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The Iraq war is covered mostly by reporters who hole up in Baghdad hotels and send out Iraqi stringers to collect what the reporters deem news, as an article in the April 6, 2006, New York Review of Books described in great detail. The reporters convert these accounts into prose and put them on the wire. Except for that all-powerful “Baghdad” dateline, they might just as well be writing from Podunk. But you can’t just blame reporters for the non-coverage. I asked military public affairs for 15 days in Ramadi, was told the request had been granted, flew to Baghdad, and only then was informed that I would instead be sent to Falluja, with a few days in Ramadi to come later. Last year I was also told I would be embedded in Ramadi, only to have it denied entirely once I arrived in Iraq.
Part of the public affairs officers’ reasoning probably is that it’s bad karma to lose a reporter, and Ramadi is a likely place to do so as photographer Toby Morris discovered a few months earlier. While on patrol with the 1st Battalion’s D Company, he tried to photograph some soldiers while standing in the middle of the road. A sniper nailed him in the thigh, shattering his femur. Sgt. Patrick Meyer leaped to drag him to safety, only to be shot himself in the leg while the sniper pumped a third round into Morris, snapping his ankle. Morris now has a rod in his femur and a plate in his ankle. Meyer is still recovering. Soldiers repeatedly told me this story, which initially I thought was meant to get a rise out of me. Later I realized it was intended as a warning; even small mistakes in Ramadi can lead to pain and death.
But he doesn’t listen and almost gets a soldier killed asking him to pose for an action shot:
I still needed that photo, so I jokingly order the two men to just pick out some inanimate target and fire while I snapped away. Then–zing!–a sniper round practically takes Killion’s head off. “Holy f–!” he shouts. “Mother f–! That hit right in front of me!” But seconds later, he whoops. “Whew! Yeah!” As I would soon discover myself, Churchill really nailed it when he wrote that “nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” Anyway, Killion gets payback and then some. Shortly another jihadist pops up and with a burst of fire Killion drops him, while I get my photo of him with his brass casings bouncing off my chest.
Then it was Miller Time™: Savor The High Life. Miller Brewing CoÂ®. Since 1855. Milwaukee Wisconsin. USA.