Anne Garrels, covered Iraq and other conflicts for NPR, dies at 71


An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Mrs. Garrels had died in Norwalk, Conn. She died at her home in Norfolk, Conn. The story has been corrected.

Anne Garrels, a TV reporter expelled from the Soviet Union, covered Central America’s civil wars and brought National Public Radio listeners to the heart of Baghdad during the US-led invasion of Iraq. led in 2003, died on 7 September at his home in Norfolk Conn. She is 71 years old.

Mrs. Garrels’ death from lung cancer was announced by NPRwhere she remained an occasional collaborator after retiring from full-time reporting in 2010.

“I didn’t aim to be a war correspondent,” she said in an interview on NPR in 2003. “Wars keep happening.”

Ms. Garrels became one of NPR’s most experienced voices from the field during conflicts and from flashpoints including China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy crowds in the Square. Tiananmen, Russia’s war in Chechnya in the 1990s, and the fall of Kabul to allied Western forces after September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

With her skillful use of natural sounds and vividly descriptive color palette, she has become a master of what is often considered the most compelling kind of war reportage: going beyond what foreign correspondents do. outside the so-called “bang-bang” daily and brings stories of people caught in the conflict and analyzes information on what may lie ahead.

Includes one of the indelible moments of the Iraq War – the overthrow of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad – Ms. Garrels correctly noted that the excitement about Hussein’s demise would soon fade and the Pentagon would likely face a long struggle against its adversaries. Western forces.

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In one oral history published by the Columbia Journalism Review, Ms. Garrels said her editors in Washington wondered if she missed the story and should emphasize the celebration. She stood firm. “Many people just stand still, hoping for the best,” she said, “but they are not happy.”

She was one of a handful of US media reporters in Baghdad during the first air strike in 2003 which the US military called a “shock and horror” operation. Her dispatches became the focus of NPR, depicting scenes in the Iraqi capital amid relentless attacks as US-led ground forces shut down.

On NPR’s “All Things Considered” on April 7, 2003, host John Ydstie asked Ms. Garrels to describe how Iraqis were dealing with turmoil, power outages, and confusion about timing. American forces could enter downtown Baghdad and the strongholds of the Hussein regime.

“People here are extremely scared. I mean this is what they fear the most, that war will be brought into the city,” she reported. “They are confused. They do not know who to believe, what news. … They just sit there in awe. “

Ydstie asked Ms. Garrels to tell the listener what she could see and hear.

“Lots of artillery, bombs, heavy machine guns, it was really the first time we heard that,” she said. “I have seen a lot [Iraqi] Republican Guard units outside the city today. … Many trenches have been dug or reinforced. “

The next day, as American forces pushed deeper into the city, an American tank fired a shell into the 15th floor of the city. Palestine Hotel, the base for Ms. Garrels and other journalists, overlooks the Tigris River in central Baghdad. The explosion killed Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and cameraman José Couso of Spanish television network Telecinco. An investigation by the Committee to Protect Journalists said US forces were intent on targeting a nearby Iraqi military position, but added that “the attack was aimed at journalists, despite unintentionally, is avoidable.”

Miss Garrels, who was uninjured, described how the battle unfolded from her window at the hotel.

“It was right in front of our eyes,” she said on NPR. “The fighting was extremely fierce. … Iraqis try to burn oil to hide their location”.

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During the height of the war, Ms. Garrels managed like any other reporter: keeping the bathtub full in anticipation of water cuts, working by candlelight or generators, snacking and, for some people, smoking – Mrs. Garrels’ favorites are the Kit Kat and the Marlboro Lamp.

Miss Garrels’ personal account of the war, “Naked in Baghdad,” (2003) mentions her habit of working in a hotel room without clothes as a security trick. If Iraqi security comes to her door, she explains, she can ask for time to get dressed – and allow her the opportunity to stash her satellite phone to avoid confiscation.

Amidst her countless compliments, including the 2003 George Polk Prize, Ms. Garrels has faced some criticism for a 2007 story on NPR that cited statements by former prisoners being tortured by Iraqi Shiite militias, which claimed they were purging prisoners. members for atrocities against civilians.

In an interview to NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Ms. Garrels said she had no idea the militiamen planned to take her to the tortured men. She also defended the report, saying that NPR had clarified the men abused while in custody and corroborated their claims.

“We were not informed that we would see victims of torture,” she said. “When we saw what we believed to be torture victims, we reported it. And finally, if you ignore the reality of what these groups are doing and don’t say that they torture these people, it’s even worse.”

Anne Longworth Garrels was born in Springfield, Mass., on July 2, 1951. She moved to England with her family at the age of eight after her father, a top executive at the agrochemical giant Monsanto, moved to London.

A longtime family friend, Peter Kazaras, director of UCLA Opera at the University of California at Los Angeles, said Ms. Garrels showed signs of journalism early on at the age of 4 at Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International). As she and her siblings waited for a flight to join their parents to Bermuda, she interviewed all the other passengers.

“She asked everyone, from an 80-year-old woman to a child, to turn out to be going to her father’s funeral,” Kazaras wrote in an email. “’Why did he die? How did he die?’ Anne asked. Her siblings tried to pull her away.”

After completing high school in England, she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in Russian.

Her language skills gave her many potential Cold War options, including government agencies. Her first job was with a publishing house in England, which led to journalism. In 1975, she began working as a researcher at ABC News and was later sent to Moscow. Her reporting on Soviet life, including housing shortages and suicides, puts her at odds with those interested in the Kremlin.

She was deported in 1982 after a stressful period after her car hit and killed a pedestrian she described as “drunk”. She was cleared of all charges, but she claims the investigation was used by authorities to keep her under pressure. I “found myself drawn into a political wilderness where there were no rules,” she wrote in the New York Times in 1986.

After Moscow, she was sent by ABC to cover conflicts in El Salvador, where the United States supported right-wing governments, and Nicaragua, where US-supported opposition parties were trying to overthrow politicians. Sandinista leftist leader. She returned to Washington in 1985 as a correspondent for the NBC State Department, covering the Reagan administration.

Ms. Garrels joined NPR in 1988 in Moscow just as the Soviet Union was beginning to unravel. Amid the chaotic aftermath, she begins to follow the lives of a group of people in Chelyabinsk, a city near Russia’s Ural Mountains. For two decades, she still follows their lives. The result is the 2016 book, “Putin Country: A Journey into True Russia”.

During the 1990s, she managed to reach the front lines in Chechnya to report despite Moscow’s control over media access to the self-ruled Muslim republic. In Afghanistan, she traveled by bus to reach the Northern Alliance, the US-backed force that first entered Kabul in 2001 to oust the Taliban. (Twenty years later, the Taliban regained control of the country.)

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Her husband of 30 years, James Vinton Lawrence, a former CIA agent who became an illustrator for New Republic and other outlets, died in 2016. Survivors include two stepdaughters, Rebecca Lawrence and Gabrielle Strand; Brother or brother; and a sister.

During the Iraq War, NPR was flooded with letters, emails and voice messages applauding Ms. Garrels’ protection and wishing her well-being. She mustered her own courage and often points to those caught in conflict as often showing real determination.

She once recounted a time when she and her Iraqi assistant, Amer, pulled an injured man out of a gunfight.

“When Amer and I washed the blood, [the man] looked at me with a smile and said with a little surprise, “You’re so brave,” she said. “I looked at his suit, now covered in blood, and told him so.”

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