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The End of War for C.J. Chivers


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Geez, this poor guy.

We know this because of the work of C. J. Chivers of The New York Times, also a frequent contributor to Esquire, whose expertise in ballistics and battlefield tactics—and nearly unprecedented experience reporting from war zones—has made him the most important war correspondent of his time. Chivers suspected that Qaddafi was using the Spanish mortars, and it was when he went to prove it that a NATO jet on a bombing run tried to kill him.

By that April 2011, when Libya was collapsing into civil war, Chivers himself had been at war for ten years. He'd been in Afghanistan in November 2001, just after the bombing began, as he'd been in Iraq in March 2003, when the bombing began there—as he'd also been in lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11, and as he had been in every theater since, too many deployments for him to even remember, amounting to years away from his home, his wife, and his five small children, four boys and a girl.

The Times hired Chivers at age thirty-four in 1999 to cover war. That was the handshake, he says. A former Marine officer, he might know how to handle himself in a war zone, the paper figured. What the Times could not have known was that Chivers would develop a brand of journalism unique in the world for, among other things, its study of the weapons we use to kill one another. After reporting on a firefight—whether he was in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Ossetia, Libya, or Syria—he'd look for shell casings and ordnance fragments. If he was embedded with American soldiers or Marines, he'd ask them if he could look through what they had found for an hour or so—"finger fucking," he'd call it—and ask his photographer to take pictures of ammunition stamps and serial numbers. Over time and in this way he would reveal a vast world of small-arms trade and secret trafficking that no other journalist had known existed before.

And what no one could have known was that the experience Chivers has had at war would be a mirror for the experience of the United States over the same period. Only for him, that experience—and its damaging effects—has been far more personal.

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