Not what you see above. Morgue, in this context, is a newspaper term heard less every year. Before the digital age made archives what we know them to be today, clips and tear-sheets and carefully curated reference materials were stored in hard copy — filed away by librarians who store-housed the yellowing papers so that future reporters might research their stories. The morgue was a house of treasures.
Here, a rotating selection of articles, essays, reviews, photographs, posts, interviews and more. Not necessarily treasures. Certainly a few horrors. A look at the work over the years.
The reconstruction of the siege at School No. 1 in Beslan, selected in 2009 as one of the Seven Greatest Stories in the History of Esquire Magazine.
A Code of Honor. First clip, The New York Times. 1996. (In keeping with newspaper notions of morgue, I still have this piece in hard copy. Somewhere.)
Investigation: The Pentagon and its Arms Kids. A shady $300 million ammunition deal, from Miami Beach to Tirana (via Switzerland, Prague, Turkmenistan and elsewhere) to Kabul, with the help of an offshore shell account. Exposed on the NYT.
Remembering Natasha, murdered for her work. Photo above courtesy of Human Rights Watch.
Fingering the Strongman. Umar S. Israilov, murdered for what he knew, and dared to say.
From the NYC crime beat, the story of a rat.
From the At War blog: In Afghanistan, Glimpses of the Soviet Union’s Long Try. Above, Soviet Army colors above a stair case inside the perimeter of a former Soviet military base in Ghazni Province, now occupied by the U.S. and Afghan armies. By the author.
Foreign Affairs: Small Arms, Big Problems. (With apologies for the toll booth. This one is not free.)
Into the Excluded Zone, via a Pripyat Journal.
Esquire’s adaptation of THE GUN, investigating the Pentagon’s hurried and bungled introduction in Vietnam of the M-16. Chicanery, salesmanship, sham science, bureaucratic arrogance and lies. And the moral courage of First Lt. Mike Chervenak, U.S.M.C.
Killing Casually, I. Killing Casually, II. Accidental Patricide. The siege of Misurata, and three families, destroyed. Above, a bloody handprint of Soad Warayeth, where she leaned on her apartment wall as she staggered, wounded, from her dying husband to search for their terrified children. After the artillery round hit. By the author. 2011. (“According to rules of public discourse in the Libyan capital, word of his passing is officially a lie.”)
A hostage tale with a happy ending. Iranian captives, Somali pirates and a daring lie. (Yeah, we do happy endings, too. It just doesn’t very often work out that way.)
An Ambush in Korangal Valley. In Memory of Richard Dewater. (Above, then-Specialist Robert Soto, bolting from the kill zone, alive. By Tyler Hicks.)
From Russia With Blood. An interview with Foreign Policy magazine.
Inside the Arctic Circle in Canada, with List Hunters, Chasing Tusks. “The big-game hunter raised a stainless-steel rifle and peered through its scope. He shifted the cross hairs from one bull to the other. In a lifetime of travel and trekking, the hunter, Pete Studwell, had killed 11 bears, 10 elk, 6 caribou, 3 moose, 2 musk oxen, 2 boars, a bison, a cougar and roughly 300 deer, part of a personal list of bagged animals that includes 45 categories of big game. He had never killed a walrus. Until a half-hour earlier, when the boat began threading through Arctic ice, he had never seen one in the wild.”
Sectarian Killing, Choreographed for Camera. The extrajudicial executions of seven captured Syrian loyalists by rebels who recorded their crimes on a fund-raising tape.
At the Dogfights. Midwinter in the Russian forest, an ancient sport draws its fans to a tournament, held at a location those present asked not be disclosed.
A Pit Viper, a Boy, a Pair of Helicopters and a Father Who Could Not Watch His Son Die.
In Ilyinka, the season of horses is now. On the Kazakh steppe, 2005.
In Iraq, a Sniper’s Shot, and a Scramble to Save a Life. Above, Petty Officer Dustin Kirby holding the armor-piercing 7.62x54R bullet that, minutes before, had passed through a close friend’s head. Karma, Iraq. 2006. By Joao Silva.
A Weapon, Trying to Speak. A Blood-Stained Rifle, and Questions of the Taliban.
An Arms Pipeline from Croatia to Syria (with help from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and others).
An Arms Pipeline from Sudan to Syria (with ritualized denial from Khartoum).
The Modern Battlefield’s Dirty Tricks: Syria Resorts to Booby-Trapped Ammunition. (With this quick tour of the history, and discussion of the Pentagon’s use of the same tactics in Afghanistan and Iraq.)
A Profile an a Cluster Munitions Attack: The Syrian Air Force Hits Maara. “The plane came in from the southeast late in the afternoon, releasing its weapons in a single pass.”
What’s a Little Beheading Between Friends? A post on this blog consolidating the fast-moving account in Nov 2013 of fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a Sunni rebel group aligned with al Qaeda, hastily beheading a man under anesthesia who they had mistaken for a pious Shiite fighter. The man, Mohammad Fares Marroush, was actually a fighter from an allied group and was receiving medical care for battlefield wounds. The allied group, Ahrar al-Sham, was not amused.
Oh those Belgian Diplomats, Chuckling About Their Gun-Running. A declassified cable presents the naked cynicism of the government suppliers of part of Colonel Qaddafi’s lethal bounty. And it suggests that those making the arms deals knew, even 40 years ago, that Libya’s weapons would not be retained by Libya’s government — an observation that in light of the proliferation risks posed by Libya’s stockpiles reads like a starkly reckless position for an arms-dealing nation to take.
Killed in Action, But Not By The Enemy. A Look at Battlefield Fratricide. “The record he sent back to the United States, of 353 incidents in 172 days that killed or injured 398 soldiers, is a catalog of fratricidal and self-inflicted bloodshed caused by mistakes, negligence, exhaustion, panic, horseplay, dim lighting, dense vegetation, inattentiveness, faulty equipment, poor training, foolishness, ill fortune or some combination of the above.”
Air-to-Ground War, Changed. Where Pilots Try To Get It Right. Above, Cdr. Layne McDowell, U.S. Navy, banks his F/A-18F strike fighter over Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. By the author. 2012.
The Long Walk. The New New Strategy For Afghanistan. Esquire, 2009, on the walk in Korangal Valley with Bravo Company on their most ambitious operation of the year. “Company B was at this very moment a new American standard, the archetype of a forward deployed unit backed by intricate layers of firepower and material and medical support, as sophisticated and deadly a conventional infantry company as the world had ever known. It was also a wandering dot in a foreign wilderness.”
One Rule of Lawlessness: The Safety Nets, Like the Rules, Are Broken. How Russians Die in Fires.
Air-to-Ground War, The Same. NATO Kills Civilians in Libya, and Steadfastly Denies its Mistakes. With a rich interactive satellite map and video-and-photographic slide show by the NYT graphics team. Above, civilian homes in Majer, hit repeatedly by NATO aircraft, which attacked rescuers, too, on a night in which dozens died. By the author. 2011.
A Basket of Little Perch. (“We might as well have seen a charging marlin.”)
And a Pretty Good Pike. (God bless all fish with a sense of timing.)
Lens: Joao Silva meets Barack Obama. On the long climb back.
Lens: A Decade in Afghanistan with Tyler Hicks. “Where war becomes no more and no less than who is near and whatever happens.”
Lens: A Tall Man Breaks Out.
A Saturday Profile in London. (Above, Giles Duley. Self-portrait. 2011.)
Almost Dawn in Libya. This blog’s most visited post.