Slavenka Drakulic, born in Croatia (former Yugoslavia) in 1949, is an author whose books and essays have been translated into many languages. In the USA, she has published five novels: Holograms Of Fear; Marble Skin; The Taste Of A Man; S. – A Novel About the Balkans (made into a feature film As If I Am Not There ); and Frida’s Bed. She has also published five non-fiction books: How We Survived Communism; Balkan Express; Café Europa; They Would Never Hurt a Fly – War Criminals On Trial In The Hague; and A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism. She is a contributing editor to The Nation magazine (USA) and her essays have appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Review Of Books. She contributes to Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Internazionale (Italy), Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), The Guardian (UK), www.eurozine.com and other newspapers and magazines. Drakulic is the recipient of the 2004 Leipzig Book Fair “Award for European Understanding." She lives in both Sweden and Croatia.
"This job is fucked. I say I’m a reporter from Croatia. I tell them my name and ask if they’ve got pigeons.
I ask if it’s true that the NBC team (short for nuclear, biological, chemical), if it’s true that they’ve been given cages with pigeons.
I tell them I’ve heard about it. Birds are apparently the best detectors of airborne toxins because they’re more sensitive than humans.
Then they reply. They say they’ve heard the story too but they’re not sure if it’s true.
They’ve got masks, like I said. But sometimes they take them off and show themselves.
I don’t know if they’re hiding the pigeons or if they really haven’t got any.
Do what you like with this. I think the bit about the pigeons is interesting. A good illustration: pigeons or doves in Iraq, the symbol of peace and all that."
—Excerpted from Our Man in Iraq, page 2.
Born in Kostajnica, Croatia, in 1957, Nikola Solic has been working as a photojournalist since 1985. His work first appeared in Croatian newspapers and magazines. In 1991, his international assignments began through the European Photo Agency and REUTERS. Between 1991 and 2012, Solic covered wars and conflicts in such places as the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Currently, he is an art and news photographer.
Solic captured these images while on assignment in Iraq, and authored their descriptions. We've paired them with excerpts from the book, a series of quotations from the Gonzo reports of the faux-journalist character Boris, sent from Iraq back to Croatia.
Scroll down for more images and captions, and click to enlarge.
Majeed U. Jadwe is a professor of English Literature at Anbar University in Ramadi, Iraq. This piece was commissioned by Black Balloon Publishing in conjunction with the publication of Our Man in Iraq , and was originally published on Salon.com.
In his home country of Croatia, Robert Perisic is a bestselling author who came to prominence during the 1990s, writing with a clear anti-war sentment. Today, he is considered one of the most important writers and journalists in the country. He has published award-winning nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and criticism in his native language. He currently lives in Zagreb, Croatia. Read a longer bio over at Time Out Croatia.
In December 2012, Buzz Poole, BBP's managing director, interviewed Laura Kasinof, a freelance print journalist, about her personal experiences as a journalist reporting in the Middle East. The following is a transcription of that illuminating conversation.
This essay by Croatian film critic Dragan Jurak explores the relationships in Our Man in Iraq and the particular condition of "transition."
Judith Matloff was a foreign correspondent for twenty years, lastly as the bureau chief of The Christian Science Monitor in Moscow and Africa. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Economist. She is the recipient of various awards, including a MacArthur Foundation grant, a Fulbright fellowship, and the Godsell, The Monitor’s highest accolade for correspondence. Matloff teaches at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and is a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the author of the books Fragments of a Forgotten War and Home Girl, and is currently at work on a new book.Matloff was kind enough to discuss her time reporting from far-flung locales with Black Balloon’s managing director, Buzz Poole, via email.
Sasa Paparella is a war reporter who lives in Zagreb, Croatia.
Jake Goldman is a writer living in New Haven, Connecticut. In this essay, he explores the connections between Our Man in Iraq, paintball, and the artist Wafaa Bilal.
"..It was certainly startling to hear Eason Jordan's admission that CNN had sat on some pretty major stories, stories of torture, murder, assassination plots, but I argued that this was merely symptomatic of a larger problem that western media has in covering dictatorships.
In a place like Iraq in order to get your cameras in central locales, in order to get your reporters on the ground, you need to make incredible compromises to the government. You need to subject yourself to constant surveillance by government minders who... you need to negotiate with the information ministry to even obtain permission to shoot your camera at a specific angle."
From "The Media's War, " a conversation between Terrence Smith and Eason Jordan. Read more at PBS.org >>
"... It means trying to stay calm when every sinew in your body is telling you to run or to scream. It means sometimes trusting strangers with your life while being deprived of those you love. It means letting people down far too often. And it can mean feeling that you’re failing at your other, more important, roles – in my case being a wife and mother of four children.
But female reporters in war zones are hardly a novelty – think of Martha Gellhorn, Telegraph veteran Clare Hollingworth and, more recently, Lindsey Hilsum and the late Marie Colvin, who was killed last February while working in Syria. Our presence is a very positive one. When I was reporting from Asia, I found I was in a different category to most of the females I met. I wasn’t a man, but I wasn’t a local woman either. I was another, more exotic, creature altogether – a Western woman – and afforded a respect I often didn’t deserve and opportunities I readily accepted."
From "Women at War: Why We Make it Our Place to be on the Front Line" by Alex Crawford. Read more at The Telegraph >>
We’d probably get ourselves killed or maimed. It seems like a foolhardy thing to want to go to war, and yet we talk about it among ourselves. Some of us have re-enlisted in the reserves or work for the federal government as substitutes. Others have become advocates or lawyers who specialize in veterans’ affairs.
I’ve decided to do what I do best: write. I’ve started reporting about the military because I know it so well and want to give voice to the combat veterans returning and their struggle to readjust to life after war. It doesn’t seem like much compared to the men and women who have returned wounded or not at all, but it’s something I tell myself. It is something I can give. It’s something I owe.
My friends who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are marching this Veterans Day in New York. They’ve invited me to join them. I grudgingly agreed. They tell me I’m welcome. I hope they’re right."
From "Thoughts of a Peacetime Veteran" by Kristina Shevory. Read more at The New York Times >>
"Most war zone courses touch only generally on weapons of mass destruction. But reporters headed into the field are now being offered supplementary courses focusing specifically on what the military call CBR (chemical, biological, radiological) issues.
A recent class outside the English city of Salisbury was a case in point. I was one of five CNN journalists attending the two-day course. A private company conducts the training, and also provides consulting services to CNN and other media organizations, from leased office space on a British military base.
Lectures on the effects of different nerve and biological agents alternated with scary films featuring nuclear explosions, the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway, and Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Iraqi Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988."
From "Preparing for a New War" by Gordon Robinson. Read more at CNN.com >>
"If you don't like to write, you won't be happy in journalism."
This 1940 film for high school students, from the Prelinger archive, explains the basic principles of newspaper and magazine journalism. Transcript below.
But Daniel Pearl was not a novice, and he most certainly was not reckless. He understood the murky terrain he was traveling, and he took steps to protect himself. When his intermediary suggested a meeting at a restaurant in Karachi, Pearl took the precaution of calling several of his contacts, including a security expert at the United States Consulate, to ask their advice. The consensus was that there seemed little risk as long as the meeting was confined to a public place. In the end, though, none of his careful forethought saved him. What is haunting to the rest of us is that there appears no cautionary lesson to be derived from his death, nothing we would have done differently."
From "The Lives They Lived: The Target" by Scott Anderson. Read more at The New York Times >>
"Israeli officials have said Hamas was using journalists and their operations as “human shields,” and a press officer for the Israeli Defense Force warned in a Twitter post that reporters should be wary of the company they keep: “Advice to reporters in #Gaza, just like any person in Gaza: For your own safety, stay away from #Hamas positions and operatives.”
While it is true that news media operations have become one more arrow in the quiver of modern warfare, a direct attack on information gatherers of any stripe is deeply troubling. And such attacks are hardly restricted to Israel: recall that in the United States assault on Baghdad, television stations were early targets.
A distinction needs to be made. The battle over ideas — over who owns the truth in a given conflict — should be fought with notebooks and video cameras, not weapons of war."
From "Using War as Cover to Target Journalists," by David Carr. Read more at The New York Times >>
"In the event of a gas attack by the enemy, a special gas alarm will be sounded."
This educational 1943 film from the Prelinger Archives, underwritten by the Clorox Chemical Co., advocates using simple household items to prevent casualties in the wake of chemical warfare, "to safeguard your family against the menace of gas from the air."