This is a sad day for me. I've lost friends in the post-9/11 wars, but the death of Anthony Shadid in Syria yesterday hits particularly hard. He was a terrific reporter. He also was one of the kindest people I've ever met. He was one of my heroes.
Back in 2003, even into early 2004, Anthony used to take taxis all over Baghdad. For fun he would drive down for lunch in Karbala, a town he enjoyed. When I was embedding with American troops, he would kind of embed with Sadr's people, going over to the eastern part of the city on Fridays to listen to the sermons. We'd sit at night and compare notes over Turkish beers. My favorite article that I ever did in Iraq was co-written with him, on June 2, 2003. It was the simplest of concepts: I walked with an American foot patrol in west Baghdad, and he (with the knowledge of the patrol) trailed us, talking to Iraqis about the American presence.
Unlike many reporters, Anthony also had humility. In 2004 I asked him a question about Iraqi politics. Anthony spoke Arabic fluently, and had knocked around Iraq before the invasion as well as after it. (His book Night Draws Near is for my money the best study of what the American occupation felt like to Iraqis.) He looked at me and said, "Actually, the more I know about Iraq, the less I understand it." Wise words. Wise man. A big loss for us all.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.