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Explicitly honest account from top war correspondent
on 4 January 2014
War Stories is Jeremy Bowen's explicitly honest account of becoming hooked on what he calls `the war drug' while working as a foreign correspondent for the BBC.
Bowen joined the BBC in 1984. His big break was covering the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 which provided the stepping stone to his first assignment in war-torn El-Salvador in 1989 where Bowen had his first hit of the war drug.
For the first time Bowen was close enough to the action to get killed. It was the first time he heard the whizz-snap sound of a bullet passing inches from his head. But he found it hard to realise the bullets and the dangers posed to him were real. After surviving his trial by fire Bowen claims the experience was exciting, as though he was staring in an action movie.
Bowen has covered conflicts in El-Salvador, Iraq, Bosnia, Chechnya and Lebanon. The majority of his coverage focuses on the human aspect of war, about how civilians who are caught up in conflict are affected and how war irreversibly changes lives.
But, reporting in this fashion took a heavy toll on his conscience and throughout the book Jeremy advocates a stark and clear message: For a journalist reporting from a war zone to have a good day somebody else must have a very bad day.
In Lebanon in 2000 the risks foreign correspondents face were brought to the fore. While doing a piece to camera Bowen's driver was killed when an Israeli tank blew up their car. Machine gun fire had Bowen pinned down and he was unable to reach his stricken friend.
After this, Bowen began to realise the lack of power he held over his own fate. The birth of Bowen's daughter meant he now had a greater responsibility to his family than to reporting. Being a father held precedence over furthering his career and he found solace in playing a role in his children's lives.
In the end, he says he had to choose. After all, war reporting is not an action movie. The explosions, the bullets and the deaths are all far too real.