An Intense War Story From Kurt Pitzer
Kurt Pitzer is a former commercial longline fisherman and relief worker who has reported from many of the world's turbulent regions, including the Balkans, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He was embedded with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division during the invasion of Iraq, then jumped his embed as Baghdad fell. He met Dr. Mahdi Obeidi soon afterward and helped him go public with Saddam Hussein's remaining nuclear secrets. He and Obeidi cowrote The Bomb in My Garden: The Secrets of Saddam's Nuclear Mastermind, which was published in paperback in September 2005.
Question: What has been your most surprising moment covering a story?
Pitzer: I was in Gaza Strip with a photographer some years ago while Arafat was still alive, and we were trying to talk our way into being hosted by the al-Aqsa Martys Brigade, which is a militant group. And it took a lot of groundwork to sort of ingratiate ourselves with them. And one day, they showed up in our guesthouse in a van and put some hoods over our heads and drove us around for about an hour. And by the time we got to their safe house, it was pretty late at night and they couldn’t reveal their identities to us so they were wearing hoods. And when it came out that I was American, the leader of this little band of al-Aqsa Martys kinda freaked out and got very angry and started shouting at me and my young translator was terrified and he was having trouble even translating clearly what the guy was saying. And I was sat down in a chair and there are a lot of very, sort of big guys with hoods with weapons whose muscling in on me. And he was harping on, “America, America,” and I was trying to find out from my translator what he was saying and hoping to break through and make a little, you know, change the topic somehow. And I finally told him I don’t live in America; I was living in Spain at the time. And mentioned, tell, I said tell him I’m a supporter of Real Madrid, the soccer team. And it sort of took him back a little. I can see his eyes through the ski mask and he sort of stop for a second. And he said, Zinedine Zidane who’s the player for Real Madrid an Algerian and a great hero to the people of that part of the world. And I said Zinedine Zidane, number one, Zizou. And this guy, suddenly his demeanor completely changed and he shook my hand and ordered tea, and some of the guys put down their weapons and went and got tea and we sat and we had tea. And the whole, the whole sort of atmosphere changed and eventually ski masks too came off and another guy came up and wanted me to feel his leg whether he’s really had broken his shin bone. And then wanted to tell me he learned his English, which was a few words, but he’d never left the Gaza Strip. I said, how did you learn your English? He said, movies. And then he asked me, you know, if I wanted to know his favorite movie, he asked me in English. I said, yes, he said “Being John Malkovich.” And I said, where did you get “Being John Malkovich” and I went through the translator. Apparently, a copy of it was being sold in a bazaar in Gaza City, and he loves this film, “Being John Malkovich.” And it’s those weird moments of surprise that I think are sort of a genuine stuff that we’re looking for as journalists, and often don’t make it into the newspaper and got left in the files on our computers and don’t actually got read. But it’s those little sparks of humanity that are common, you know, those things that you can relate to in your living room in New York, having just watch the same movie as a militant in Gaza, and those are some of the things we look for.
Kurt Pitzer tells how soccer star Zidane broke the ice with the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade.
- Bad outcomes get criticized as evidence of bad decisions, but that's not necessarily so.
- Here, poker pro Annie Duke desribes a simple thought experiment that separates decisions from outcomes.
- It is quite possible to make a very good decision that, due to external factors, results in a bad outcome.
Decide to Play Great Poker: A Strategy Guide to No-Limit Texas Hold '’Em
Lauren Miranda sent a nude selfie to a boyfriend years ago. Somehow one of her students discovered it.
- Math teacher Lauren Miranda was fired from her Long Island school when a topless selfie surfaced.
- Miranda had only shared the photo with her ex-boyfriend, who is also a teacher in the school district.
- She's suing the school for $3 million as well as getting her job back, citing gender discrimination.
If you're lacking confidence and feel like you could benefit from an ego boost, try writing your life story.
In truth, so much of what happens to us in life is random – we are pawns at the mercy of Lady Luck. To take ownership of our experiences and exert a feeling of control over our future, we tell stories about ourselves that weave meaning and continuity into our personal identity.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.