A blood-soaked tale drawn from yesterday’s headlines—but news stories that too few Westerners ever bothered to read.
“If I ever get killed covering killing,” writes world-roving TV stringer Goltz, “I would like to state right now that the only person more foolish than me for getting into such a situation would be anyone who would describe my having done so as courageous.” Yet that’s the business of war-and-mayhem junkies such as Goltz, and he lives up to the foolishness, almost getting terminated here for working a tripod-mounted camera that looked just like a recoilless rifle, almost buying it there for having crossed the path of the wrong bunch of Russian commandos. He also sets objectivity by the door early on, and it’s clear that his sympathies lie with the Chechen rebels who throughout the 1990s resisted the invitation of the new Russian Federation to remain part of the team, a status Chechens had been busy declining for hundreds of years. The recent (and ongoing) conflict, Goltz writes, can be seen as “merely the most recent attempt by Moscow, repeated approximately every 50 years, to eradicate the Chechens from the face of the earth”—a view he doesn’t necessarily hold himself, but one widely shared by the Chechens, even those who signed up with Al Qaeda to fight Americans instead of their hated Russian foes. Goltz wanders in and out of savage battle scenes and vicious massacres, camera in hand, looking for the big story that will finally put Chechnya at least somewhere in the consciousness of news producers back home; and he finds it in a little village called Samashki, “the place of the deer,” soon to become the site of a bloodbath that even Moscow television would equate with “Lidice, Khatyn, and Son My.”
Goltz’s worm’s-eye view of the work of gathering news in a war zone will intrigue students of journalism and the media, as well as those who follow wars in remote corners of the planet.