Tag Archives: War Correspondent

Kabul Job Opening, U.S. Hiring News Photog, Blames Afghan Corruption on “Negative Media Pics”

12 Feb

U.S. Job Opening for News Photogs, Picture Propagandist: U.S. Blames Afghan Corruption on Photographers for “Negative” and “Misleading” Pics

U.S. Agency for International Development Says it “Can’t Compete”, Posts Job Opening to Address Charges of Corruption in Afghanistan 

(Updated at 1800 hours EST with responses from the United States Agency for International Development)

Nate Thayer

February 12, 2014

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) office in Afghanistan has appealed for news photographers to work as U.S. government propagandists, saying the “overwhelming majority of pictures” by news journalists “are negative and at least to some extent misleading.”

A new job posting by USAID in Kabul seeks professional photographers “with at least one years experience with a news agency” to “to counter negative visual images” and “aggressively distribute these positive images”.

USAID, which is in the midst of an ongoing scandal involving billions of dollars they provided lost to corruption and mismanagement in Afghanistan, does not blame bungled administration of overseeing Afghan corruption and misuse of U.S. money, but rather the news media.

The bad publicity “is because professional photographers working for news agencies are the prime sources of high-quality images of USAID work in Afghanistan. News photographs by their very nature focus on the negative.” Continue reading

Why You Want To Avoid Getting Blown Up By A Landmine: From ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ By Nate Thayer

28 Jan

What Happens When Your Ride Disintigrates After Being Blown Up by Anti-Tank Landmines

By Nate Thayer

These photos were taken of the truck I was riding in after it drove over two Chinese anti-tank mines, in northwest Cambodia, in October 1989.

I was sitting in the front seat of Russian Zil 2 1/2 ton military transport truck which the Cambodian guerrilla group I was traveling with had captured hours earlier after seizing a strategic government town. Most people in the truck were killed, including both of the soldiers sitting with me in the drivers compartment, one on either side of me.

The truck I was riding in after the left front tire, which was less than 5 feet from where I was sitting, detonated two anti-tank mines in the jungles near the Thai Cambodian border

The truck I was riding in after the left front tire, which was less than 5 feet from where I was sitting, detonated two anti-tank mines in the jungles near the Thai Cambodian border

I woke up in the remnants of the engine compartment with a severed leg across my face. It wasn’t mine. Continue reading

A Reporter’s Trek Through Cambodian Minefields, Pursued By Soldiers

22 Jan

A Trek Through Minefields, Pursued By Soldiers

From my files: News articles I am digitally archiving here on this blog site. This story was written in 1990 after a many weeks walk deep through the jungle with Cambodian guerrillas. It was the first independent confirmation of guerrilla claims of advances made during the then 11-year old war.

^Cambodia-Reporter’s Trek<


AP_NY FORN: For Use As Advance. With Wirephotos<

A Trek Through Minefields, Pursued By Soldiers

EDITORS NOTE: Nate Thayer, a reporter for the Associated Press in Bangkok, Recently completed a five-week, 700-kilometer (450 mile) trek with guerrillas in Cambodia. It was the most extensive such trip ever taken by a reporter. Here is his account:

By Nate Thayer

^Associated Press Writer=

LAND MINE MOUNTAIN, Cambodia (AP)— “Don’t step off the path. There are mines everywhere,” the guerrilla warned over the din of rockets and artillery shells crashing ahead of us.

The road ended abruptly at what the guerrillas called “Phnom Din”–Land Mine Mountain. It marked my departure from Thailand and the start of a trek deep inside this ravaged nation.

My aim was to confirm for the first time claims of unprecedented guerrilla victories in the 11-year-old war against the Vietnamese installed government.

I accompanied 150 guerrillas loyal to Prince Norodom Sihanouk through three Northern provinces–over mountains and minefields, across enemy lines and secret jungle paths to newly seized towns and front-lines.

It took 17 days, the first 12 in the jungle, to reach the big town of Stoung on Highway six in the center of the country. It was the headquarters of the guerrilla “liberated zones.”

“We all remember the Prince Sihanouk times. That was when there was no war and enough food,” said Reng Phum, 77, crying ina village near Stoung.

” I pray  everyday that Prince Sihanouk will come back. We have suffered very much. Do you think he knows how much we have suffered since he left us?”

Sihanouk ruled for three decades until he was ousted in a U.S. backed military coup in 1970. Cambodia was engulfed in civil war from 1970-75. From 1975-798, hubdreds of thousands of people died in starvation, disease and executions under the fanatical Khmer Rouge. The current war has gone on since the Vietnamese invaded in late 1978.

Government artillery shook the earth every day protesting the guerrilla advances throughout the country’s north.

Tens of thousands of villagers were seen in rice fields, markets, and schools in areas under guerrilla control. Totaling more than 700 towns and villages, it was the first major region controlled by non-communist forces in Indochina since the U.S. troops fled fifteen years ago.

Everywhere I went, hundreds of villagers gathered for their first ever sight of a foreigner. Some had walked for days to do so.

“Are they all fat and bald?” asked one elderly woman who stared at me for hours.

Heavy fighting erupted as more than 1,000 soldiers were ordered from three provinces to get me.

Soldiers seized villages hours after I visited.

“They were looking for the American. More than 300 of them,” A farmer told us in Kvav village. “Which way did the American go? How long ago was he here?” They asked.

Guerrillas said 45 government soldiers and to guerrillas died in these clashed. One terrifying night, we fled through the jungle from 500 soldiers stalking us after clashing with our advance team.

The government army radio announced a reward for my capture worth $1000 U.S. dollars.

The guerrillas moved me every day, fearing that government snipers disguised as villagers were seeking the reward, which was more than ten years income for the average Cambodian. They disguised me in traditional scarves and military uniform.

“I think you are worth more than $1,000 dollars,” guerrilla commander Col. Khan Savouen said to console me.

As we began the ten day walk to the Thai border, we talked by radio with guerrillas fighting soldiers on our pursuit.

We slept in hammocks slung between trees and ate rice supplemented by lizards, snakes, deer, monkeys, wild boar, spiders, turtles all kinds of flying insects and other jungle creatures whose identity I could not even guess. Except for the crunchy, hairy insects, they were surprisingly tasty.

“We really need to do something about this insect problem after we get peace, “one guerrilla said from under his mosquito net.

Thousands of Khmer Rouge and Sihanouk guerrilla shared the jungles, but many passed each other without exchanging a word or a smile.

More than a dozen Khmer Rouge guerrillas defected to the Sihanouk side during the trip. They came in groups of two or three at night, whispering requests to switch sides.

The Sihanouk guerrillas gave them new clothing to replace the green Chinese-style Khmer Rouge uniforms, to avoid protests from Khmer Rouge unites.

Khmer Rouge guerrillas were shocked to see a Westerner in their jungles. Many young fighters spoke of entire lives in the jungles, without family or enough food or medicine.

At the base of a mountain near the Thai border, we found an unconscious Khmer Rouge fighter abandoned by his unit four days before. Ants were eating him.

A Sihanouk guerrilla carried him all day to the top of the mountain, and medics treated his malaria.

“They left me to die,” h said, on the verge of tears. “They even took my pack and hammock.”

” My uncle sponsored me to join the Khmer Rouge last year,” he said. “But when I couldn’t walk they just left me to die. I had no food and water for four days.”

” I can’t go back to my village because the government is taking all the men and forcing us to be soldiers. I guess I will stay with those who saved my life and go home after peace,” he said, his voice quivering.

We left Cambodia as we had entered it–through minefields.

We waited for hours while mine specialists probed the area.

“Don’t go one step off the path,” Col. Som Narin said. “There are so many mines left by so many people nobody knows where they are anymore.”

The next ten kilometers (six miles) were horrifying. We saw dozens of mines, the thin green trip wires blending with the thick foliage. Around us were trees with pieces of clothing hanging off their branches–they belonged to people blown up by mines.

For hours, no one spoke, their eyes locked on the ground.

“People still step on mines on this path every week,” said Som Narin. “it is just a matter of chance.”


AP-21-07-90 1506GMT<


Iraq Between the American ‘Shock and Awe” Assault and Capture of Baghdad

28 Dec

City of War and Grief

By Nate Thayer

Reporting on the ambiance  after the launch of the “Shock and Awe’ air campaign and the declaration of war by the U.S. on Iraq and before their capture of Baghdad


March 24, 2003

The following article by an American journalist still in  Baghdad
gives a bit different take on things than the TV coverage.  He
reports a great deal of anger against the Americans, rather than
people jumping up and down looking for liberation.

His account may well be biased — we have no way of knowing.
But here’s a what if.  What if when the Coalition finishes off the
regime they are stuck with a nation of angry and highly resentful
people?  What then?

City of Grief and Rage
By Nate Thayer, SLATE.COM

March 24, 2003

Today, for the first time, the bombs fell and the missiles struck in
daylight. The assault lasted all day. And it came not only from
long-range missiles but from coalition planes that are flying over our
heads and dropping their payloads in the neighborhood of the Palestine
Hotel, where most of the foreign journalists remaining in Baghdad are

TODAY IS ALSO the first time that I am truly frightened. It is not the
American bombs I am primarily afraid of. What frightens me and Mary –
the name I’ll give a photographer with whom I’ve become inseparable –
is the mood of the people. The city is thick with anger and defiance,
and we are Americans.

Every day since Mary and I arrived by road from Jordan, we have been
threatened with expulsion. This morning, once again, we were ordered
out. “You have two choices-you can be a human shield or you can leave
the country,” said my government minder. He offered this without his
usual smarmy smile.

“But what about my visa?” I asked.

“Your visa is now to heaven,” he said, forcing a laugh.

I talked my way out of it once again. My minder said we could obtain
visa “extensions” provided we take HIV tests. I brought my own
syringes, and I swabbed Mary’s arm and extracted a vial of blood in my
room. She did the same for me. We then went to the so-called HIV
center together, with bombs dropping around us, to submit our blood to
the Iraqi government. Of course, they insisted on taking their own
samples. Cruise missiles launched 900 miles away exploded around us,
incinerating government buildings as we partook in this ridiculous

This absurdity over, we returned to the Palestine, where we are as
prepared as we can be for whatever may come next. We have 300 bottles
of the water and have filled the bathtubs in each of several rooms for
reserve. We’ve stockpiled enough food for weeks. Should the power
fail, we have a generator and jerry cans filled with petrol purchased
on the black market. If a bomb blows out our window, the duct tape
we’ve covered it with should protect us from flying glass. All of our
electronics-computers, cameras, communications devices-are wrapped in
aluminum foil against so-called e-bombs that will destroy all the data
of electronic devices.

At 4 p.m. Baghdad time, an American fighter jet dropped its payload so
close that the concussion sucked the air out of our lungs. Mary and I
got in our car and drove toward the site of the explosion.

As we crossed one of the four Tigris bridges, there was an enormous
traffic jam. Hundreds of armed men and civilians were looking down to
the river below. Scores of cars had stopped in the middle of the
bridge. We grabbed our gear and got out.

The rumor was that an allied plane had been shot down. Word spread
through the crowd that two pilots had parachuted from the downed plane
and were floating down the river. One had supposedly already been
captured. Whether there were any pilots in the river, I don’t know.

Small boats with heavily armed soldiers searched among the reeds. From
the banks, people took pot shots at objects in the river. Under the
impression that the airman had been captured, thousands of cheering
Iraqis chanted and clapped, shooting AK-47s in the air for joy. People
in both uniform and civilian clothes eyed us with hostility during
this celebration.

“Where are you from?” demanded an armed Iraqi, looking at me.

“Germany,” interjected my government guide, abruptly grabbing me by
the arm and yanking me away.

“Do not tell them you are American,” he whispered as he rushed me to
the car. “We must leave. It is very dangerous here.”

Then we were on the western side of the Tigris, where the coalition
bombardment has struck hardest. The sounds of imams on speakers
reverberated through the streets-calls for the people to kill all the
Americans. We raced through Baghdad’s most dangerous area, passing
Saddam’s palaces, now piles of burnt rubble.

The Foreign Ministry was  a concrete shell with no windows and only sullen soldiers at the
entrance. Apartment buildings recently filled with civilians were
charred, burnt, collapsed, and empty. Hundreds of apartments and no
people-where did they all go? Western medical sources have reported
some 300 civilian injuries in Baghdad but very few killed.

The Iraqi military had now closed all the Tigris River bridges. Mary
and I were stuck. We had to drive north for an hour as bombs continued
dropping around us. “This is the road to Babylon,” said our government
minder. It felt like Babylon. We then took another road-the road to
Kuwait, our guide said. We had to drive north of the city, then west,
and then south to enter Baghdad on the east bank of the Tigris and
return to our hotel.

Explosions are rocking my computer as I write. For the first time,
small-arms fire can be heard throughout the city. Anti-aircraft
emplacements are set up around the perimeter of our hotel. It’s not a
good sign. Yesterday those 500 meters from us were destroyed,
completely destroyed, by American missiles.

Nate Thayer is covering the war for Slate.

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