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TERENCE SMITH: I talked earlier with two photographers whose work appears in Time Magazine.
In this week’s issue, Time runs a 20-page photo essay on the war in Iraq. Robert Nickelsberg, a 38-year-old veteran war photographer, has covered conflicts from Central America to Afghanistan. He is embedded with the 1st Marine Division.
TERENCE SMITH: The first picture is your picture of 1st Marine Division soldiers shortly after they were ambushed as they entered the city of Kut.
ROBERT NICKELSBERG: We had entered through the outskirts, which were heavily hit by artillery early that morning, mainly the police station and what looked like other military compounds and had no intention of going to the city center when all of a sudden out of a palm grove someone fired an RPG at one of the rockets — at a Marine vehicle. The Marines got out and started sweeping the palm grove — generally a lot of chaos, yelling and screaming and trying to keep a line going in one direction in an ambush.
TERENCE SMITH: You have a picture of the 1st Marine Division soldiers subduing one of a group of Iraqi guerillas.
ROBERT NICKELSBERG: The soldiers are trying to flee in civilians clothes. That’s why the Marines had to stop. They seemed to travel in groups of threes and fours, and they all had military ID’s and wads of money — all clean civilian clothing obviously coming right out of a closet or a bag — and generally all similar age, shapes and haircuts.
The officers generally tried to hit the symbols of a town or a village city, and that includes the flag, pictures or murals of Saddam Hussein, and generally flags of the regime. About five miles from Atara, we came across RPG and small arms fire right on the highway.
Whether they were Fedayeen or Iraqi army we never found out. But that is Lieutenant Colonel Brian McCoy who is the commander of the battalion obviously very focused and loves to engage the enemy.
TERENCE SMITH: Robert Nickelsberg, thank you so much.
ROBERT NICKELSBERG: Thanks very much.
TERENCE SMITH: Kate Brooks is a 25-year-old photographer who also covered the war in Afghanistan. She’s working in northern Iraq. Kate Brooks, welcome.
KATE BROOKS: Thank you.
TERENCE SMITH: I’m looking at what appears to be the aftermath of a car bombing.
KATE BROOKS: There was a body there I was photographing. My translator said I think it’s a journalist.
TERENCE SMITH: Who was he?
KATE BROOKS: His name is Paul Moran. He was just finishing photographing and went for one last frame.
TERENCE SMITH: Other of your photographs show dead fighters. Are they from Ansar al-Islam?
KATE BROOKS: Yes, they are — the Islamist extremist group that is part of al-Qaida.
The U.S. Special Forces had started their operations and on that day they were battling Ansar in the mountains and those bodies are a number of bodies of Ansar who were killed in the fighting.
TERENCE SMITH: One picture I’m curious about shows just a single tree on a rise. Can you tell me what that is.
KATE BROOKS: That is graveyard, an Ansar graveyard, and all the graves are marked with numbers rather than names in order to protect their identity. Large numbers have been killed but there are still pockets of resistance in small groups south operating, wandering, in the area. Some are believed to have crossed into Iran.
TERENCE SMITH: One final picture that shows a fighter at dusk overlooking a range of mountains in the distance — certainly suggesting that the countryside is actually very beautiful.
KATE BROOKS: It is a very beautiful place. It can be quite striking. The terrain is different from that in the south. Only in the last couple weeks has it gotten warm enough to wear a light shirt. It has been rainy and cloudy and winter has been very much like back in London. But it’s a mountainous and hilly terrain.
TERENCE SMITH: Kate Brooks, thank you very much.
KATE BROOKS: You’re welcome.