U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler
U.S. Department of Defense

The U.S. Department of Defense says an Army soldier from Oklahoma is the first military casualty while fighting militants with the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

The DoD said in a news release Friday Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed Thursday in Iraq. The 39-year-old native of Roland died from wounds sustained by enemy small-arms fire during a hostage rescue.

Gov. Mary Fallin called Wheeler a hero who stood up to evil in a social media post Friday afternoon.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the former military dictator who’s about to take over for Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s new president, and two dozen looted religious artifacts recently returned to Italy.

Then, Rebecca talks with war photographer Ashley Gilbertson. His most recent book, Bedrooms of the Fallen, depicts the homes of men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan to remember how they lived, rather than how they died.

Marine Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer, 21, was killed July 21, 2007 in Iraq. He grew up in East Northport, New York. Gilbertson photographed his bedroom almost two years later.
Ashley Gilbertson / Bedrooms of the Fallen, University of Chicago Press

When Ashley Gilbertson was 13 years old, his parents bought him his first camera to photograph himself and his friends skateboarding. A year later, his photos were published in a skateboarding magazine.

“That feeling of seeing something happen, take a photograph of it, and then see it in a magazine … [it] was totally addictive. It’s magical,” said Gilbertson, who grew from photographing skateboarding to become a war photographer.

Jackie Spinner interviews a soldier in Iraq during her time as a Washington Post correspondent.
Provided / Jackie Spinner

In 2003, the Associated Press issued its report on human rights abuses taking place at the U.S.-held Abu Ghraib prison. Jackie Spinner was at the prison a year later to report on the story for The Washington Post when she was nearly kidnapped by Al-Qaeda members.

“It was June 14, 2004. It’s a day I’ll never forget,” Spinner said.

The event inspired the title for her 2006 book about her experiences reporting in Iraq during the war, Tell Them I Didn’t Cry

Joshua Landis compares what he calls the “Great Sorting Out” in the Middle East to historical conflicts in Eastern Europe that also stretched across ethnic and religious lines.

Then Joshua and Rebecca Cruise talk with Matthew Barber. He was one of the first bloggers to write about the capture of thousands of Yazidi  women and girls as the minority community of northern Iraq was wiped out this summer.

An Iraqi Yazidi girl with her family at the Newroz refugee camp in Syria, on August 15th.
Rachel Unkovic / DFID - UK Department for International Development

In the Iraqi province of Kurdistan, women of the Yazidi ethnic minority are disappearing. At the most recent count, between 6,000 and 7,000 women and girls have been kidnapped, and many of those have been enslaved.

When Matthew Barber visited northern Iraq earlier this year, his goals were to conduct research and learn Kurdish. When he arrived he was faced with an enslavement crisis unfolding all around him and he knew that being an American academic gave him resources he could use to help.

A refugee camp in Syria's northern city Aleppo, December 2013
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation / Flickr

In recent years, millions have been killed or forced to flee their homes due to instability and violence across Iraq and Syria. Among these victims are many ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.

When the Sunni extremists declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, their ranks swelled to about 30,000 fighters, according to estimates by the CIA. The recent airstrikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition might change the rush to join the self-declared Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

But for those who have already signed on, leaving the Islamic State is terrifying, says one young Syrian defector.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2014.
Pete Souza / The White House

Syria, Russia, and Iran have condemned the plan to lead a broad coalition against the Islamic State President Obama outlined Wednesday night, stating that without a UN resolution U.S. action in Syria would be an act of aggression and in violation of international law.

Suzette Grillot and Joshua Landis discuss the turmoil in Iraq caused by ISIS. Rebecca Cruise reports on state of Ukraine and its possible cease fire with Russia.

Later in the program, an interview with Boston College Near East Historian and political scientist Franck Salameh about the many dialects of Arabic and the future of teaching it.