In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars


Kevin Sites is a man on a mission. Venturing alone into the dark heart of war, armed with just a video camera, a digital camera, a laptop, and a satellite modem, the award-winning journalist covered virtually every major global hot spot as the first Internet correspondent for Yahoo! News. Beginning his journey with the anarchic chaos of Somalia in September 2005 and ending with the Israeli-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006, Sites talks with rebels and government troops, child soldiers and child brides, and ...

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In the Hot Zone

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Kevin Sites is a man on a mission. Venturing alone into the dark heart of war, armed with just a video camera, a digital camera, a laptop, and a satellite modem, the award-winning journalist covered virtually every major global hot spot as the first Internet correspondent for Yahoo! News. Beginning his journey with the anarchic chaos of Somalia in September 2005 and ending with the Israeli-Hezbollah war in the summer of 2006, Sites talks with rebels and government troops, child soldiers and child brides, and features the people on every side, including those caught in the cross fire. His honest reporting helps destroy the myths of war by putting a human face on war's inhumanity. Personally, Sites will come to discover that the greatest danger he faces may not be from bombs and bullets, but from the unsettling power of the truth.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Post
“Kevin Sites represents the next step in the evolution of journalism.”
Kirkus Reviews
An online reporter visits some of the world's nastiest places, where wars rage and ordinary people with extraordinary courage suffer unspeakable pain and loss. Freelancing for NBC News in 2004, Sites shot the controversial footage seen around the world of a Marine murdering a helpless wounded Iraqi in a mosque. That episode and its aftermath, followed by his coverage of the 2004 tsunami (he happened to be scuba diving in the most affected region), form a prologue to the main story. When NBC offered him a staff job on the condition that he get a haircut, shave his goatee and go to "correspondent ‘boot camp,' " Sites turned instead to Yahoo! News to develop his "Hot Zone" project: a website featuring footage, text and slide shows from the world's most searing spots. From September 2005 to August 2006, he skimmed the globe, stopping for brief periods to interview locals; observe battles; visit hospitals, morgues and ruined neighborhoods; and, when madness threatened, to surf or kick around a soccer ball with some teenagers. On his itinerary: Mogadishu, the Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Israel and just about every other place where people were killing one another for reasons ranging from religious differences to territorial disputes. Sites believes that a single individual's story can often be the best way to make us see vast landscapes of brutality and suffering, and so he tells us about people who've lost limbs to land mines, entire families to a tsunami, a husband to errant shrapnel, a future to the insidious workings of Agent Orange. "War poses as combat, but is really collateral damage," he writes. "The actual fighting between armed groups is a small andinfrequent element, while the violence they radiate on civil society and themselves will last for generations."The snapshot format necessarily risks superficiality, but these images and dispatches from the numberless rooms of hell have an undeniable cumulative power.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061228759
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/16/2007
  • Edition description: Includes A World of Conflict Bonus DVD
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,127,402
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Sites has spent the past decade covering global war and disaster for ABC, NBC, CNN and Yahoo! News. One of the first "backpack journalists," Sites helped pioneer the more mobile, less-intrusive profile of today's digital reporters. He is the author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars. He lives and works in Hong Kong.

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Read an Excerpt

In the Hot Zone

One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars
By Kevin Sites

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Kevin Sites
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061228759

Chapter One

Burdens of War

The Mosque Shooting

Falluja, Iraq
November 13, 2004


The carpet of the mosque is stained with blood and covered with fragments of concrete. Tank shells and machine-gun rounds have pitted the inside walls. The rotting, sweet smell of death hangs in the morning air.

Gunsmoke-laced sunbeams illuminate the bodies of four Iraqi insurgents. A fifth lies next to a column, his entire body covered by a blanket.

I shudder. Something very wrong has happened here.

Yesterday I had seen these same five men being treated by American medics for superficial wounds received during an afternoon firefight. Ten other insurgents had been killed, their bodies still scattered around the main hall in the black bags into which the Marines had placed them.

I was told by the commander of the 3.1 Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Willy Buhl, that these five wounded, captured enemy combatants would be transported to the rear. But now I can see that one of them appears dead and the three others are slowly bleeding to death from gunshots fired by one lance corporal, I will learn later, who used both his M-16 and his 9 mm pistolon them, just minutes before I arrived.

With my camera rolling, I walk toward the old man in the red kaffiyeh and kneel beside him. Because he was so old, maybe in his early sixties, and wearing the red headgear, he had stood out the most to me when I was videotaping the day before, after the battle.

Now the old man is struggling to breathe. Oxygenated blood bubbles from his nose. Another man, stocky and dressed in a long gray shirt called a dishdasha, is slumped in the old man's lap. While I'm taping, the old man is bleeding to death in front of my camera. I look up to see the lance corporal who had just shot all of them moments before, now walking up to the other two insurgents against the wall, twenty feet away. One is facedown, apparently already dead. The other, dressed in an Iraqi Police uniform, is faceupbut motionless, aside from his breathing.

The lance corporal says, "Hey, this one's still breathing." Another agrees, "Yeah, he's breathing." There is tension in the room, but I continue to roll on the man in the red kaffiyeh.

"He's fucking faking he's dead," the lance corporal says, now standing right in front of the man.

The Embed

As a freelance correspondent for NBC News, I embedded with the Third Battalion, First Marine (Regiment) for three weeks prior to the Battle of Falluja, or what the Americans code-named Operation Phantom Fury and what the Iraqi interim government called Operation Al Fajr, or "The Dawn."

The mission has a clear but complicated objective; take back the restive city of Falluja from the insurgents who had been running the place for the last eight months.

In the time leading up to the battle, I have developed a good relationship with my unit. The Marines see that I'm a television reporter working solo—shooting, writing and transmitting my reports without a crew—and they tell me they like my self-reliance. I tell them it's a necessity, because no one wants to work with me anymore. Television news is the ultimate collaborative medium, but by being recklessly aggressive, low on the network food chain (a producer turned reporter) and eager to go it alone to uncomfortable locations, it has not been difficult to convince news managers to let me do just that.

The Marines also like the fact that I write an independent war blog, which NBC allowed me to keep as a freelancer, where I post longer, more detailed and personal stories about my experiences.

Inspired by Tim O'Brien's book The Things They Carried, in which he describes the items, both literal and figurative, that each man in a U.S. Army platoon carried on a jungle march through Vietnam, I ask the Marines to show me the same. They pull out rosaries, Saint Christopher medals, photographs of their wives and children taped inside their Kevlar helmets.

I snap their pictures and post them on the site. Their families, eager for information about their loved ones, come to my blog in droves. They post responses, thanking me for allowing them to see the faces of their sons, husbands, brothers. Soon, however, those messages of gratitude will be replaced with hate mail and death threats.

Camp Abu Ghraib

We are on a small, dusty satellite base near Camp Falluja, the First Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters. Like the infamous, scandal-ridden prison, the base is named Camp Abu Ghraib. It is a sprawling compound ringed by dirt walls, large concrete slabs, concertina wire and gravel-filled wire baskets called HESCO barriers.

In this time of waiting, when I've finished filing my reports for the day, I sometimes jog around the base on a makeshift track just inside the walls. It's an incongruous but now-common experience to run in the golden light of dusk, passing the guard towers with their .50-caliber machine guns and the brig at a far end of the base quadrant where Iraqi prisoners are temporarily held before being transferred to the real Abu Ghraib prison.

Inside, I see Marines tossing a football, walking to the chow hall, cleaning their weapons. I hear the clank of weights being dropped and a boombox blasting from the tent that houses their surprisingly well-equipped gym. On the outside I see red skies over Falluja as the sun drops to the horizon.

Four horsemen

I made friends with three country Marines and a navy medic who provide security for the base—and who, in the course of their duties, confiscated four horses from Iraqi men who came too close to the base with carts, supposedly to collect scrap metal.

Corporal David Harris, Lance Corporal Kenny Craig, Corporal Lloyd Williams and Corpsman Michael Driver use their own money to pay for hay brought in from Baghdad to feed those malnourished horses. In an effort to re-create a little piece of home, they're trying to train the cart-hauling horses to be ridden.


Excerpted from In the Hot Zone by Kevin Sites Copyright © 2007 by Kevin Sites. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2011

    All Sides of the Story

    The perfect book for anyone who is interested in Social justice and public affairs. This will definitely bring new insights to the way you regard people from other nations. As a journalist, this was a book that was needed in this field.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2008

    A reviewer

    I first heard of Kevin Sites when he came to give a talk to a journalism class at my school, which I crashed. Because I had heard him speak, I admit that I was predisposed to like this book. What he attempted to do was amazing, and I was very glad to find this book at the airport bookshop while I was waiting for my flight. This book, though billed as 'current events' is more of a memoir as he recounts his personal experiences in the war zones he covers. He gives the basic history of each of the conflict zones he covers, but what he does that is more valuable, in my opinion, is give a human face to the conflict. He tells the stories of those affected by these wars: the innocent bystanders, the soldiers, and the victims. I wish he could have given more depth to each but it was a necessary weakness when he was only in each area for a few short weeks.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2008

    A reviewer

    Very self important, and ultimately hollow. I won't be sorry to see the end of personality 'journalism.'

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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