Six Characters in Search of a Blogger


5.5 A man possessed: Michael Ware
December 13, 2008, 2:24 am
Filed under: Most Fascinating Characters of 2008 | Tags: , , ,

 

Michael Ware

Michael Ware

Like me, you have probably seen Michael Ware on television quite a few times.  He’s hard to miss:  the handsome and acerbic Australian with the crooked rugby nose who is always reporting from a troubled area of the world.  As one of CNN’s most prominent Middle East correspondents—and prior to that, Time magazine’s Baghdad bureau chief–he has, to some extent, become one of the few journalistic voices left on the ground in Iraq, telling us the tragic, ongoing story of that war-torn place.

Unlike many journalists, however, Ware has been living in Iraq (he is formally listed as a resident there) since before the war began.  He has been one of the few to actually gain access to terrorist camps and report from them; he has also reported from the front lines, accompanying soldiers on daring attacks and raids when he himself has not been armed.  (One soldier he has worked with famously said of him “I can’t stand the media, but I would go through hell with a bucket of gasoline for Michael Ware.”)  During his time in Iraq, Ware has been repeatedly kidnapped, threatened, blindfolded, shot at, and had death threats lodged against him.  One terrorist splinter group even went so far as to bring him to a site of execution (complete the black felt bag over his head and the banner hung for the benefit of videotape and the internet filming), but the last-minute interference of one of Ware’s contacts in the insurgency saved him from an almost certain beheading.

What is fascinating about Michael Ware is that, despite everything he has been through, even his near-death experience, he will not leave Iraq.  He has become addicted to the upside-down, fiercely violent way of things, and has even declared that “Baby, I’ll be there filming that last chopper as it flies off the embassy you’re giving to Iran.”  These are strong and rebellious words; but they belie the torment Ware has suffered because of his years there.

Because as much as he is addicted to the war, Ware also recognizes that this addiction is destroying him.  He drinks heavily.  He doesn’t sleep.  He has become the “bad boy” journalist of Baghdad, known for destroying media equipment in fits of anger, getting involved in controversial love triangles, and even (it’s been rumored) being drunk on camera.

But behind this rather desperate behavior lies the fact that Michael Ware has become something of an unofficial conscience of the Iraq war.  Consistently, and for years, he has been debunking the American governmental platitudes about how the war is going.  And now his constant theme is about the mess we will leave behind us when we depart, and the fact that we will essentially be handing the country over to Iran’s influence.

We owe him so much–he has, at great personal cost, made it his mission to try and educate an American public that has all too quickly forgotten how we have changed, and changed utterly and unthinkingly and irrevocably and horribly, a foreign country so far away from us.  He reminds us of the daily struggle so many face there, American soldier and Iraqi citizen alike.  

And that, I’m ashamed to say, is necessary.  We are at war.  And we need to be reminded, and reminded, and reminded of it.  Because we cannot ever make this kind of mistake again.

 

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