Back to Iraq, In A Way

Tonight, “Only the Dead,” a documentary by my old bureau chief premiers on HBO. I am both anticipating and dreading this documentary.

e was already well established as the guy with the sources in the insurgency by the time I started my second journey in early 2004. I met him in a hotel room in and he struck me as someone deeply in love with the adrenaline of reporting on the insurgency, combat reporting, at continually cheating death. I was … not entranced, but deeply admiring. He’s a big guy, over six feet, with a build that reflects his days as a rugby player. His nose looks like he ran into a wall, picked himself up and did it again just to teach the wall a lesson. He was funny, profane, frightening and always ready with a good story. (It’s a shame I only have pictures of him at parties. I won’t post them, though. He’s been through enough.)

But he was also, by that time, deeply wounded. I didn’t realize how much, but he had gone from his native Australia to Afghanistan and then to . In three years of conflict, he had picked up an addiction to that I would come to know as well. My friend Phil Zabriskie writes in TIME how damaged Ware would eventually become:

e’s camera catches a dazed, baleful expression across the Marine’s face. “I could see good men here losing their grip, losing themselves,” e narrates. He knows whereof he speaks, because the same thing, of course, was happening to him.

This became even more harder to ignore after e moved from TIME to CNN in mid-2006. Always high energy, he became increasingly manic and erratic. Friends and colleagues worried for his health and safety, concerned that the persona of Mick e, the madman Aussie correspondent who’d take risks others wouldn’t, was starting to obscure the excellent, often prescient work done by , the .

After he left , he was a mess, Phil writes. “He could barely function away from . He couldn’t sleep. He self-medicated. He saw roadside bombs when he drove and the faces of the dead when he closed his eyes.” He was suffering from serious . For a while, I had mild symptoms and likewise did reckless things. But e saw worlds worse than anything I encountered. “For a long time, e wanted to die,” Phil writes.

But thankfully, he found help. And now he’s telling the story of the as only can, using the (initially) haphazardly filmed conflict. We haven’t spoken in years, but I hope that changes. If he can come back, there’s hope for everyone.

So I’m eager to see the film tonight (old addictions never really go away), but I’m also dreading the memories it will serve up. We had car bombsfriends kidnapped, and yes, killed. I almost took a bullet in Najaf. was unimaginably dangerous for reporters from 2004-2008 (and more so for is), a fact that our stateside audience just never seemed to grasp, no matter how many were killed.

Anyway, e is right: Only the dead see the end of . It never leaves you. And I don’t know if you can ever make peace with it. Maybe there are only cease-fires.

Crossposted to truly, nomadly, deeply