August 29, 2013
It’s your wedding day. In the village a bull has been slaughtered. Relatives prepare soups and steaks and drinks from the fullness of its body, while beyond the kitchen friends dance and sing for you in a muscular circle, pulling in, pushing out, a sound like breathing. There is a song about the ostrich, another about the leopard. Today is an oasis in the long, hot wash of winter. Today celebration is like water.
Then two white guys show up.
May 17, 2013
[ This story was originally posted on facebook ]
Many of the students here were teenagers during the worst days of the Iraq war, 16 or 17, watching the soldiers chew past in convoys of dust, alien in their black sunglasses and heavy armor. Now they are grown, their English wet with American slang, their memories of war gathered into papers for composition class.
April 18, 2013
The dispatch below was written in July 2006. Violence in Iraq was reaching its peak, and photographer Jim Nachtwey and I were in the country on assignment for National Geographic magazine. Journalists know that most of the stories they gather will never be published; we are, essentially, asked to find ways to gracefully omit most of our observations. This short piece, which describes a particularly intense moment in battlefield surgery, was no exception.
January 03, 2010
The soldiers at the gate are not pleased that I have invited a Taliban commander for tea.
“What the fuck?” the say, laughing but sort of not laughing. “You mean we gotta search that motherfucker? Man, shit. I mean, if he’s like, wearing a belt.”
By belt they mean bomb. Suicide vest. Like the one an attacker detonated a few days ago on a base in another province, killing five CIA operatives and two American contractors. It is on their minds as the soldiers stand cold and bored beside the only road through this winter valley, searching each local laborer who enters the base to lay stones in the mud or slather cement onto the rocket-resistant buildings. They know that by the time they noticed a bomb, ruffling their hands through the folds of an Afghans’ clothing, the future would already be decided.
March 01, 2009
The king sits just inside the door of the large, mud hut on a white plastic bag that once held grain and bears the fading seal of the U.S. Agency for International Development. It is an unlikely throne, donated by a people who do not know his highness exists, who certainly have not heard of his power to control the elements, the animals, even the reach of death. He taps snuff from a plastic bottle. His hair, slick with butter and brilliant paints of crushed minerals, is perfect.
“If there is a problem, with cattle, people, the land, I resolve it,” the king says. He inhales the snuff. “Everything is under me.”
It is a matter of fact. In his face, a rare and complete confidence.
“If there is a problem in my kingdom,” he says, “The solution is me.”