Nextbook: Fighting Shots

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Even if you’ve never heard his name, chances are you know the work of David Rubinger. For roughly six decades he worked as a Time-Life photographer, documenting Israel’s tumultuous history. Some of his photographs, such as the 1967 shot of Israeli paratroopers reaching the Western Wall, have become icons. In 1997 he was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s highest award for achievement in the arts and sciences. Rubinger has now written a memoir, Israel Through My Lens, Sixty Years as a Photojournalist, just out from Abbeville Press.

Check it out here.

Journalism Groups Chart False Statements on Iraq War

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Journalism Groups Chart False Statements on Iraq War: “A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.”

Telling War Stories

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Telling War Stories: “Jeff Bundy, a photographer with the Omaha World-Herald, covered a Nebraska Army National Guard unit in Iraq during fall 2005. Bundy said books he has read about Vietnam suggest it was a much easier war to cover simply because of mobility.

‘When you talk to those guys, they’d just jump on a Huey, and they go out,’ Bundy said. ‘There was no jumping on a Huey for us. Now you have to do the paperwork and the disclaimers and get yourself on a flight. Because of the way the world has moved, it’s tougher to move throughout the country.’

And unlike the reporters who covered Vietnam, the journalists embedded with the military in Iraq signed an agreement acknowledging that all comments of military personnel are ‘on the record.’ In Vietnam, reporters made much greater use of unnamed sources.”

MediaStorm: Rape of a Nation by Marcus Bleasdale

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MediaStorm: Rape of a Nation by Marcus Bleasdale: “The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the deadliest war in the world today. An estimated 5.4 million people have died since 1998, the largest death toll since the Second World War, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

IRC reports that as many as 45,000 people die each month in the Congo. Most deaths are due to easily preventable and curable conditions, such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and neonatal problems and are byproducts of a collapsed healthcare system and a devastated economy.

The people living in the mining towns of eastern Congo are among the worst off. Militia groups and government forces battle on a daily basis for control of the mineral-rich areas where they can exploit gold, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds.

After successive waves of fighting and ten years of war, there are no hospitals, few roads and limited NGO and UN presence because it is too dangerous to work in many of these regions. The West’s desire for minerals and gems has contributed to a fundamental breakdown in the social structure.”

Frontline Blogger Covers War in Iraq With a Soldier’s Eyes – New York Times

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Frontline Blogger Covers War in Iraq With a Soldier’s Eyes – New York Times: “Instead, he has spent most of the last three years in Iraq, writing prolifically and graphically, and racking up more time embedded with combat units than any other journalist, according to the United States military. He has been shot at, buffeted by explosions and seen more people maimed — fighters and civilians, adults and children — than he can count.

‘The easiest thing in the world to write about is combat, because all the drama is there,’ said Mr. Yon, a fit, ruddy-faced 43-year-old who was a Special Forces soldier more than two decades ago. He insists that he still does not really know the rules of journalism, but says he has recently, grudgingly, accepted that he has become a journalist.

His detailed, mostly admiring accounts of front-line soldiers’ daily work have won him a loyal following, especially among service members and journalists and bloggers who follow the war. One of his photographs showing an American soldier cradling an Iraqi girl injured in a car bombing (the girl later died) appeared on Time magazine’s Web site and was later voted one of top images of the year by visitors.”

Getty Images – News Blog » Blog Archive » The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

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Getty Images – News Blog » Blog Archive » The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto: “As the former prime minister’s car surged forward, I pushed out of the way, ahead of her vehicle. I needed to adjust my camera. In the melee, the shutter setting had been bumped down to 1/15th and 1/8th of a second, giving the photos an unintended impressionistic look.

I turned on my flash, but just before resetting the lens, I turned and glanced back at her car.

That’s when I heard three shots. I knew from the sound that they were fired close to her car. I watched her drop down through the sunroof. Instinctively, I raised my camera, my finger pressed down on the shutter, starting to shoot without looking.

Just as the camera came up in front of my face, the bomb went off.”

Artist's war depiction has many faces, rough edges

LA Times:

In every war that Britain fights, the Imperial War Museum selects an artist to render that one image. Steve McQueen was chosen for the task at the start of the Iraq war, and he struggled for months to come up with it. Then he realized that it didn’t have to be just one image. It already was many.

He imagined the faces of Britain’s war dead printed in the serrated frames of postage stamps. Peering out from under a stack of bills. Stuck on the envelopes of birthday cards. Lying silently in sheets in desk drawers.

But the artistic rendering of the war still painfully underway for 7,100 British troops in southern Iraq has proved as controversial as the conflict itself.

Here.

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Beyond Baghdad, Beyond ‘the Surge,’ War Still Simmers

NYT:

The letter from Al Qaeda in Iraq to the members of the local police was clear.

Come to the mosque and swear allegiance on the Koran to Al Qaeda, the letter warned, or you will die and your family will be slaughtered. Also, bring $1,200.

It had the desired effect on American efforts to build an Iraqi security force here.

Here.

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Prewar Intelligence Unit at Pentagon Is Criticized

NYT:

The long-awaited report by the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, was sent to Congress on Thursday. It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the way intelligence was used before the invasion of Iraq early in 2003.

Working under Douglas J. Feith, who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy, the group “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers,” the report concluded. Excerpts were quoted by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has long been critical of Mr. Feith and other Pentagon officials.

Here.

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Cranberg wants a serious probe of why the press failed in its pre-war reporting

Nieman Watchdog:

The shortcomings of Iraq coverage were not an aberration. Similar failure is a recurrent problem in times of national stress. The press was shamefully silent, for instance, when American citizens were removed from their homes and incarcerated solely because of their ancestry during World War II. Many in the press were cowed during McCarthyism’s heyday in the 1950s. Nor did the press dispute the case for the fact-challenged Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led to a greatly enlarged Vietnam war.

The press response to the build-up to the Iraq war simply is the latest manifestation of an underlying and ongoing reluctance to dissent from authority and prevailing opinion when emotions run high, especially on matters of war and peace, when the country most needs a questioning, vigorous press.

Here.

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The Importance Of “Seeing” The War

CJR:

The most shocking, and simultaneously compelling, aspect of the Baghdad dispatch in the New York Times this past Monday was its intimate close-up of one soldier’s death. It was impossible not to feel frustrated by the story of Hector Leija, an Army staff sergeant who was struck down by a sniper while on a sweep through the apartments of the once posh Haifa Street. He was killed by a single bullet that came in through a kitchen window. The drama that ensued of getting Leija to a medic and then retrieving his gear, still on the floor of the now lethal kitchen, was captured by the embedded Times reporter, Damien Cave, with all the narrative tautness of a Hemingway short story. A shaky video later posted on the Times Web site further captured the panic of the moment and the despair of men who had lost a beloved leader.

Here.

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In a New Joint U.S.-Iraqi Patrol, the Americans Go First

NYT:

When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was with the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off doors with shotguns. As the morning wore on and the troops came under fire from all directions, another apparent flaw in this strategy became clear as empty apartments became lairs for gunmen who flitted from window to window and killed at least one American soldier, with a shot to the head.

Whether the gunfire was coming from Sunni or Shiite insurgents or militia fighters or some of the Iraqi soldiers who had disappeared into the Gotham-like cityscape, no one could say.

“Who the hell is shooting at us?” shouted Sgt. First Class Marc Biletski, whose platoon was jammed into a small room off an alley that was being swept by a sniper’s bullets. “Who’s shooting at us? Do we know who they are?”

Here.

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Darfur, War Without End

VII Photo, Photos by Gary Knight:

Since 2003 a war has been raging in Darfur under the watchful eye of the world’s political elite. Well-meaning politicians and celebrities have beaten a path to the refugee camps, been photographed with raped women and orphaned children, wrung their hands and called for something – anything – to be done. Little of any consequence has been.
Here.

The Making, and Unmaking, of a Child Soldier

By ISHMAEL BEAH, NYT Magazine:

After that first week of going out on raids to kill people we deemed our rebel enemies or sympathizers of the rebels, our initiation was complete. We stayed put at the base, and we boys took turns guarding posts around the village. We smoked marijuana and sniffed “brown brown,” cocaine mixed with gunpowder, which was always spread out on a table near the ammunition hut, and of course I took more of the white capsules, as I had become addicted to them. The first time I took all these drugs at the same time, I began to perspire so much that I took off all my clothes. My body shook, my sight became blurred and I lost my hearing for several minutes. I walked around the village restlessly. But after several doses of these drugs, all I felt was numbness to everything and so much energy that I couldn’t sleep for weeks. We watched war movies at night, Rambo “First Blood,” “Rambo, First Blood, Part II,” “Commando” and so on, with the aid of a generator or a car battery. We all wanted to be like Rambo; we couldn’t wait to implement his techniques.

Here.

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1,373 miles into the heart of Afghanistan

LA Times:

GUL slowed for a speed bump, and instead of accelerating when a militiaman jumped up with an AK-47, he stopped. Gul opened the driver’s window, apparently weighing the comparative risks of getting shot and getting kidnapped. The gunman stuck his head in, saw me in the back seat and smiled like a dog sniffing fresh meat.

“Get us out of here!” I shouted at Gul, and he hesitated. “Get moving!”

Gul hit the gas. The barrel of the gunman’s rifle clunked off the rear side of the car. Not daring to look back, I tensed for the shot that didn’t come.

Here.

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Somalia’s Islamists and Ethiopia Gird for a War

NYT:

The stadium was packed, the guns were cocked and even the drenching rain could not douse the jihadist fire.

Thousands of Somalis, from fully veiled, machine-gun-toting women to little boys in baggy fatigues, gathered Friday to rally against what they called foreign aggression. As a squall blew in, they punched wet fists into the air and yelled, “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.”

“I am ready to die,” said Osama Abdi Rahim, dressed head to toe in camouflage and marching around with a loaded rifle. He is 7 years old.

Here.

Iraq’s Biggest Failing: There Is No Iraq

NYT:

“I am facing the most difficult times of my life here in Baghdad. Since I am a Sunni, I became a target to be killed. You know that our army and police are Shia, so every checkpoint represents a serious threat to Sunnis. During the last three weeks, two of my friends were killed at check points belonging to the police. They first asked to show IDs and when they saw the Sunni family name, they killed them.”

There, in plain enough English, you have it. The Iraqi Army and police whose proposed reinforcement lies at the center of the Iraq Study Group’s plan for American extraction are often less neutral institutions supporting the nation than a flimsy camouflage for Shia to settle accounts with Sunnis, while the Kurds bide their time and hope the child of chaos will be an independent Kurdistan.

The Iraqi Army and police are indeed overwhelmingly — but not exclusively — Shia. Most recruitment took place at a time when Sunnis had opted out of the new Iraq. Much has been made of the American error in disbanding Saddam Hussein’s army. More might have been made of the errors committed in creating the new force.

Here.

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Rumsfeld Memo Proposed ‘Major Adjustment’ in Iraq

NYT:

“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.

“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics.

Here.

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Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker

Washington Post:

But the contents have not previously been made public. Read as a complete assessment, it paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the country’s Sunnis — once dominant under Saddam Hussein — now desperate, fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by religious and political leaders who have fled to neighboring countries, and other leaders have been assassinated. And unlike Iraq’s Shiite majority, or Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions of dollars to al-Qaeda while “official profits appear to feed Shiite cronyism in Baghdad.”

As a result, “the potential for economic revival appears to be nonexistent” in Anbar, the report says. The Iraqi government, dominated by Iranian-backed Shiites, has not paid salaries for Anbar officials and Iraqi forces stationed there. Anbar’s resources and its ability to impose order are depicted as limited at best.

Here.

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The Wars of Perception

NYT:

What does this mean for Iraq? At the least, Tet and Somalia suggest we should be very careful before concluding that Iraq is a defeat. There is real evidence of failure, especially the escalating sectarian violence. But our perceptions are nevertheless easily manipulated. Iraq looks like a defeat in part because the Bush administration fell into the same trap as President Johnson: raising expectations of imminent victory by declaring “mission accomplished” before the real work had even begun. And as with Somalia, fighting shadowy insurgents in Iraq while propping up a weak government engenders negative memories of Vietnam.

Perceptions of success and failure can change the course of history. Reeling from the supposed disaster at Tet, the United States began to withdraw. Memories of “failure” in Somalia were a major reason — perhaps the major reason — that the United States did nothing to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. If Iraq is perceived as a failure, it is only a matter of time before America pulls out, leaving who-knows-what behind. With the stakes so high, Americans must be certain that their perception of failure in Iraq is not a mirage.

Here.

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