out of business in the past few years. The British media have never put enough resources into reporting either war to cover them properly. The BBC was the only television company to maintain a permanently staffed office in Baghdad. Most newspapers covered it episodically. This was partly because reporting wars is always very expensive and is particularly costly in Iraq and Afghanistan because of the need to pay security companies. In some cases these realised that their job was to enable correspondents to get to the story with the least possible danger, but others behaved like prison guards in their determination to keep correspondents safe. I remember Robert Fisk and I receiving a text message from one distinguished and brave British correspondent in another part of Baghdad regretting that he could not meet us at our hotel because his head of security had decided that our proposed lunch was "not an operational necessity".

The dangers inevitable in covering Iraq had another effect. Much of the best reporting has been done by experienced reporters who knew Iraq before 2004. After that, it became very difficult for young correspondents to have any sort of "learning curve" because anybody hoping to "learn from their mistakes" in Iraq was not going to live very long. Halfway through the Iraq war, one bureau chief lamented to me, saying: "The only fairly safe place for me to send young reporters, who haven't been to Iraq before, is on 'embeds', but then they drink up everything the army tells them and report it as fact." The best reporting in any single publication during the height of the sectarian slaughter in Iraq in 2006-07 was in The New York Times, which got round this dilemma by simply hiring experienced and highly regarded correspondents from other newspapers. Even so, despite the risks, it was always possible to report Iraq and Afghanistan from outside the embrace of the military, as was shown by extraordinarily brave people such as Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and Nir Rosen, who risked their lives mixing with insurgents and militiamen.

I used to get a certain amount of undeserved applause at book festivals by being introduced as a writer "who has never been embedded", as if I had been abstaining from unnatural vice. "Embedding" obviously leads to bias, but many journalists are smart enough to rumble military propaganda and wishful thinking, and not to regurgitate these in undiluted form. They know that Afghan villagers, interviewed in front of Afghan police or US soldiers, are unlikely to say what they really think about either. Nevertheless, perhaps the most damaging effect of "embedding" is to soften the brutality of any military occupation and underplay hostile local response to it. Above all, the very fact of a correspondent being with an occupying army gives the impression that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries which have endured 30 years of crisis and warfare, can be resolved by force.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Increasing Dangers for Reporters in Afghanistan

NPR's Fresh Air aired a story about the dangers for reporters in Afghanistan. The interview was conducted with New York Time's, Dexter Filkins.

Filkins recently broke the story about how Iran recently handed over a bagful of cash to a top Karzi aide. You can read the full article here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

NYT photog Joao Silva wounded in Afghanistan

Joao Silva, a world-reknowned conflict photojournalist now working for The New York Times, has been severely wounded while embedded with American troops in Afghanistan. Silva is one of the two surviving journos who were nicknamed "The Bang-Bang Club" while covering South Africa's break from apartheid. Dexter Filkins filed this article about the incident:

Times Photographer Wounded in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan — A New York Times photographer was severely wounded Saturday when he stepped on a mine while on patrol with American soldiers in southern Afghanistan.
Joao Silva, 44, was wounded in his legs while moving through an area near the town of Arghandab. Mr. Silva was evacuated from the scene and taken to Kandahar Air Field, the American and NATO base, where he is receiving treatment.
Three American soldiers sustained concussions. A group of minesweepers and bomb-sniffing dogs had already moved over the area several steps ahead of Mr. Silva when the bomb went off.
Homemade bombs and mines account for more casualties among American and NATO troops than any other means. Many of the bombs are made with a minimum amount of metal and are extremely difficult to detect.
Mr. Silva and a New York Times reporter were embedded with a unit of the 4th Infantry Division. American soldiers have been clearing Taliban insurgents from Arghandab and the surrounding area for the past several weeks, as part of a larger effort to secure the approaches to Kandahar.
Mr. Silva has photographed wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, southern Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. He has won many awards for his work. He is the author, with Greg Marinovich, of “The Bang-Bang Club,” a chronicle of a group of four photographers covering the violence in South Africa in the 1990s. The other two were Kevin Carter and Ken Oosterbroek.
“Joao is the state-of-the-art war photographer, fearless but careful, with an amazing eye,” said Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times. “We’re all waiting anxiously and praying for his quick recovery.”

Below is one of Silva's photographs taken in Iraq during a sniper attack on American forces: 

View more of his work on his website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cal Perry to speak in Fredericksburg

Former CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Cal Perry will speak at the University of Mary Washington on Wednesday from 4:30 until 6 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

The speech will be in Room 109 of a trailer called Annex A, which is next to George Washington Hall. Perry’s appearance is hosted by the Department of Classics, Philosophy & Religion and the Middle Eastern Studies Program.

Perry’s talk is titled “Covering the War in Iraq: American Journalism and Coverage in the Middle East.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nir Rosen 's new book "Aftermath" - available October 26

Nir Rosen has a new book coming out, and it sounds like a definite must-read. Check out the reviews on the website. Then order it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tim Hetherington answers questions about Restrepo

Thanks to Sharon for pointing out this excellent Q&A with Tim Hetherington:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nir Rosen on what the "combat troop" withdrawal means to Iraqis

Freelance reporter Nir Rosen visited the CNN Baghdad bureau and appeared on NewsRoom to talk about what is happening in Iraq now that US "combat troops" have withdrawn:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Richard Engel in Baghdad

Catching up with Richard Engel's reports from Baghdad:


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Friday, August 6, 2010

Tim Hetherington on AC360: Charles Taylor, Naomi Campbell, and blood diamonds

Tim Hetherington appeared on AC360 last night to discuss the Charles Taylor war-crimes trial currently underway at The Hague. Sadly, this would be receiving almost zero coverage Stateside if not for the fact that a supermodel was forced to testify today... Anyway, at least Tim was able to talk about some of the important issues:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Recent Scenes from Iraq

It is always good to get some news from Iraq, especially in the form of exceptional and telling images.

What makes these photos so remarkable is their ability to express a feeling and situation without words.

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Guilt By Association..."

This article in The Nation is a must-read. A recent Supreme Court ruling defines giving "material support" to terrorists as not just what we would normally associate with that term -- donating money, giving instruction how to build bombs, etc -- but also anything that lends such a group credibility. The article describes how former President Jimmy Carter could technically be charged under this law. (I would also add Bill Clinton, who met with Kim Jong Il to secure the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.)

It also has been ruled to apply to NGOs and aid organizations, even when they are trying to teach such a group how to progress in a non-violent way. But by definition, it could also be applied to any journalist who interviewed insurgents in Iraq (Michael Ware comes to mind, obviously) or worked with possible Taliban-sympathizers in Afghanistan (Rory Stewart? Deep trouble...) and that's not even getting into terror-groups-turned-political-factions, like the IRA or Hezbollah.

Guilt by association: how the US Supreme Court

let fear overshadow common sense

Friday, July 2, 2010

Jere Van Dyk

This is chilling... I had not heard his story before:

From Publishers Weekly

An American journalist exploring the war zone on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border reports unwanted lessons in its perils in this harrowing memoir. Having traveled with the freedom fighters in the '80s, Van Dyk thought he had the connections and knowledge to navigate the tribal lands between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but he was captured by a fractious band of Taliban fighters in 2008. Van Dyk (In Afghanistan: An American Odyssey) and his Afghan guides spent 44 days in a dark cell. Well-fed but terrified, he felt a nightmare of helplessness and disorientation. Dependent on a jailer who mixed solicitude with jocular death threats and a ruthless Taliban commander who could free or kill him on a whim, the author performed Muslim prayers in an attempt to appease his captors; wary of murky conspiracies involving his cellmates, he was afraid of everybody, including the children. Van Dyk's claustrophobic narrative jettisons journalistic detachment and views his ordeal through the distorting emotions of fear, shame, and self-pity. But in telling his story this way, he brings us viscerally into the mental universe of the Taliban, where paranoia and fanaticism reign, and survival requires currying favor with powerful men. The result is a gripping tale of endurance and a vivid evocation of Afghanistan's grim realities. 1 map. (June 22)
He appeared on The Daily Show last night:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jere Van Dyk
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Year At War: Chronicling One Battalion's Deployment to Afghanistan

Over the course of the next year, The New York Times will be visiting First Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, based in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, "to chronicle its part in the surge and explore the strains of deployment on soldiers, many fresh out of basic training, others on their fifth combat tour in nine years."

This series should be required reading for all Americans. It personalizes the war effort and brings home a little of the reality and sacrifices, the soldiers and their families face.

The first article in the series is titled "Leaving the Family Behind". There is also a great interactive feature, where you are introduced to the soldiers via photos and videos. It will be amazing to follow their mission and hear their thoughts throughout the year.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Richard Engel: "A Father's Mission"

Richard Engel had a terrific special on Dateline tonight about Chosen Company and the Battle of Wanat. Check it out on their website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tim Hetherington NYT Lens blog interview

Tim Hetherington explains more about making his film "Restrepo" and his new book "Infidel". Very interesting to hear more of the back story behind it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Go. See. "Restrepo."

I saw the film at USC tonight -- it is incredible. While I am sure nothing can truly convey what combat is like to experience, this is as close as most of us will ever get to having an honest look at what our troops go through. And if you have a loved one who served but won't or can't talk to you about it ... this will help you understand a little bit better.

This is not a movie that glorifies violence, nor is it a movie that delves into the politics of the war. It shows some of what the guys go through -- the tedium, the fear, the courage, the bonding -- without once preaching. It is moving without being cloying, and impressive in its self-restraint.

It opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, then in more cities next weekend, but it is still getting fairly limited distribution. So if you know anyone who should see this movie, find out if it is showing where they live and tell them to go see it! The more who do, the better everyone else's chance of getting it! (And get Sebastian's book, War, and plan on getting Tim's, Infidel, when it comes out in October!)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tim Hetherington: "Restrepo"

Insightful interview with Tim Hetherington, GRITtv with Laura Flanders.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Richard Engel in Afghanistan

Incredible footage of the 82nd Airborne fighting the Taliban near Kandahar:

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Thanks to Delie for the tip.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

CNN's "Home and Away" page

Kudos to CNN for putting up an interactive guide to all the Coalition troops who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Giving the public a way to put names and faces to our fallen warriors is so important. Spend some time there during Memorial Day weekend, and read the stories of these brave men and women.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington talk about "Restrepo"

Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington discuss their movie Restrepo, which won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance this year, for the magazine Moving Pictures:

Movieline also published a lengthy interview with them in January.

About the movie, which opens July 2 in the US:
Filmmakers Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington pay a visit to the Afghanistan's Korengal Valley to spend a year with the Second Platoon, a besieged squadron who dubbed their stronghold Outpost Restrepo in honor of their fallen comrade PFC Juan Restrepo. An al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold, Korengal Valley sees some of the fiercest fighting in the War on Terror. At Outpost Restrepo every shot fired is personal, and every target hit a gift to a fallen friend.
Sebastian Junger also has a new book coming out next week titled War:
From Publishers Weekly. (Starred Review.)
War is insanely exciting.... Don't underestimate the power of that revelation, warns bestselling author and Vanity Fair contributing editor Junger (The Perfect Storm). The war in Afghanistan contains brutal trauma but also transcendent purpose in this riveting combat narrative. Junger spent 14 months in 2007–2008 intermittently embedded with a platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, one of the bloodiest corners of the conflict. The soldiers are a scruffy, warped lot, with unkempt uniforms—they sometimes do battle in shorts and flip-flops—and a ritual of administering friendly beatings to new arrivals, but Junger finds them to be superlative soldiers. Junger experiences everything they do—nerve-racking patrols, terrifying roadside bombings and ambushes, stultifying weeks in camp when they long for a firefight to relieve the tedium. Despite the stress and the grief when buddies die, the author finds war to be something of an exalted state: soldiers experience an almost sexual thrill in the excitement of a firefight—a response Junger struggles to understand—and a profound sense of commitment to subordinating their self-interests to the good of the unit. Junger mixes visceral combat scenes—raptly aware of his own fear and exhaustion—with quieter reportage and insightful discussions of the physiology, social psychology, and even genetics of soldiering. The result is an unforgettable portrait of men under fire. (May 11)
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You can follow Sebastian Junger on Twitter (@sebastianjunger). And you might also be interested in following @afpakchannel from the New America Foundation/Foreign Policy Magazine.

Friday, February 26, 2010

CNN crew in combat - Operation Moshtarak

CNN International Correspondent Atia Abawi and CNN photographer Mary Rogers have been embedded with the US Marines (1/6’s Alpha) for Operation Moshtarak, in Marjah (Helmand province, Afghanistan).

They have filed many reports and videos available on the blog “Afghanistan Crossroads”.
Don’t miss Atia’s Reporter’s diary and these two must-seen videos:

A “natsound” (without reporter voice) with US Marines on patrol:

A behind-the-scenes of the embed (with also NBC crew – Sebastian Rich)

You can also check Atia Abawi’s Facebook page for more info about this embed and follow her on Twitter.