In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars

In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars

by Kevin Sites

Paperback(Includes A World of Conflict Bonus DVD)

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Kevin Sites is a man on a mission. Venturing alone into the dark heart of war, armed with just a video camera, a digital camera, a laptop, and a satellite modem, the award-winning journalist covered virtually every major global hot spot as the first Internet correspondent for Yahoo! News. Beginning his journey with the anarchic chaos of Somalia in September 2005 and ending with the Israeli-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006, Sites talks with rebels and government troops, child soldiers and child brides, and features the people on every side, including those caught in the cross fire. His honest reporting helps destroy the myths of war by putting a human face on war's inhumanity. Personally, Sites will come to discover that the greatest danger he faces may not be from bombs and bullets, but from the unsettling power of the truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061228759
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/16/2007
Edition description: Includes A World of Conflict Bonus DVD
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,181,035
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Kevin Sites has spent more than a decade covering wars and conflicts for ABC, NBC, CNN, Yahoo! News, and Vice magazine. He is the author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. He is also an associate professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong.

Read an Excerpt

In the Hot Zone

One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars
By Kevin Sites

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Kevin Sites
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061228759

Chapter One

Burdens of War

The Mosque Shooting

Falluja, Iraq
November 13, 2004


The carpet of the mosque is stained with blood and covered with fragments of concrete. Tank shells and machine-gun rounds have pitted the inside walls. The rotting, sweet smell of death hangs in the morning air.

Gunsmoke-laced sunbeams illuminate the bodies of four Iraqi insurgents. A fifth lies next to a column, his entire body covered by a blanket.

I shudder. Something very wrong has happened here.

Yesterday I had seen these same five men being treated by American medics for superficial wounds received during an afternoon firefight. Ten other insurgents had been killed, their bodies still scattered around the main hall in the black bags into which the Marines had placed them.

I was told by the commander of the 3.1 Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl, that these five wounded, captured enemy combatants would be transported to the rear. But now I can see that one of them appears dead and the three others are slowly bleeding to death from gunshots fired by one lance corporal, I will learn later, who used both his M-16 and his 9 mm pistolon them, just minutes before I arrived.

With my camera rolling, I walk toward the old man in the red kaffiyeh and kneel beside him. Because he was so old, maybe in his early sixties, and wearing the red headgear, he had stood out the most to me when I was videotaping the day before, after the battle.

Now the old man is struggling to breathe. Oxygenated blood bubbles from his nose. Another man, stocky and dressed in a long gray shirt called a dishdasha, is slumped in the old man's lap. While I'm taping, the old man is bleeding to death in front of my camera. I look up to see the lance corporal who had just shot all of them moments before, now walking up to the other two insurgents against the wall, twenty feet away. One is facedown, apparently already dead. The other, dressed in an Iraqi Police uniform, is faceupbut motionless, aside from his breathing.

The lance corporal says, "Hey, this one's still breathing." Another agrees, "Yeah, he's breathing." There is tension in the room, but I continue to roll on the man in the red kaffiyeh.

"He's fucking faking he's dead," the lance corporal says, now standing right in front of the man.

The Embed

As a freelance correspondent for NBC News, I embedded with the Third Battalion, First Marine (Regiment) for three weeks prior to the Battle of Falluja, or what the Americans code-named Operation Phantom Fury and what the Iraqi interim government called Operation Al Fajr, or "The Dawn."

The mission has a clear but complicated objective; take back the restive city of Falluja from the insurgents who had been running the place for the last eight months.

In the time leading up to the battle, I have developed a good relationship with my unit. The Marines see that I'm a television reporter working solo—shooting, writing and transmitting my reports without a crew—and they tell me they like my self-reliance. I tell them it's a necessity, because no one wants to work with me anymore. Television news is the ultimate collaborative medium, but by being recklessly aggressive, low on the network food chain (a producer turned reporter) and eager to go it alone to uncomfortable locations, it has not been difficult to convince news managers to let me do just that.

The Marines also like the fact that I write an independent war blog, which NBC allowed me to keep as a freelancer, where I post longer, more detailed and personal stories about my experiences.

Inspired by Tim O'Brien's book The Things They Carried, in which he describes the items, both literal and figurative, that each man in a U.S. Army platoon carried on a jungle march through Vietnam, I ask the Marines to show me the same. They pull out rosaries, Saint Christopher medals, photographs of their wives and children taped inside their Kevlar helmets.

I snap their pictures and post them on the site. Their families, eager for information about their loved ones, come to my blog in droves. They post responses, thanking me for allowing them to see the faces of their sons, husbands, brothers. Soon, however, those messages of gratitude will be replaced with hate mail and death threats.

Camp Abu Ghraib

We are on a small, dusty satellite base near Camp Falluja, the First Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters. Like the infamous, scandal-ridden prison, the base is named Camp Abu Ghraib. It is a sprawling compound ringed by dirt walls, large concrete slabs, concertina wire and gravel-filled wire baskets called HESCO barriers.

In this time of waiting, when I've finished filing my reports for the day, I sometimes jog around the base on a makeshift track just inside the walls. It's an incongruous but now-common experience to run in the golden light of dusk, passing the guard towers with their .50-caliber machine guns and the brig at a far end of the base quadrant where Iraqi prisoners are temporarily held before being transferred to the real Abu Ghraib prison.

Inside, I see Marines tossing a football, walking to the chow hall, cleaning their weapons. I hear the clank of weights being dropped and a boombox blasting from the tent that houses their surprisingly well-equipped gym. On the outside I see red skies over Falluja as the sun drops to the horizon.

Four horsemen

I made friends with three country Marines and a navy medic who provide security for the base—and who, in the course of their duties, confiscated four horses from Iraqi men who came too close to the base with carts, supposedly to collect scrap metal.

Corporal David Harris, Lance Corporal Kenny Craig, Corporal Lloyd Williams and Corpsman Michael Driver use their own money to pay for hay brought in from Baghdad to feed those malnourished horses. In an effort to re-create a little piece of home, they're trying to train the cart-hauling horses to be ridden.


Excerpted from In the Hot Zone by Kevin Sites Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Sites. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
TomVFuser More than 1 year ago
The perfect book for anyone who is interested in Social justice and public affairs. This will definitely bring new insights to the way you regard people from other nations. As a journalist, this was a book that was needed in this field.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first heard of Kevin Sites when he came to give a talk to a journalism class at my school, which I crashed. Because I had heard him speak, I admit that I was predisposed to like this book. What he attempted to do was amazing, and I was very glad to find this book at the airport bookshop while I was waiting for my flight. This book, though billed as 'current events' is more of a memoir as he recounts his personal experiences in the war zones he covers. He gives the basic history of each of the conflict zones he covers, but what he does that is more valuable, in my opinion, is give a human face to the conflict. He tells the stories of those affected by these wars: the innocent bystanders, the soldiers, and the victims. I wish he could have given more depth to each but it was a necessary weakness when he was only in each area for a few short weeks.
kiravk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hired by Yahoo!, journalist Kevin Sites visits every armed conflict zone in the world in a single year, filming a short documentary on each one along the way. When I began reading this book, my first thoughts were that this man clearly had (1) an incredibly resistant spirit to tragedy and (2) a death wish. Sites consistently puts the story above his personal safety; he dodges bullets in Iraq, faces angry mobs in Addis Ababa, and heads down to Lebanon in the midst of a bombing. His personal thoughts and experiences are interwoven with interviews from war lords, child soldiers, and armed rebels as well as ordinary people caught up in the war. While I can't imagine why anyone would volunteer for such a job, much less display enthusiasm for it, I started In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars on a whim and stayed up late to finish it. Sites sheds light on conflicts that don't get the press coverage that Iraq and Afghanistan do, but are no less important. No one is affected by war more than civilians, but Sites introduces us to inspiring people who have overcome tremendous adversity. The story of Gulsoma, an abused child bride from Afghanistan, struck me the hardest. Ultimately, I closed this book feeling like I was close friends with Sites and all the people he interviewed, which is how you know you've read a great autobiography.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Very self important, and ultimately hollow. I won't be sorry to see the end of personality 'journalism.'