Trouble Spots

Two of our writers get into the thick of things in Uganda and Afghanistan

Paul Raffaele says that reporting the story of a rebel, cult army that abducts children ("Uganda: The Horror") was the most profoundly disturbing assignment of his long journalism career. And that includes covering the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia and the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. "Every day for the better part of a month," Raffaele says, "I sat with children in [the northern Uganda town of] Gulu and listened to their stories. They were so horrific that I began to have nightmares every night about the Lord's Resistance Army, as the cult calls itself." Only when he returned home to Sydney, Australia, did the nightmares subside. Then, preparing to write, Raffaele began reviewing tapes he had made of his interviews with the children. The nightmares returned. "If listening to the stories caused such a severe reaction," he says, "I can't begin to imagine what mental torture the children who were forced to kill their parents or kill other children must be experiencing." We agree with Raffaele that it's a profoundly disturbing story. For just that reason it is profoundly important that it be told.

Working as a reporter in Afghanistan, says Pamela Constable, who was based there for nearly three years for the Washington Post and reflects upon that experience for Smithsonian ("Assignment Afghanistan"), "can give one a unique perspective." To wit: Constable was visiting a remote village where there was no bathroom or shower and the only place to sleep was on the floor of a police station. She was interviewing local poppy farmers and high-school teachers when she got a call on her portable satellite phone from a radio station in the United States. The caller wanted to ask her about the then-raging debate over whether women singers should be shown on Afghan television and how much of their heads female newscasters should cover with veils. "Then the radio interviewer asked me if I wanted to comment on the Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake story. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. When she explained what had happened at the Super Bowl, I burst out laughing. In Afghanistan, where women were taking baby steps to challenge the forces of fundamentalism by letting an inch of hair show on TV—and where 25 million people were struggling to overcome decades of war and drought and desperate poverty—the Super Bowl seemed very, very far away."

A Call For Submissions

For an article about the end of World War II, we are inviting readers to tell us, in 250 words or less, where you were and how you reacted to the news of August 15, 1945. We also welcome photographs, but please send copies only; we cannot return anything. Mail your entries to MRC 951-c, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, D.C. 20013-7012 or e-mail them to [email protected] by May 1, 2005. Our thanks.

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