The most compelling stories from a newspaper reporter in Iraq are being penned by Anna Badkhen, a 29-year-old foreign correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle. She frequently writes stories that bring first-hand accounts from frontline soldiers home, such as her article this morning of a Marine platoon outside Sada, a town near the Syrian border that's one of five controlled by insurgents:
The mortar rounds hit in the early morning. The first one, a harbinger of the assault to come, whooshed up from the sleepy border town of Sada at around 5:30 a.m. Friday, landing in a burst of sparks several hundred yards short of the sandstone cliffs where U.S. Marines were camped out.
The shell's trajectory left a momentary orange trace in the predawn sky, but the impact was almost inaudible, and most of the Marines slept right through it, wrapped in their sleeping bags in the foxholes they had dug in the hard-packed desert dust.
The second round landed closer ...
Badkhen has a novelist's ear for dialogue, relating Thursday how desert-encamped Marines make their beds:
"It's like digging a grave," he says. "I'll lay in my little grave, I'll put my sleeping bag on top of me, and I'll be warm. I've found out that the deeper you dig, the warmer it gets."
"Last time we were out," he continued, "the first day, I dug like a champion. The second day, I didn't dig deep enough, and I was cold."
The Chronicle thinks so much of Badkhen's work that it sent her from one warzone to another, assigning her to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Badkhen, who publishes an online journal for the paper, described herself as anti-war in a 2003 interview. Before bias monitors make too much of that, it appears to be an apolitical expression of sympathy for civilians caught in a warzone:
I don't like wars. I think wars are bad. I see a lot of people suffer ... If one government doesn't like the other government and they go to war, or if one regime doesn't like the separatists, and they go to war, then the people who suffer are not just the government and the separatists. The people who suffer are the people in between, just people who are living their lives. I'm on their side.
Another blogger has discovered Badkhen, complimenting her ability to note things that "snottier, glitzier reporters don't."
The more I read of her work, the more it feels like the next Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.
Thanx fer introducing the Spud to Anna.
Her words ring truer fer me than most.
She's got a good eye fer news that matters and her biases seem to be human biases not political ones.
Why don't folk like this ever get to ask questions of the Smirking One?
I don't want to take anything away from Anna, but the best reporting coming out of Iraq has been from Michael Yon at www.michaelyon.blogspot.com
On top of that she is Russian born, and comes to the Chronicle from the St. Petersburg Times and Moscow Times.
I notice most of her stories begin with a character or scene, I guess you call that narrative style, vs. inverted pyramid. I thought maybe she was a Hollywood screenwriter in her past life.
She's really snuck up on me - I've been reading her Katrina and Iraq reports, growing more impressed with each one, and just recently noticed they shared a byline.
What a bunch of CRAP! I don't believe a word of this stuff. You don't even know enough about the service to tell a good lie. Who ever slept with a 9mm pistol under their pillow, in the barracks. He would be laughed out of town.
Maybe your ANTI-War, ANTI-Military buddies might believe you but -NOT ME!
Thanks for your reporting. I was especially touched by the concern in your recent Boston Globe article about child welfare caseworkers who face lethal dangers from some clients.
Your valance for the truth is so clear and strong, I believe you'll accept my offer of a suggestion as helpful, as I intend it. My suggestion is related to the fact that most staff in child welfare are paraprofessionals, not social workers. In most communities it is rare to find a social worker in a casework position, and most child welfare supervisors are also paraprofessionals as well. I believe California may be an exception to this.
The distinction is important, Anna, for several reasons. I've spent the better part of my career training caseworkers for their complex life-and-death jobs with impossibly high caseloads. They bring mixed motivations, hight anxiety, and minimal academic preparation to their new casework jobs. Yet they are held accountable by the community to perform at the level of professional, licensed, crisis intervention specialists.
When there is a tragedy and the judging spotlights are focused, the public indicts these caseworkers. It's a variation of blaming the victim, but the damage goes even further. The public trust in professionally degreed, licensed, and highly-specialized social workers is undermined as well.
When the public understands clearly the distinction between caseworkers and true professional social workers, communities will hold themselves accountable for two responsibilities. First, it is unrealistic and unfair to expect paraprofessionals to do effectively what most professional social workers might do more effectively. I say "might" because, secondly, professional social workers will not accept impossible case loads or inadequate salaries that communities offer in exchange for the protection of their children.
I hope I've explained this in a way that you find useful, and that my respect for child welfare paraprofessionals is clear.
Thank you for your wonderful writing.
E. Douglas Pratt, D.S.W., L.C.S.W.
Policy-Practice Resources, Inc.
Anna Badkhen is a decent writer, but she's a lousy reporter. She seriously doesn't know squat about war reporting. Her stories are riddled with basic factual errors that make most soldiers cringe. Whatever happened to war correspondents who at least knew a bare minimum of the basics of what they were talking about? She's no Ernie Pyle. What bugs me is that she'll probably advance her career and emerge as a superstar reporter without ever getting the important details right. She belongs in Hollywood, not Iraq.
I suspect that Ms. Badkhen has a novelist's ear for dialogue because she makes things up. Her stories are riddled with factual errors.
I was reading a recent story of Anna Badkhen's where she wrote the following:
"Bradleys were once thought to be almost as impregnable as M1 Abrams tanks, which were thought to be entirely unassailable. Then Iraqis started setting up EFPs, explosively formed projectiles that are elaborately made to penetrate armor. The Apache Company of the 4-64 Armor Battalion of the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, has lost five men to the projectiles since March. All five were in Bradleys when they were killed."
Her premise here is a complete load of horseshit. Anyone familiar with the checkered development and procurement history of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle knows that it was NEVER considered "impregnable" by ANYONE, except maybe it's manufacturer. Most people who know what they're talking about know that the BFV was widely considered a deathtrap in its earliest iterations and is still considered by many to be a massive boondoogle and the prime example of porkbarrel defense spending.
Hell, HBO even made a movie about it starring Kelsey Grammar.
To make matters worse, Badkhen repeatedly calls the BFV a "tank" in the same story, which it most emphatically is not. It is a troop carrying vehicle that replaced the APC or armored personel carrier.
As other posters have observed, her factual errors are glaring.
I happen to be here with the unit that Ms Badkhen is currently reporting on. She may not be as up on what a BFV actually is and she may have made some factual errors concerning technicalities. I could care less if she knows the difference between a BFV or an M1. I, for one, am glad to finally see someone reporting what is really going on. She is not slanted one way or the other. She is doing what most of the other Bozos are not, and that is reporting the facts. I commend her and thank her for reporting the way it is.
Nice write up in Salon about the Baath who once worked for al Qaeda. I'll be following up on that at www.regimeofterror.com
For the sake of accuracy I feel as thought I ought to respond, somewhat belatedly, to the discussion about Bradley fighting vehicles.
1) I never did write that Bradleys were impregnable. I wrote that they "were once THOUGHT TO BE ALMOST as impregnable as M1 Abrams tanks, which were THOUGHT TO BE entirely unassailable." Which is to say that M1s are not invincible, either, even though we wish they were.
2) The Salon piece I wrote did not confuse Bradleys with tanks (www.salon.com). Apparently, the original headline (for the record, headlines are written by an editor, never by a reporter, which is to say I did not write the headline), referred to "tanks," while the piece I wrote was about Bradleys. By the time I saw the story online, the offending headline was long gone (in fact, I don't know what it said, exactly), but the discussion about whether Bradleys are tanks was already in full swing. They are, of course, not. But I feel that I should set the record straight.
Thank you for your time.
Anna, I thought you might appreciate knowing about a new refugee advocacy organization with a focus on LGBTs that launched in June: ORAM " Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration.
ORAM's mission is to advocate for refugees fleeing sexual or gender based violence. Only through raising consciousness of LGBT refugee issues to governments, refugee organizations, communities and the media, will help come to these individuals, who are among the most persecuted people in the world today.
We published a report last month on the treatment of LGBT refugees (many who are Iranian) living in Turkey.
Details of our work and mission appear in the press release below. Whether your concern is LGBT rights, refugee rights or both, we invite you to learn more about us by visiting www.oraminternational.org.
on behalf of
ORAM - Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration
Tel: +1 415 373-5299|Fax: + 1 415 373 9191| www.oraminternational.org
Good day! Thx for your great post and Im thinking about how to introduce my ugg boots to you cos Im not sure if u like this. Many people who live in the cold area like the ugg boots, especially the north-europe.
I am too poor to go to warâ¦
I am too poor to go to warâ¦
Let me tell you the scoreâ¦
Your last war left my crops asunder,
Now my children hungerâ¦
You planted mines in my fieldâ¦
Nothing but misery, they yieldâ¦
Your current battle destroyed my cattle,
Only a bull and a cowâ¦
Because I am not a Muslim or a Jew, you allow me a sowâ¦
Your soldiers gloat that they got my goatâ¦
Was it the marines who stole my sheepâ¦
From you, many sorrows I do reapâ¦
With preemptive interventions and multiple inventions,
You tell me of good intentions?
Who is supposed to explain the detentions?
With great math, the warâs cost you do extend,
With your latest military budget, me, you do offendâ¦
Who is to pay for road mending, for health care spendingâ¦
For student tending, for water vendingâ¦
Quartermaster, halfmaster, fullmasterâ¦
Who would envision worse provisionâ¦
Domestically, you insist on standard testing, with efficiencyâ¦
You teach war games with proficiencyâ¦
Would that we could help children with educational sufficiencyâ¦
While far away, thousands of troops are quickly deployedâ¦
In iraq, bosnia, haiti, siam or thailandâ¦
At home, the streets fill with the unemployedâ¦
I do believeâ¦ I am too poor to go to warâ¦
I am out of step, I am ineptâ¦ I am too poorâ¦
Yes, I am rich with other stuffâ¦ with Thomas Mann, I have a leaseâ¦
âWar is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.â
Would I, would you, would we, if we could, afford peaceâ¦
I am too poor to go to warâ¦
david inkey, 121503