Photography: Foreign Fighters
A U.S. army infantry unit patrols a stretch of farmland in Iraq's Diyala province, a strategically important region on the country's border with Iran, for years beset by sectarian violence. The unit's commander approaches a farmer, trying to strike up a conversation. 'Seen any foreign fighters around here?' the commander asks. 'Yes. You', the farmer replies.
This anecdote related to me by a veteran foreign correspondent best describes my experiences of covering the U.S. occupation and the civil war in Iraq. The decision to invade Iraq after 9/11, as well as the deeply flawed strategy and tactics behind the occupation pushed the country into a perpetual state of chaos and violence that persists to the present day. U.S. troops on the ground remained foreign to the society and culture they were occupying, alienated from the everyday lives of people around them.