The Best Work of the Late, Great Foreign Correspondent Anthony Shadid

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Feb. 17 2012 12:13 PM

The Longform Guide to Anthony Shadid

Some of the greatest dispatches from one of America’s greatest foreign correspondents.

Anthony Shadid.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Anthony Shadid, who suffered an asthma attack this week in Syria and died

Bill O'Leary/Washington Post via Getty Images.

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Few reporters wrote so beautifully about such horrible things as Anthony Shadid, who died this week in Syria. Here are a few of his best stories, filed from Ramallah, Baghdad, and Syria.

Boston Globe • May 2002

An account of the Israeli-Palestinian war:

“In the week before leaving for Ramallah, I had driven to northern Israel to cover a crowded bus torn apart by a Palestinian with bombs strapped to his body. the next day, I saw the scene repeated in Jerusalem, followed by the horrific carnage of the bombing of a Passover seder in the coastal town of Netanya.

The bloodshed had a way of blurring the specifics of each tragedy. As a reporter, how many ways can you describe bodies hurled through windows, twisted metal forged by the detonation, and the bomber's blood splashed across a building's facade? The very monotony of the attacks made them so horrifying. The less novel they seemed, the more vividly they touched lives that had long been isolated from the brunt of the conflict.”

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Washington Post • January 2009

As the war begins to end, Iraqis confront a broken country:

“‘A ruined state’ was the term Iraq's parliament speaker had for what the Americans have left behind those walls. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said it in anger after he resigned in December. But the phrase resonates, in both Iraq as a whole, a weary landscape dominated in hues of brown, the color of poverty, and in Baghdad, a city where everything these days seems twisted or torn, bent or broken, snared in barbed wire that has lost its sheen. Every median has its piles of dirt and rubble, often both. Every curb has its soggy trash.

“This war's end feels more truce than treaty, more respite than reconciliation. There is no revival or renaissance, no celebration. It manifests itself most in the simple lifting of a siege.”

Washington Post • July 2009

As U.S. troops departed, Baghdad in ruins:

“U.S. combat troops finished withdrawing from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities on June 30. But they leave behind a capital that is forever altered by their presence. Augustus boasted that he found Rome a city of bricks and made it a city of marble. Baghdad was another city of bricks, and a coterie of American generals turned it into a city of cement. Their concrete is everywhere—from the sprawling Green Zone to the barriers and blast walls that line almost every street—reorienting the physical, spiritual and social geography that for more than a millennium was dictated by the lazy bends in the Tigris River.”

New York Time Magazine • August 2011

Inside the safe houses where Syrian youth protesters have retreated since the uprising:

“Around his neck he wore a tiny toy penguin that was actually a thumb drive, which he treated like a talisman, occasionally squeezing it to make sure it was still there. I sat next to him on the mattress and watched as he traded messages with other activists on Skype, then updated a Facebook page that serves as an underground newspaper, then marked a Google Earth map of Homs with the spots of the latest unrest. ’If there’s no Internet,’ Abdullah said, ’there’s no life.’ ”

Anthony Shadid, Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks New York Times • March 2011

An account of captivity:

“At one point, Anthony was taken out of the cell for questioning. He never saw the captors.

“ ’How could you enter without a visa?’ the man asked him. ’Don’t you know you could be killed here and no one would ever know?’ Anthony nodded. The man went on to denounce the rebels he said they were fighting—Qaeda fanatics, he said, and gangs of armed criminals.

“ ’How could they ever rule Libya?’ he asked.

“They sent Anthony back to the cell, and we knew that no one had any idea where we were.”

Columbia Journalism Review • November/December 2011

An interview with Shadid:

“I think you have to care about these stories to do them justice. And I did care about it. I care about the Middle East. You have to be careful and still there are certain rules you have to follow. But I think there’s enough gray there that you can kind of get away with being a little more interpretive. It’s not easy. What’s so rewarding about the reporting in Egypt, the reporting in Iraq is, if you just tell peoples’ stories, then they become the vehicles for these sentiments, these emotions. It becomes much more real in a certain way. Also much more honest.”

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longformorg. For more great writing, check out Longform.org’s complete archive.

Elon Green is a contributor to Longform.org.

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