Roger Cohen (born 2 August 1955) is a journalist and author. He is a
The New York Times
The New York Times and International New York Times.
He has worked as a foreign correspondent in fifteen different
1 Early life and education
2.4 Pakistan and Afghanistan
2.5 Rupert Murdoch
4 Personal life
5 Published works
7 External links
Early life and education
Cohen was born in
London to a Jewish family. His father, Sydney Cohen,
a doctor, emigrated from
South Africa to
England in the 1950s. In
the late 1960s, Roger studied at Westminster School, one of Britain's
top private schools. He won a scholarship and would have entered
College, the scholars' House, but was told that a Jew could not attend
College or hold his particular scholarship. (The scholarship initially
offered to him was intended for persons who professed the Christian
faith, as he later learned while researching the affair). Instead, he
was awarded a different scholarship.
In 1973, Cohen travelled with friends throughout the Middle East,
Iran and Afghanistan. He drove a
Volkswagen Kombi named
'Pigpen' after the late keyboard playing frontman of the Grateful
Dead. (In the article cited, Cohen misidentifies Pigpen as a
drummer.) He attended Balliol College,
Oxford University and graduated
with Master of Arts degrees in History and in French in 1977.
(Oxford University's Master of Arts degrees are honorary and awarded
to all eligible graduates of undergraduate degrees five years after
graduation.) He left that year for Paris to teach English and to write
for Paris Metro. He started working for
Reuters and the agency
transferred him to Brussels.
Cohen's mother, also from
South Africa (b. 1929), attempted suicide in
London in 1978. She died there in 1999 and was buried in
Living through a war in Europe was a harrowing experience in many
ways, but I think that for everyone there of my pampered generation,
it was also an education. In war, you see people pushed to their
limits. To try to evoke that, to convey those experiences and so to
impact government policy when governments are doing their best to
ignore terrible things—that can be rewarding in more lasting ways
than most journalism.
In 1983, Cohen joined
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal in Rome to cover the
Italian economy. The Journal later transferred him to Beirut. He
The New York Times
The New York Times in January 1990. In the summer of 1991,
he co-authored with Claudio Gatti In the Eye of the Storm: The Life of
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. The authors wrote the books based on
information from Norman Schwarzkopf's sister Sally, without
Cohen worked for
The New York Times
The New York Times as its European economic
correspondent, based in Paris, from January 1992 to April 1994. He
then became the paper's
Balkan bureau chief, based in Zagreb, from
April 1994 to June 1995. He covered the
Bosnian War and the related
Bosnian Genocide. His exposé of a Serb-run Bosnian concentration camp
won the Burger Human Rights Award from the
Overseas Press Club
Overseas Press Club of
He wrote a retrospective book about his
Balkan experiences called
Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo in 1998. It won a Citation
for Excellence from the
Overseas Press Club
Overseas Press Club in 1999. Cohen wrote in
Hearts Grown Brutal that his coverage of the war changed him as a
person, and that he considers himself lucky to still be alive. He
later called this period the proudest achievement in his entire
He returned to the paper's Paris bureau from June 1995 to August 1998.
He served as bureau chief of the Berlin bureau after September 1998.
He took over as foreign editor of the paper's American office in the
direct aftermath of the September 11 attacks. His unofficial role was
made formal on 14 March 2002. In his tenure, he planned and then
oversaw the paper's coverage of the War in Afghanistan. During his
first visit to India as an editor, he entered the country without
obtaining a visa, having assumed that he would not need one. He was
then stuck in diplomatic limbo for several hours. He has called this
the most embarrassing moment in his career.
In 2004, he began writing a column called 'Globalist', which is
published twice a week in The International Herald Tribune. In
2005, Cohen's third book, Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped
by the Nazis' Final Gamble, was published by Alfred A. Knopf. In
2006, he became the first senior editor for The International Herald
Nicholas D. Kristof
Nicholas D. Kristof took a temporary leave in
mid-2006, Cohen took over Kristof's position. He has written columns
for the Times since then.
Cohen supported the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq. He criticised
the Bush administration's handling of the occupation while still
supporting the cause given the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime.
In January 2009, he commented that Saddam's "death-and-genocide
machine killed about 400,000 Iraqis and another million or so people
Iran and Kuwait." He wrote that "I still believe Iraq's freedom
outweighs its terrible price."
He opposed the 2007 'surge' of troops into Iraq. In June 2007, he
advocated pulling out 105,000 soldiers. He argued that "pulling out a
lot of troops is the only way to increase pressure on Maliki to make
the political compromises – on distribution of oil revenue, the
constitution and de-Baathification – that will give Iraq some
long-term chance of cohering."
In November 2008, Cohen stated that "gains are real but fragile" in
Iraq. He criticised Democratic candidate Barack Obama's calls for a
16-month withdrawal from the country, calling it irresponsible. Cohen
wrote that "we're going to have to play buffer against the dominant
Shia for several years".
Cohen wrote a series of articles for
The New York Times
The New York Times in February
2009 about a trip to Iran. In his writings he expressed opposition to
military action against
Iran and encouraged negotiations between the
United States and the Islamic Republic. He also remarked that
Jews were well treated, and said the Jewish community was
"living, working and worshiping in relative tranquility." He also
described the hospitality that he received in Iran, stating that "I'm
a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in
Iran." In his trip, he paid an Iranian agency $150 a day for the
services of a translator, who filed a report on Cohen's doings with
the Iranian government.
His depiction of Jewish life in
Iran sparked criticism from columnists
and activists such as
Jeffrey Goldberg of
The Atlantic Monthly and
Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust
Studies. In his
Jerusalem Post op-ed, Medoff criticised Cohen for
being "misled by the existence of synagogues" and further argued that
Jews "are captives of the regime, and whatever they say is
carefully calibrated not to get themselves into trouble." The
American Jewish Committee
American Jewish Committee also criticised Cohen's articles. Dr. Eran
Lerman, director of the group's Middle East directory, argued that
"Cohen's need to argue away an unpleasant reality thus gives rise to
Roger Cohen responded on 2 March, defending his observations and
further elaborating that "Iran's Islamic Republic is no Third Reich
redux. Nor is it a totalitarian state." He also stated that "life is
more difficult for them [the Jews] than for Muslims, but to suggest
they [Jews] inhabit a totalitarian hell is self-serving nonsense."
He ended with a warning:
I return to this subject because behind the Jewish issue in
a critical one—the U.S. propensity to fixate on and demonize a
country through a one-dimensional lens, with a sometimes disastrous
chain of results.
On 12 March, Cohen accepted an invitation to meet with selected
members of Los Angeles's Iranian Jewish and
Bahai community at Sinai
Temple, after receiving some of their critical mail about his
column. Cohen defended his views and analysis on
Iran and Israel
to a partly hostile audience. Rabbi
David Wolpe of the Sinai
Temple criticised Cohen after the event, saying "increasingly I came
to believe that
Iran was not Cohen's sole concern; he wanted it as a
stick with which to beat Israel over Gaza, whose incursion he wrote
left him ashamed."
Cohen argued that the results of the June 2009 Iranian Presidential
election were fabricated, and incumbent President Ahmadinejad
"cheated" his way to victory over reformist Mir Hussein Moussavi. He
wrote that "President Obama's outreach must now await a decent
interval." He also commented, "I've also argued that, although
repressive, the Islamic Republic offers significant margins of freedom
by regional standards. I erred in underestimating the brutality and
cynicism of a regime that understands the uses of ruthlessness."
He was later criticised by
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in
New York Review of Books
New York Review of Books for trumpeting what they said were
baseless accusations of electoral fraud and for his general
"incompetence and hypocrisy". Cohen replied that the pair were guilty
of, amongst other things, "a cavalier disregard for the Islamic
Republic's intermittent brutality", were "apologists without a
Cohen wrote in January 2009 that the Israel-Palestinian conflict
should not be seen by the United States as just another part of the
War on Terrorism. He called for the ending of Israeli settlement
construction in the
West Bank and the ending of the blockade of the
Gaza Strip. He also supported the reconciling of
Hamas with Fatah
after their violent split. In addition, he criticised the Obama
administration for its continuance of past United States policies
Cohen opposed Operation Cast Lead, labelling it "wretchedly named –
and disastrous". He has accused Israelis of the "slaying of
hundreds of Palestinian children" in the campaign. In a 8 March
column, Cohen stated that he had "never previously felt so shamed by
Israel's actions." However, in one of his recent articles in The
New York Times, Cohen analyses the differences between European and
American attitudes toward Israel. He contrasts a growing antisemitism
in Europe with Americans' generalized support for Israel, and attempts
to explain why Americans are more supportive of Israel than Europeans
are. In closing the article, Cohen said "...., on balance, I am
pleased to have become a naturalized American."
Pakistan and Afghanistan
On 8 November 2007, Cohen described the then $10 billion given to the
Pakistani government and $22 billion given to the Afghan government as
"self-defeating". He called Pakistani leader
Pervez Musharraf "a
dictator with a gentleman's itch". He also stated that "the U.S. must
stick with him and maintain aid for now", but it should press
Musharraf for more political reforms.
In September 2008, Cohen stated that only the Afghan people themselves
can win the war. He wrote:
In Afghanistan, a Taliban-led insurgency is growing in reach and
effectiveness. There's talk of a mini-surge in U.S. troops there—now
about 34,000—to counter the threat, but little serious reflection on
what precise end perhaps 12,000 additional forces would serve. Until
that's clarified, I'm against the mini-surge.
On 12 July 2011, shortly after the News of the World scandal broke,
Cohen, who once wrote for the
Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal before it was bought
by Rupert Murdoch, published a New York Times
Op-Ed piece called "In
Defense of Murdoch". The article lauds Murdoch's "loathing for elites,
for cozy establishments and for cartels", and praised Murdoch's
"no-holds-barred journalism". Cohen states that the enterprising
Murdochs have been "good for newspapers over the past several
decades...and... good for free societies and a more open world".
Notwithstanding these positives, in said
Op-Ed Cohen still
acknowledges that Fox News has "made a significant contribution to the
polarization of American politics".
Cohen has won numerous awards and honours, among them the Peter Weitz
Prize for Dispatches from Europe, the Arthur F. Burns Prize, and the
Joe Alex Morris lectureship at Harvard University. He received
Overseas Press Club
Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of third world debt in
1987, the Inter-American Press Association "Tom Wallace" Award for
feature writing in 1989.
In 2012, Cohen won the Lifetime Achievement award at the 8th annual
International Media Awards in London.
Cohen is married to the sculptor
Frida Baranek and has four children.
The family lived in Brooklyn, New York until 2010, when he moved
back to London, where he'd lived in 1980. Before leaving New York
in 2010, he was given a farewell party in July by Richard
Holbrooke. He wrote a remembrance of Holbrooke five months later
after the diplomat's unexpected death.
Cohen says that "journalism is a young person's game." "When the phone
goes in the middle of the night and you're 25 and you're asked to go
to Beirut, it's the greatest thing. But when that happens at 50, less
(With Claudio Gatti) In the Eye of the Storm: The Life of General H.
Norman Schwarzkopf. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1991.
Hearts Grown Brutal: Sagas of Sarajevo. New York: Random House, 1998.
ISBN 0-679-45243-5 ISBN 978-0679452430
Soldiers and Slaves: American POWs Trapped by the Nazis' Final Gamble.
New York: Knopf, 2005. ISBN 0-375-41410-X
Danger in the Desert: True Adventures of a Dinosaur Hunter, New York:
Sterling, 2008. ISBN 978-1402757068
The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family, New
York: Knopf, 2015. ISBN 978-0307594662
^ a b Roger Cohen. The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2009.
^ a b
Roger Cohen Is Entitled to His Opinion. By Jack Shafer. Slate
Magazine. Posted 9 November 2007.
Roger Cohen (30 November 2009). "A Jew in England". The New York
^ A Jew in England
^ Cohen, Roger (29 October 2007). "Return to Bamiyan". The New York
Times. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
^ a b c d e f
The New York Times
The New York Times Names
Roger Cohen Foreign Editor.
Business Wire. 14 March 2002.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k Roger Cohen: My Life In Media. The
Independent. 12 February 2007.
^ a b Cohen, Roger, "Modern Odysseys",
Op-Ed column, The New York
Times on-line, 29 July 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
^ In the Eye of the Storm: The Life of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Entertainment Weekly. 23 August 1991.
^ Roberts, Walter R. (1999). "Hearts Grown Brutal". Mediterranean
Quarterly. 10 (3): 137–139.
Hearts Grown Brutal – Reviews. Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 3 May
^ Cohen, Roger (17 January 2008). "A Center Called McCain". Der
Spiegel. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
^ Cohen, Roger (17 June 2007). "The Long View in Iraq". The New York
^ a b Cohen, Roger (8 November 2008). "Real Wars and the US Culture
War". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 3 May 2009.
^ a b Cohen, Roger (22 February 2009). "What Iran's
Jews Say". The New
York Times. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
^ a b Tugend, Tom (16 March 2009). "
Roger Cohen spars with Iranian
Jewish expats". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 30 April
^ "Roger Cohen's Very Happy Visit with Iran's Jews. Jeffrey Goldberg's
Atlantic Blog. 26 February 2009.
^ Medoff, Rafael (26 February 2009). "Don't turn Iran's
Jews into a
political football". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on 6
July 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
^ AJC Responds to
Roger Cohen Columns on
Iran Archived 24 March 2014
at the Wayback Machine.. By Dr. Eran Lerman. American Jewish
Committee. 13 April 2009.
^ a b Cohen, Roger (1 March 2009). "Iran, the
Jews and Germany". The
New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
^ "An Invitation for Roger Cohen". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 May
^ "Clashing Over
Iran and the Jews". The Huffington Post. 16 March
2009. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
^ Cohen, Roger (14 June 2009). "Iran's Day of Anguish". The New York
Times. Retrieved 18 June 2009.
^ Flynt Leverett; Hillary Mann Leverett (2013). "Letters: Going To
Which Iran?". The New York Review of Books. 60 (12). Retrieved 23 June
^ a b Cohen, Roger (11 January 2009). "Mideast Dream Team? Not Quite".
The New York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
^ Cohen, Roger (5 April 2005). "Turkey Wants U.S. 'Balance'". The New
York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
^ Cohen, Roger (8 March 2009). "Middle East Reality Check". The New
York Times. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
^ Cohen, Roger (8 November 2007). "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Musharraf". The
New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
^ Cohen, Roger (11 July 2011). "In Defense of Murdoch". The New York
International Media Awards – Winners 2012
^ Keller, Bill, "Dealing With Assange and the WikiLeaks Secrets", The
New York Times Magazine, 26 January 2010. (30 January 2011 p. MM32;
on-line p. 3). Retrieved 1 February 2011.
^ Cohen, Roger, "The Unquiet American.", Op-Ed, The New York Times, 16
December 2010 (17 December 2010 p. A39 NY ed.; also International
Herald Tribune 16 December 2010). Retrieved 1 February 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Roger Cohen.
Roger Cohen's New York Times columnist page
Appearances on C-SPAN
Roger Cohen on Charlie Rose
Works by or about
Roger Cohen in libraries (
Video: A Dialogue with
Roger Cohen and the Iranian Jewish Community
Intelligence Squared debate:
Roger Cohen arguing for the motion "The
US Should Step Back from Its
Special Relationship with Israel"
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