The Digital Journalist

When I passed patients and medical employees with my camera equipment they gave me suspicious looks.
by Rafael Ben-Ari
"We are trying more to get the bad guys to use their resources to flee."
by Philip Poupin
As my senses returned, the first thing I was conscious of was agonized screaming.
by Danfung Dennis


In June we have three dispatches: Rafael Ben-Ari explores a groundbreaking medical procedure; Philip Poupin reports on the continued dangers of the Afghanistan war, and Danfung Dennis writes of the so-called American surge into the "self-sustaining" conflict in Iraq.

Rafael Ben-Ari had heard about Dr. Waismann's treatment of drug addicts at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, and went to talk to him. This meeting resulted in permission to photograph what must be a controversial process of sequenced treatments given to unconscious drug addicts that allow the patient to withdraw from an addiction of choice or accidental medical addiction while asleep.

In Afghanistan Philip Poupin was embedded with the Army that continues to search for and fight against the Taliban.

The Taliban, as Vali Nasr writes in his book, "The Shia Revival," is a Sunni extremist movement originating in southern Afghanistan. They fight to purify religious practice, "to create a 'true' Muslim community." (The Sunnis see the Shias as "deviants" within the Islamic tradition.) The Shias hear this as code for subjugation of the Shia population.

In Iraq, Danfung Dennis records one segment of the American "surge." The troops are wading into a centuries-old conflict between the Shias and the Sunnis. He correctly points out that the core of the struggle concerns the rightful succession after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Simply—as I understand it—the Shias looked to the Prophet's family for their spiritual insights. That is, to Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, and to Ali's son Hussein for whom Ashura is observed. The great religious teachers are called "imams" and sometimes "ayatollah." The Sunnis followed the tribal tradition of choosing the most respected and senior figure and they chose Muhammad's father-in-law and other of the Prophet's close friends to succeed him as leader. Their title became "caliph." As a consequence the groups have two entirely different worldviews. Author Vali Nasr writes that they see Islamic history, theology and law very differently.

It is this 7th-century divide that underlies the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Marianne Fulton
Dispatches Editor

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