Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Fighting fire with fire

"Let us learn our lessons. Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on that strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realise that, once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated war officers, weak, incompetent or arrogant commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations - all take their seat at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war."

Winston Churchill, quoted in a letter to The Times


I read War reporting for cowards last week and literally could not put it down.

Chris Ayres had me hooked right from the very first paragraph, "Waking up, of course, shouldn't be a difficult or traumatic process. For the first twenty-seven years of my life I had done it every day without even thinking. Open eyes. Yawn. Scratch balls. Look up at the ceiling. Climb out of bed. Waking up in a Humvee on the front lines of an invasion, however, is different."

Mr Ayres' story is incredibly accessible, despite being set in a completely alien environment. His attitude is refreshingly honest. Ayres actually did my course at my University which he describes as the "Fame Acedemy" of journalism schools second only to Columbia (the X Factor? I can only assume). He describes Islington in 1997 and the lecturers. Everything that he experienced a decade ago remains almost the same today in a different form, the pub is now the Queen Boudica and the lecturers have changed but the ethos is as strong as ever. Perhaps finding these things in common made it easier for me to relate to his experience in Iraq. His words took me right there.

As soon as I finished, I sent him an e-mail. He replied the next day: "Kat - alas I live in LA, although you're welcome to meet me for a coffee here!"