But on the other hand, in the midst of the chaos, you find normal people. You find people who are willing to risk their lives to tell you what they saw, even though they have no dog in the fight.
When I see somebody being mistreated, my eyes tear up and I want to stop it. And I believe that the best thing I can do is to write about it, because if I insert myself into the equation it doesn't really do much good, but if I write about it I think it could do more good.
The one indication that I got that I was doing the right job in Bosnia was that at different periods of time all the factions came down very hard on me.
For me the much more significant question is what did the Americans do, if anything, to help the Croatian army, because they are the ones that changed fundamentally the map of Bosnia, not the Bosnian army.
I think to a certain extent in Bosnia and among the Hutus in Rwanda and also among the Tutsis in Rwanda who then took revenge on the Hutus, there is a sense of being swept up and a sense that the society in which they live has gone mad.
One of the problems that we have as American journalists is that we bring the American cultural baggage with us and we plop it down and it follows us around and that's just a fact of life.
And when they do spin out of control there are important ramifications that affect America, not just its direct national interest but its broader interests as a nation which has thought of itself as a beacon to other nations, of freedom, liberty, democracy, whatever.
I think some of the best reporters are the ones who can really illustrate the differences between societies, at the same time trying to connect the fact that there are a lot of shared values in addition to those differences.
Good journalism, I think, represents life and if you try to organize something too neatly it usually blows up in your face and doesn't really happen the way you want it to.
A lot of times when we work overseas we tend to put the experience of someone who lives overseas, a Chinese person or a Korean person or a Bosnian person, within the prism of an American life.
I grew up in New York City in the late '70s, at a time when U.S. - China relations were something that was on the front page of The New York Times on a regular basis.
I think that's the main threat in Bosnia and Rwanda and Zaire. There doesn't seem to be much willingness to engage these problems unless they directly affect national security interests.
I was fourteen when Kissinger made his secret trip to China, and then there was subsequently Nixon's trip to China, and I was very much seized with an interest in China.
I went back to the States and started at a small newspaper in Riverside County, California, covering the police; I was making $280 a week covering the police.