20 Questions with Wesley Morgan ’06, Journalist

After his time at Commonwealth and Princeton, Wesley Morgan ’06 started working as a freelance journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan during the summers. He reported on the Bush and Obama administrations’ surges in the two wars and before covering the Pentagon for Politico during the Trump administration. In March of 2021, Random House published his book The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley.

  1. What three words best describe Commonwealth? Brownstone, hard, small.
  2. What was your favorite Commonwealth class? Ninth-grade Ancient History with Mr. Conolly.
  3. What’s your #1 piece of advice for Commonwealth students? Write simply and clearly.
  4. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? “Try to step in the footprints of the point man with the minesweeper,” maybe.
  5. If you could study any field aside from your own, what would it be? Whatever field it is where you get to study the behavior of killer whales across populations.
  6. Whom do you most admire? Journalists who cover wars happening in their own countries.
  7. When and how did you first become interested in journalism? I was writing for my college newspaper when I got a chance to cover the 2007 surge in Iraq. While I was there I met really good war reporters like Evan Wright, Michael Gordon, and Alissa Rubin and got to watch them work, which convinced me that was what I wanted to do.
  8. What is your favorite aspect of your career? Getting to try to figure out puzzles, basically, and the satisfaction of feeling like you’ve figured out an explanation for how and why something happened on the battlefield that killed people or affected people’s lives.
  9. What book do you wish you had read sooner? The Trees by Conrad Richter.
  10. If you could have dinner with one person—alive or dead—who would it be? Under certain circumstances, an Egyptian al-Qaida operative named Abu Ikhlas al-Masri, who I always wanted to interview for The Hardest Place but was never able to find. He was the antagonist to a decade’s worth of U.S. commanders in and around the Pech valley.
  11. Coffee or tea? Neither, really.
  12. Pen or pencil? Pen.
  13. Scripted or improvised? Improvised.
  14. What is your favorite museum? The American Museum of Natural History in New York.
  15. What is your favorite mode of transportation? Bike.
  16. What is your favorite paradox? The bracketing paradox.
  17. What do you bring to a potluck? Chocolate chip cookies—actually ones conforming to a recipe that my eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher, Ms. Rome, used, I think.
  18. What was your go-to Boston eatery? Newbury Pizza (RIP) and Kashmir were the two.
  19. If you could live as a local for 48 hours anywhere in the world, where would you go? The Pech valley in Afghanistan.
  20. What is the best gift you have ever received? High on the list is a Swedish novel about Vikings, Frans Bengtsson’s The Long Ships, which my dad gave me.

This feature was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Commonwealth Magazine.