Monday, May 28, 2007
The Sounds of War
You cannot wear your I pod in a war zone, as much as Apple might not like to hear this, sound is the one thing that is essential in war. There have been many words written about the fact that you never hear the bullet that kills you, because the sound of a bullet going past you means that the bullet has actually passed you. But then again who has ever asked someone who has died “Did you hear the bullet before it killed you”
I raise the issue as the first of my summer of trying to explain covering war and conflict because last night was the European Champions League Football Final being played in Athens between AC Milan and Liverpool, and rather than being seated in front of a TV screen in a bar drinking a cold beer. I was on a dark hillside on the Gaza border watching a 9 inch monitor of local TV under buzzing power lines trying to listen to the game on BBC World Service Radio on MW, remember that old format.
Now I was sure that no bullets were going to fly past me, maybe the odd Kassam Rocket launched out of Gaza could of interrupted me but the night had been relatively quiet by our standards only four rockets had been fired and all we could ascertain was that a cow and a horse had been killed in a field down the road. But every time you hear a distant thud I had to turn the radio down and jump to the camera.
So the sounds of war can disturb some important events like trying to listen to the most important game of the football year.
But sounds do interrupt my everyday life, as I write this somewhere in the neighbor hood there is a wedding with fireworks and these sounds make me think I am back in a war zone. A car back firing in a street makes me jump now and people look at me it is not a shell shock mentality but often-everyday sounds remind me of what war sounds. To the normal person this may sound silly but in the world of covering conflict so many sounds are similar it is just a matter of where you are at the time.
I remember during the worst times of the Iraq War, by this I mean those first few weeks during the invasion and entering Baghdad to block out the world I would get out my portable CD player, and put in my favorite CD and try to block out my fear and terror by listening to music, never during the worst of fighting because often the silence of war is the most scary time. Fear is when there is no sound around you and you are alone in your own world wondering what is about to happen. Silence is the scariest sound in a war zone; perhaps that is why no one ever hears the bullet that kills them.