Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal
Canadian Hero
Robert J. Galbraith

Eyewitness to War
Institute Staff 1 December 2006  


Robert Galbraith speaking at an Institute Conference on “Canada and Kandahar”
March 18th, 2006 – Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Montreal



Robert Galbraith is  one of the leading war photojournalists of this generation. Galbraith’s career in journalism spans twenty years. He has written and/or photographed for numerous publications in North America and Europe including the New York Times. His reputation reached new heights when he published “Iraq: Eyewitness to War – A Photojournalist’s Diary”. Galbraith refused to be an embedded reporter with the American forces and he did not want to sit through orchestrated press conferences at the press centre. He wanted total freedom to cover the war. At great personal peril, he managed to cover the war in a way that has rarely been seen. Unlike many in the media, despite the human toll and tragedy he documented, his is a compelling and authentic voice on the importance of a heightened Canadian military and diplomatic engagement in democratic development and nation-building worldwide. He is now in the process of planning a mission to Afghanistan to record the critical role Canadian troops are playing in the Kandahar operation. To help him in his efforts we would ask you to look at the following  photographs and captions from his book and consider ordering a copy for $25. You can view Robert’s work at and can e-mail him directly at He deserves our support. ~ BPW



Comments by Robert J. Galbraith


During the compilation of Eyewitness, many of my friends said that the present cover was too shocking, and might turn off perspective buyers. But to myself, it was perhaps my most powerful image to come out of my journey, and the symbolism it reflected. Photojournalism is not just documentation, but it is also about advancing art. Oscar Wilde said that art should affront, should repulse, otherwise it will never advance. There are many war books out there with neutral or boring fronts. I wanted people to have a finger stuck in their eye when they saw my book, and to realize that this is the real banana, this is the real account of the misery of war.




We should always be willing and fearless to challenge the darkness, be it subjugation of another people or the ghosts in our own closets. You are never more alive until you challenge your worst fears. This is why I am a war photojournalist, and will continue to be, at any opportunity that arises and finances allow. We are only truly forgotten by memory and time when our name is forgotten. I hope Eyewitness will endure to tell the future  who I was and what I tried to bring to people.  


RJG - Diary Notes – April 16th


Just before catching a cab, I photograph a Marine Medical Officer treating two looters  who had been beaten by a storeowner. Laid out beside an amphibious assault vehicle, their wounds are largely scrapes and scratches in need of some first aid.


Shortly after this, I see a young Iraqi girl of about five years old, presenting a Marine with a bunch of flowers. Her father had brought her to the Palestine complex to present the gift.






Nino (a young Marine) describes how average Iraqis are showing an outpouring of compassion to the troops and showering them in gifts. Some of Nino’s fellow Marines say that they will never have to buy cigarettes or candies again, since they have been given so many by the Iraqi public. Most of the Marines speak about the average Iraqi with admiration and concern.




RJG – Diary Notes – May 11th


Climbing out of the Jimmy, I see the Russian-made IL-76 cargo plane touch down, and taxi towards us. There is handshaking and hugs amongst the Americares crew, as the gigantic cargo plane shuts down its screaming engines. The back doors of the plane open up, like the gapping jaws of a humpback whale. It is packed with all sorts of medical supplies, from medicines to IV units, stacked high on wooden skids.




A crew of eight soldiers with two large forklift trucks appear. The soldiers come over to Peter and, shaking his hand, offer their assistance in unloading the plane. This is unexpected, though greatly appreciated, and will cut the work time by half, if not more. With the two industrial-sized forklifts outside the plane, and two heavy-duty dollies inside its belly, the plane’s 30 tons of medical aid is unloaded, and then reloaded onto the three trucks in two hours.







Near the end of the unloading I talk with one of the soldiers in the emptying belly of the plane. He asks me what it is like in Baghdad. He has been stationed at the airport for two months, and has been so busy he has not had a chance to visit the city yet. I tell him it is very dangerous, and getting worse, especially for the soldiers patrolling the streets. The soldier lowers his head and, in a hushed voice, starts telling me about the dead soldier he loaded onto a U.S.-bound plane yesterday. It was the body of the young soldier who was shot in the head at point blank range Friday. “It was the first time I ever stood out on a runway and saluted when a plane was taking off,” the soldier confessed. “This young boy didn’t deserve it. He didn’t have a chance.”