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Stalking Vol 2: The Bridge of Reason


"It was based on you wanting the sacrifice of your assumptions paid for, by assaulting your
audience's sensibilities. You didn't think about your driver’s safety, and the Little General
certainly wouldn't have allowed such a damning story without retribution, would he? For that
matter, I’d bet you didn’t stop trying to interview people on the street even knowing what could
happen to them."
Bonnie leaned back, giving me the psychological room to accept her points; a sheen of
sweat materialized on my brow.
Brightly, she said, "Now tell me about the Swedish women."
"The ha ha moment seems to have passed," I muttered.
"You mean the contrivance of interjecting a thought, to avoid facing what you and America
are like seems to have backfired?"
"That too."
Sucking it up one more time, I blandly told her that the ladies walked into the long, mirrored
lounge soon after they had checked into the hotel. Briefly surveying the scene, they glanced at
each other and silently agreed not to hover over the trough with the rest of us. The statuesque
blonde followed the lithe redhead to the far end of the room, both of them probably thinking that
our lingering glances were based on impure thoughts generated by their fluid movements down
the narrow aisle between tables. Though this held some truth, at this specific time it wasn't the
reason behind our widening grins, which they could not help but interpret as lust bouncing back
from the mirrored walls. It was that with every inch that they moved into the empty seating area
they were breaking two rules of personal safety: As I had recently learned, veterans of combat
coverage position themselves near an exit, and away from windows, if they can. They also do not
isolate themselves, which is moot if you pay attention to the first rule because one faction or
another in every war eventually tries to put the press corps in their place. To separate one’s self
in any way is to make the choice simpler for them.
Should one follow these rules, they would also quickly become acquainted with the
peculiarities of that conflict by mingling with veteran crews who have nothing to gain by holding
back on what it’s really like. Eight days earlier, upon our arrival at the Camino Real Hotel,
LeBlanc—a Middle East, Africa, Vietnam, Bangladesh veteran cameraman, had virtually
ordered me to mingle in the bar as soon as I had my gear unpacked. "It's the only safe OJT you'll
get," he said. (O n the Job Training.) Manny had provided that for me.
If they had known better, the women would have sat nearby, or at the bar, which would have
put them across from the only exit to the lobby, and away from the huge plate glass windows that
paralleled a thoroughfare. By thinking we’d be more interested in hitting on them than helping
them, we knew this was their first day in their first war: no one in the bar had ever experienced
the kind of butchery and random cruelties of this war, which tickled our collective fancy to the
nth degree on this night in particular…
Early that morning, troops had sealed the road leading into a village to conduct a house-to-
house search for weapons. The media were not allowed in until it was safe, meaning there would
be no witnesses should they find weapons, or even not. We paced around our cars on the
outskirts of town, except one enterprising crew crept in through the bushes. From hiding, they
taped a young mother frantically calling for her young sons to get out of the way of the scurrying
soldiers. Well aware that the civilian population derisive ly called soldiers chicos, behind their
backs, the soldiers interpreted her calls as a flagrant insult. Two of them held her as she
hysterically explained herself, while a third cut off her breasts. They walked away laughing as
her children raced to her side to watch her die. Realizing the significance of what they had
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