Dexter Filkins spent four years covering the Iraq War for the New York Times. Today, the paper's magazine has an excerpt of his upcoming book, The Forever War. Filkins is a beautiful writer, which only serves to enhance the enormous sadness of his story. The piece pulses not with political outrage, but with weariness over a steady diet of death. After the jump, one small excerpt: Filkins tells how his desire for a photo of a dead insurgent ended with a Marine shot and killed:
The stairs squeaked as we went up. It was a narrow staircase, winding, just wide enough for your body. A nautilus, maybe 100 feet high. Not very stable. Dark, too, but for the holes shot by the tank. I slowed my step. The shot was loud inside the staircase, and I couldn't see much, because the second marine was falling backward, falling onto Ashley, who fell onto me. Warm liquid spattered on my face. The three of us tumbled backward out the doorway. The second marine, although bloodied, was not hit...
After a long bombardment, the Marines are eventually able to go in and fetch Miller, who had been shot:
Miller was out. Two marines had pulled him from the tower, Goggin one of them, choking and coughing. Black lung, they called it later. Miller was on his back; he had come out head first. His face was opened in a large V, split like meat, fish maybe, with the two sides jiggling. "Please tell me he's not dead," Ash said. "Please tell me." "He's dead, Ash," I said. I felt it then. Darting, out of reach. You go into these places, and you think they're overrated, they are not nearly as dangerous as people say. Keep your head; keep the gunfire in front of you. You get close and come out unscathed every time, your face as youthful and as untroubled as before. The life of the reporter: always someone else's pain. A woman in an Iraqi hospital cradles her son newly blinded, and a single tear rolls down her cheek. The cheek is so dry, and the tear moves so slowly that you focus on it for a while, the tear traveling across the wide desert plain. You need a corpse for the newspaper, so you take a bunch of marines to get one. Then suddenly it's there, the warm liquid on your face, the death you have always avoided, smiling back at you as if it knew all along. Your fault.