August 20, 2004 4:21 p.m.
At the start of the second Chechen war, as an experiment, the Russian military let us travel to the town of Gudermes. It was the place the Russians had all their forces — where they spent their money. After destroying the capital of Grozny, the Russians planned to make Gudermes the capital. I went with a heavy Russian cameraman and a heavy Russian sound tech. One old man we interviewed said he was tired of the rebels and was tired of the soldiers; he just wanted to raise his chickens and send his kids to school.
That was the line the Russians were looking for. The top general in Moscow said to give us carte blanche. So we went on to Mozdok, the Russian military headquarters for Chechnya. To get on to the base you had to have a card and be met by a lieutenant and a jeep. Since transport was in short supply this could take hours. I suggested to the lieutenant that we pay money to rent a military jeep. The lieutenant said he could not accept cash, but that the Press Center did not have a fax machine.
The Russian Army Press Center in Mozdok not only did not have a fax machine, it did not have a television. A nuclear power was fighting a war on its own territory and the colonels responsible for the media had no TV. They had no fax, no computers and most of the time their phone did not work. They were in charge of communications and they couldn't even call their wives!
In week one we bought them a fax machine. I put it in the back of the jeep. Week two a television, the largest color set available in Mozdok. It barely fit in the jeep. The colonels now called their wives on our satellite phone. Getting on the base was no longer a problem.
Once you got on the base, there was a wooden shack where the press waited. You paced in the frozen mud with the Russian journalists until a bus came. The bus took you to a helicopter that took you to a battle. The helicopter could hold only 20 people; sometimes there were fewer seats for reporters.
Whether you got on or not depended on your story the day before, and your relationship with the colonel, Alexander Alexandrovitch, or, as he was called for short, San Sanitch. San Sanitch was in his forties, liked to drink, but what he really liked to do was to stand behind a general who was being interviewed on TV, so he could be seen in the backround. On a good day, San Sanitch would be in the backround on all three Russian news channels.
Incredible! Wonderful blog entry.
Mr. Harrigan –
9/11 seemed surreal even to those of us in the States, let alone those abroad. I now understand why many people felt it necessary to visit NYC soon after 9/11, to stop by ground zero, to look into the pit, to take in the destruction, to make it part of their own personal memories. Events like sometimes help clarify our priorities and purposes. Thanks for the blogs.
— Jan (Atlanta, Georgia)
— Sandra (Elwood, In)
This is my third war. Probably ones that you were not out of school or old enough to see first hand. Your ability to report calmly and accurately amazes me. I'd be happy to shake your hand and give you some security if you ever get to my area of operations. You are articulate and as real as any American Press Rep that ever sent words home from bad places. Take care, Steve, Good Luck only lasts so long! Keep Your Head Down and Drive On!
I love reading your stories and hearing your reports on FOX. You are a terrific reporter! I know it can't always be easy, but just know that there are lots of us waiting to read your blogs and hear your reports. Thanks a lot for all of your hard work!
Thanks as always for your wonderful blogs. I am printing them — you are now in a three-ring notebook. When your blog novel ends, I might bind you in duct tape; seems appropriate for our times.
First I must tell you my Mother has said "I really don't want him to go back to Iraq." She's pretty much telling you that you can't go. But you know how Moms are. I live with my Mom and she was leaving on Sept. 11 to help her 90-year-old sister move. She left just as the first plane hit. When she got there, her sisters did not want to watch, not having grasped the big picture. I was alone watching with disbelief as the events unfolded. It's strange how these things are so compelling to watch on TV, so far removed in Kansas, but something that will change your life forever.
As always be safe and thanks for all your good work. — Donna
Wow, I amazed! I just read your article about Chechnya. God has truly blessed you with the ability to evoke feelings and emotions in your writings. In your case, your writing conveys more than pictures ever could. God Bless!
Very Best Regards,
Butch (New Orleans, La.)
Steve, I've watched you with admiration from the start of this war. You're a gutsy guy, a stalwart. You report concisely and with passion. I'm easily old enough to be your mother, and I worry about you as well as all our people there. Stay safe.
— Vera (Monroe, CT)
Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.