A Life's Work Reconsidered

Hammer, Joshua
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p75
This article presents a narrative of the author's experience when he was held captive in Iraq in May 2004. On May 9, Newsweek photographer Robert King and the author were captured in the Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah, Iraq where they had gone in an ill-considered attempt to make contact with Iraqi insurgents. For eight hours, King and the author were interrogated, accused of being CIA agents, held in a series of dark cells, and threatened with death. The author spent an hour locked in a room with one teenaged captor who kept pointing and drawing his finger across his throat. They learned later that their Iraqi drivers and bodyguards, from whom they had been separated at the start of the ordeal, had been ordered to take ritual baths to prepare for their execution. They were released only after a Palestinian journalist who knew King, and who happened to be in Fallujah that day, intervened on their behalf and persuaded the insurgents that they were real reporters. The experience had a sobering effect on the author. It made him realize that some of the risks he took in the course of doing his job were simply not worth taking. It cured him of any desire to return to the savagery and chaos of Iraq.


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