Since the 9/11 attack, editors, reporters, and photographers working for The Associated Press and Stars and Stripes have covered the war on terrorism every single day — following troops, living alongside them during conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, and gaining the trust of warfighters so they are more willing to tell their stories to readers back home.
Current and former AP and Stars and Stripes journalists share their perspectives on covering the war on terrorism two decades after it all began.
Photojournalist, The Associated Press (1999-2007); Middle East Reporter, Stars and Stripes (2011-2013)
Rauch is a photojournalist who worked as an AP western regional photographer and spent much of that time embedded with troops, capturing powerful images on the ground.
What does it mean to be a journalist in a war zone? “I’ve been shot at, beaten, attacked, but it doesn’t matter. I have to put my foot down anywhere a U.S. service member is made to put his/her foot. That’s what the job calls for. I had to work hard to gain the trust of men and women fighting this war. They had to know I would get the story right. I’d tell the truth.”
How did covering the war change you? “There is no question covering the war in Iraq changed me. That war was different. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t draw on my experience from my time there. I think journalism has changed with the advent of social media; community papers are disappearing. It’s a mistake of epic portions.”
Various roles, The Associated Press (1982-2014); Senior Managing Editor, Stars and Stripes (2014-present)
Bob Reid spent more than four decades at the AP and Stars and Stripes, covering stories around the world. His passion for journalism is infectious, and his commitment to truth is evident in the large body of work he’s published. Reid started his career in Army intelligence.
How has journalism changed over the last two decades? “It’s changed a lot, the collapse of newspapers and television stations. Google, Yahoo, and other online social media sites have gobbled up advertising and the money that was traditionally available to news stations and papers. Many so-called news stations just reinforce what you already know. It’s become a tribalization of the media. There is a lot less reporting these days.”
Is there a story that left an impact on you? “There are so many. I did a story about the bombing of Kabul — before the city fell in October 2001 — the American military was trying to take communication towers. And people lived near the foothills of communication towers. If they bombed the towers, the shrapnel from the bomb was hitting the town. I remember there was a boy in the hospital; why is he paying the price for this? The U.S. mission was bedeviled by civilian casualties. We went in to fight Al Qaeda, but we ended up killing many Afghans.”
Legislative Relief Reporter, The Associated Press (2014); Foreign Correspondent, Stars and Stripes (2016-present)
Garland is currently working the Afghanistan desk for Stars and Stripes from Kaiserslautern, Germany. He’s a Marine veteran but transitioned to the role of journalist for the AP, Los Angeles Times, and other media outlets.
Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001? “I was a Marine working in an office building on Fort Meade when the planes hit the towers. I spent the rest of that day and several more on duty at the base gates as armed overwatch because initially, officials believed a white van full of Arab men was traveling down I-95 headed for military or government facilities in the D.C. region.”
What are some of your thoughts as this conflict for American military comes to a close? “While the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan, thousands of troops will remain on duty in the broader region, where violent extremist and terrorist threats are ongoing. While we might be tempted to turn our attention away from that region or from the issue of terrorism, we should remain informed, especially with some viewing the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as an embarrassing defeat. There are failures the U.S. or its allies must own. But it was certainly not all a waste. Many in that country have experienced greater security, freedom of expression, participation in civic life and trade, education, and more. There’s little more the U.S. could have done militarily, though. It was always ultimately going to come down to the Afghans to secure, govern, and shape their country and society without us.”
Bureau Chief, Europe and Middle East, Stars and Stripes (2017-present)
Slavin has spent the last 17 years reporting on issues that matter to military service members. He’s worked in both Asia and Europe, focusing on defense-related stories. He’s currently in Germany covering news in Europe and the Middle East.
Is there a story you covered that had a lasting impact on you? “One made an impact. I told the story of a son and a spouse, and the loved one they lost to PTSD. He spent 38 years in uniform and working as a civilian for the DIA in some of the world’s toughest places. It broke him. None of the institutions he worked for got him the help he needed. It’s stuck with me.”
Any closing thoughts as we reach this milestone?
“I hope that in conflict zones, the U.S. military returns to greater transparency on the ground. There was actually more access when the wars were bigger and more dangerous. We all understand that some matters need to be kept secret, perhaps no one more so in journalism than Stars and Stripes. But a lot doesn’t need to be kept secret. Letting America see what its military is doing is always beneficial, whether it reflects heroism, the daily grind, or something going wrong. It allows the public to recognize the best in people and fix what needs to be addressed most.”