Thursday, November 02, 2006

Going Beyond John Kerry To See The Real War

N.Y. Times Correspondent C.J. Chivers Not Only Provides Gripping Slice Of Life On The Front, But Shows Why Overseas Reporting Still Matters
C.J. Chivers has proven to be one of the more gifted foreign correspondents for The New York Times, one who often gets out in the field and comes back with intriguing portraits that desk jockeys more comfy with press releases and official sources never get to see.
The latest example today for the Moscow-based Chivers was his travels with a Navy medic operating just outside of Falluja. In Petty Officer Third Class Dustin Kirby, Chivers hit pay dirt.

In one course, an advanced trauma treatment program he had taken before deploying, he said, the instructors gave each corpsman an anesthetized pig.
“The idea is to work with live tissue,” he said. “You get a pig and you keep it alive. And every time I did something to help him, they would wound him again. So you see what shock does, and what happens when more wounds are received by a wounded creature.”
“My pig?” he said. “They shot him twice in the face with a 9-millimeter pistol, and then six times with an AK-47 and then twice with a 12-gauge shotgun. And then he was set on fire.”
“I kept him alive for 15 hours,” he said. “That was my pig.”
“That was my pig,” he said.

You don't get that from a briefing inside the Green Zone.
And you feel safe concluding there are a lot of others like Kirby out there. The Republicans know it. John Kerry knows it. Which is why the firestorm he ignited by flubbing a word in a bad joke needs to go away and fast. In its own way, the Times, by putting this story above the fold on the front page, reminded everyone that sniping in Washington is always trumped by snipers in Anbar Province.

To be sure, the Times knows what it has in Chivers, a one-time Marine recruiter who came to the Times from the Providnece Journal-Bulletin. His reporting from Afghanistan helped the paper secure its 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its 9/11 follow-ups.
If you want to see what Chivers can do outside a war zone, check out his trip deep into Kazakhstan in early winter to report on the importance of the horse and how the locals use every part of it for food and sustenance, just like they have done for thousands of years.
That story moved nearly a year ago and left a deep impression for both its detail and effortless prose. Today's dispatch will do the same.

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