I grew up watching CNN and MSNBC give moment by moment coverage of wars and conflicts. I am a child of the 24-hour news cycle. I remember seeing images of Christiane Amanpour reporting in front of a black sky backdrop interrupted by bursts of light from the explosions on top of the cities just miles behind her. War correspondents almost never flinch at the sight of dead children strewn down the dusty streets of war-torn countries. They are trained like military personnel to keep an emotional barrier up at all times. When I began studying journalism I started to try to form an opinion as to whether I thought these people are brave and heroic or just plain senseless. After four years of hearing lectures about the mindset and motives of journalists, I still don’t feel like I can ever understand what is going on in the gray matter of a war correspondent.
I just finished the book by Michael Hastings, I Lost my Love in Baghdad. The story was a powerful portrayal of not only what a relationship goes through in a war zone, but also what journalists and aid workers were going through during the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had the preconception from the inside cover of the novel that it would be focused on the relationship of Michael and Andi and about Andi’s death. The actual death and how Michael dealt with it was only a very brief couple of chapters at the end. The bulk of the book dove deep into what Michael experienced during the months he was imbedded in Baghdad with the U.S. military.
The insight of a journalist on a war is not always allowed to come out in his or her stories. The editor tells them what to look for, what kind of stories they want and how they want it covered. Michael really pushed the boundaries in his pieces for Newsweek, but even though he was willing to sketch outside the lines he revealed much more about the war in this book than he ever could have in his articles. I could tell that he wanted to be in Iraq so he could bring back missing pieces of the puzzle to the American people. He risked his life and his girlfriend gave her life to try and make other people’s lives better.
The chaotic lifestyle of a journalist covering a war is never something I would be able to do. I thrive on stability and knowing that I would never know what was coming around the next corner would probably unnerve me. I think there has to be a portion of these people that is pure bravery. Another part could be a need for the thrill, a shot of adrenaline just like heroine that propels them forward from day to day. A final part is probably a deep humanitarian compassion. They want to shed light on the lives of people usually left in the dark.
The book I Lost My Love in Baghdad is a thought-provoking tale of how love and war combine. It is also a great look at the Iraq war and journalism in war.