• Soldier's perspective: After spending most of his time as a journalist in Iraq working in Baghdad, where reporters are confined to secure hotel compounds and travel with chase cars, correspondent Charles Levinson says spending two weeks in Mosul with the US Army was "a refreshing change of pace." He was embedded with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Nineveh Province, where he could conduct interviews without worrying about the 20-minute rule - spend more time than that and you're likely to attract too much attention. While dangers were still ever present, says Charles, traveling with a group of heavily armed soldiers does give a reporter a sense of security.
Equally refreshing, he says, was the chance to get another perspective on the war. "Many of the soldiers I was embedded with have an optimistic view of the American mission or are idealistic. And they often accused the media of telling only half the story. One soldier told me, 'So you're going to hang out here for two weeks until you find the one bad story to write about.' "
Charles says he tried to assure his hosts that he did not have an agenda. And he spent evenings with them playing video games, watching movies (many bought from local markets), and listening to stories about home.
Charles says that many soldiers may not always get an accurate view of Iraqis' sentiments because of the language barrier. A fluent Arabic speaker, he notes that many of the Iraqi families he interviewed while with soldiers "didn't seem to be speaking candidly, answering that 'everything was fine.' " That's not always what he hears in his regular reporting.
- Mike Farrell
Middle East editor