The US occupation of Iraq and its violent legacy are recounted, sometimes in graphic detail, in the video diary of Australian journalist Michael Ware who found himself chosen to serve as al-Qaeda’s emissary to the West.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
Australian journalist Michael Ware spent almost seven years in Iraq, reporting for CNN and Time throughout the invasion of 2003 and the sectarian bloodbath the US-led attack unleashed. Along the way he kept a video diary – a dazed, chilling and close-up chronicle of war. While covering the mushrooming insurgency, Ware makes contact with militant fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, and finds himself hauled in by the group’s infamous, ruthless leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to be the chosen recipient of videotaped propaganda. Later he embeds with American troops in Fallujah, and then Ramadi, site of a fierce and bloody battle with insurgents. Al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006, but his methods and ideas persist in the now notorious extremist group ISIS – the same group that, in May 2015, seized Ramadi again, sending Iraqi soldiers fleeing. Over confronting, unsettling and at times appalling images, Ware speaks of a war ‘that shaved away at our souls’. Only the Dead presents the unvarnished, daily brutality meted out on all sides, the journalist’s creeping fear of complicity and Ware’s realisation he had ‘become a man I never thought I’d be’. — TM