Magazine article The New Yorker

Dirty Wars

Magazine article The New Yorker

Dirty Wars

Article excerpt


Paul Burton, a retired British commando, was in Washington, D.C., recently to brief a group of journalists on how they might survive a week in Cleveland. "Don't wear black," he said. "You don't want to look like one of those anarchist photographers." Burton took part in the invasion of the Falkland Islands and ran operations in Northern Ireland. He is now the training director for Global Journalist Security, an outfit that specializes in preparing reporters and aid workers for hostile environments. That often means war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, but Burton, having noted the scuffles that have been breaking out at Donald Trump's rallies, designed a new course specifically for journalists covering the upcoming Conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

"Trump's supporters have been primed to be aggressive," Burton told the five journalists (all of whom asked to remain anonymous), in a warehouse north of town. They had each paid $1,195 to take the course. A bookshelf next to Burton contained titles on ballistics, dirty wars, and battlefield medicine. He went on, "We've got a feeling something may happen, especially if Trump doesn't get what he wants."

Burton clicked through some photographs projected on a wall and paused at an image. "What do you think of that one?" he asked the journalists. It showed the husks of two burned cars on a street in Baltimore, in 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray, with police in the foreground and protesters in the background. "Are we safe?"

A cameraman with curly hair spoke up. "I was about fifty feet behind that. It was not a safe place," he said.

Another picture from Baltimore showed two men on the ground--a middle-aged Latino and an elderly white man. An African-American man was kicking the Latino in the ribs, while a crowd watched.

"That's my picture," a photographer wearing cargo pants and a safari shirt said. A gas mask was strapped to his thigh.

Burton replied, "That's your picture? Wow! Well done."

"I'm a little far away," the photographer said. "I shot this with a 70-200"--a telephoto lens. Burton asked why the men were attacked.

"Wrong place, wrong time."

Burton pressed: "If they were a different color skin, would they have gotten attacked?" He added, "I don't like to go down that road, but we do have to think about it."

Natalie Potell, an E. …

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