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August 27, 2006

The War Tourists

jules_crittendon.jpgWorking as an international journalist covering the world's events, and especially in a war zone sounds exciting, and after all, going places, asking questions, taking pictures, writing it up, broadcasting it - piece of cake, right?

If you're naive enough to believe that, Jules Crittenden suggests you think again.

[...] My profession is an easy one to kick around.It isn't brain surgery: going places, asking questions, taking pictures, writing it up, broadcasting it.There are some skills.There are some things you have to learn.But it isn't hard for anyone, looking at what we do, to say, "I could do that."

Nor is it difficult for anyone, looking at the mistakes we make or the assumptions and biases that color our reports, to say, "I could do that better. That guy's an idiot." Whether you work at the New York Times, CNN, the Boston Herald or the Fox News Channel, you are guaranteed to make someone angry almost every time you tap a key or open your mouth.It is part of the job.You will be reviled.You can never win.

My friend Mike just got back from Lebanon.I work at a desk these days, and I told him how envious I was when he emailed that he was there. I didn't tell about my very bad feeling.I love Mike like a brother, and I had a very bad feeling about him in Lebanon. I was wrong. Mike came home alive, in one piece. But something was different this time. He came back full of rage. It was strange to see it in someone else.

My buddy Sig is back in Iraq, in Ramadi.He wrote about hearing AK fire, followed by mortars ... a need to hunker down at that point ... and the crack of M4s on the roof.He liked the familiar feel of adrenalin in his veins again.Sig has been counseled for post-traumatic stress, but he still goes back. I remember when Sig and I spent two days in a hotel room in D.C., drinking bourbon and just talking at each other non-stop, all of it pouring out.

I remember that feeling Sig described in his email from Ramadi, when I got over my own dread and discovered that I loved combat, even with its moments of uncertainty and terror. Then, when two newsmen I knew were dead, the horrible feeling that I would be dead soon too and that my children would be weeping like theirs were.Four other newsmen died in the next two days, but I didn't.I got to come home.

Home is where the rage comes out.Home is where you remember a dead kid and fight back tears.Home is where you find yourself wishing you could be back in the most horrible of places.Then someone ends up brain-damaged, or someone is taken hostage and you see her pleading for her life on video, and you wonder what kind of person you must be to still want to be there.

Continue reading, "The War Tourists."

Posted by Richard at August 27, 2006 4:26 PM

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