Absurdistan by Eric Campbell

Eric Campbell is an Australian journalist who has spent years in some of the craziest war zones on the planet. Absurdistan is the memoir of his work.

On March 18, 2003, Campbell arrived in Kurdistan to cover the opening days of the Iraq war for ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). At the border, he met Paul Moran, sent to be his cameraman. Two American journalists were also at the border:
One of them ... mentioned he was working with "another Aussie," a Time magazine writer called Michael Ware. "I'll tell him you're here," he promised.
Four days later, having traveled from the main city of Suleimaniyah to a villiage near Halabja that the American forces had struck in an air raid, a car bomb exploded as Paul was filming. He was killed instantly; several others, including Campbell, were wounded.
After the explosion, Campbell is taken to a hospital for treatment of the wounds he suffered. Once bandaged, he borrows a phone from another journalist and calls his boss, then his wife, then his boss again. They have been trying to reach Paul's wife Ivana, but have been unable to reach her...
I wandered around in a daze, avoiding the eyes of the other journalists in the hospital. I wanted to keep Paul's name and my name secret until John contacted Ivana, in case she heard on the radio that her husband was dead. It was better that nobody know I was here, better that I didn't exist.
I slumped on the ground and closed my eyes, feeling as if I was sinking into a black pool and not caring if I was drowning. Someone's voice called me back. It was an Australian man shouting, "Is Eric here?" I didn't want to answer but he saw my bandages and came to me, holding my shoulders and looking straight into my eyes.
"My name is Michael Ware. I'm going to help you."
He gave me his jacket, saying it was to stop me going into shock. He told me to sit still and stay warm, saying he would take care of everything. I remembered dimly he was the Australian from Time magazine who was working with the Americans we had met. He was younger than I was but he already seemed hardened by the work he did. I thought he looked more like a soldier than a journalist. He had a strong build, thick stubble and an intense gaze that made him appear absolutely focused.
A carload of Kurdish soldiers pulled up at the hospital. They had brought Paul's body in the boot. The American women told me not to look but I had to identify him. It was so wrong for him to be loaded in like baggage. Michael arranged for Paul to be brought back to Suleimaniyah in another car. I drove back with Michael. On the way I used his phone to tell my father I was alive and then let Michael take over everything. He found the Red Cross, the best hope we had of getting out of Iraq. "We have one Australian journalist dead, another wounded," he shouted down the phone. "They need to be evacuated."
We stopped at the main hospital in Suleimaniyah. All the victims of the bombing had been brought here, in varying stages of agony and mutilation. I lay among them for a while. Then a doctor who spoke some English took me to a private room.
A French crew tried to interview me but I told them Paul's wife didn't know what had happened yet so I couldn't do any interviews. They argued and Michael threw them out, shouting, "This is non-negotiable. Fuck off!" An orderly smoked as he re-dressed my wounds. I thought, what the hell, and began smoking too.
More air strikes were expected on the Iraqi positions so Michael had to go back to the front to spend the night. But he told me I could have his room at the city's good hotel, where most of the journalists were staying.
Two days later I was back at the border post where I'd first met Paul. He was now in a coffin in the Red Cross car behind me.
Paul Moran was the first journalist to die in Iraq. The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has the following information posted:
Paul Moran, freelance, March 22, 2003, Gerdigo

Moran, a free-lance cameraman on assignment for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), was killed in a suicide bombing when a man detonated a car at a checkpoint in northeastern Iraq. Another Australian journalist, ABC correspondent Eric Campbell, was injured in the incident.

Michael Ware, Time magazine's northern Iraq correspondent and a witness to the incident, told his editor, Howard Chua-Eoan, that several foreign journalists were standing outside a checkpoint on the edge of Gerdigo, a town in northern Iraq near Halabja, interviewing people who were leaving the town in the wake of a U.S. cruise missile bombardment that began on March 21 and continued until the next day.

U.S. missiles were targeting strongholds of Ansar al-Islam, a militant group that the United States designates as a terrorist organization. The area where the journalists were conducting interviews was reportedly under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a rival of Ansar al-Islam that had just taken over the area.

At around 3 p.m., a taxi drove to the checkpoint near PUK soldiers and Moran, and the driver then detonated his vehicle. Most of the other journalists had just left the scene. Moran, who was filming at the time, was standing only a few feet from the checkpoint and was killed immediately. Campbell was injured by shrapnel.

Chua-Eoan said it appeared that the bomber was targeting the PUK soldiers, not the journalists. According to The Associated Press, at least four other people were killed in the bombing. Militants from Ansar al-Islam are believed to be responsible for the attack.

Chua-Eoan told CPJ that foreign journalists in northern Iraq had recently received warnings from U.S. State Department and Kurdish intelligence officials that Ansar al-Islam may target members of the media, as well as the hotel where most journalists are staying, the Sulaymaniyeh Palace.