A Beating in the Dark

E-mail Steve

August 23,  2004  6:50 a.m.

The first impression you got walking into a giant Russian Army tent in Chechnya is that everything is in soft focus. There is a strange light and smoke and smell from kerosene that is burning to keep the tent warm. It is crowded with hanging clothes and people and guitars and dominoes and shadows and hammocks and bunks. It is never warm, so you sleep in your winter coat, and it is never quiet. All the time there is coughing; not like the flu, but a tuberculosis cough — long, 20 or 30 seconds, aaaahh. It's a cough that seems to never end, that scares you and prevents you from sleeping as it echoes around in the halos and stink of the kerosene. Wrapped up in a sheepskin coat down to your ankles, with the top of the tent a few inches
from your face in a narrow, sagging bunk, you feel like you're trapped at the bottom of the sea.

For 11 weeks I lived with Russian soldiers waiting for Grozny to fall. Three times a day in the mess tent across the mud I ate as fast as I could, buckwheat with either canned fish or canned meat on top, brown sauce, pig fat, black bread, and tea with sugar. When a table became free, soldiers filled it up, sitting down all at the same time and racing through the food. When the highest rank got up everyone left, as people were waiting.

The worst thing I saw in the second Chechen War was not on the battlefield. It was in the tent. The soldiers were drunk. A young man climbed on the bunk of a middle-aged sergeant and began beating him. He kneeled on him and punched his face with one arm after the other, left right, left right. The older man cried out to stop, but the drunken man was accusing him of something in a hateful, scornful voice and the beating continued. The guy in the bunk next to me started to get up and another soldier asked him if he wanted to die. So no one interfered and I lay there in the bunk. The only sound was the left, right against the sergeant's face...

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Hi Steve,
I look forward to your live reports and I always check online for your articles.  Checking in on foxnews.com is a part of my daily lunch break. Your story about 'white cat' is my favorite.  Thank you for your raw candor.  Your words take us places we may never see.  I appreciate your dedication in bringing us the stories from the worst of places with your thought  provoking reporting. 
Stay safe and keep up the good work.  I hope 'white cat' is still safe, too..
— Janet (Portland, OR)

Incredible! Wonderful blog entry.

— J

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)


Yesterday I sat and read all of your blogs. You have a soul of great kindness and the heart of a lion for getting the story.  Stay safe. Each blog brought so much emotion I felt I could see through your eyes...

— 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!
SFC Tim 

Dear Steve,

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!



As I suspected, your are truly a gentle human being. Thank You for being there for the rest of us.
— Sandra (Kearns, Utah)


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

Dear Steve,

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)


Your blog brought back some not-so-fond memories of nighttime raids on a Navy destroyer against North Viet Nam.  It was scary then, too, because the North Vietnamese shot back.  Big time.  And they were good, too.  Their shells hit within 25 ft. of the ship.  Fortunately they were going for direct hits and didn't try for air bursts near the ship. That would have been fatal for us exposed on the bridge. 
But being inside a tin can in the dark with people shooting at you is no fun.  It's exhilerating, but no fun, and I remembered it well as I read your blog. Thanks.  I think.
— Glen (Belton, TX)

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.