Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Welcome to Iraq

From Schofield at Knight Ridder:

11 a.m. - We leave the 10-foot-high blast walls that surround the hotel complex in a two-car convoy. The rear car's job is to run interference in case "bad guys" try to intercept "the package" (that would be me).

Noon - Dropped off several blocks from the Green Zone and walk to Checkpoint 3 (the main entrance). Walking because on Monday Iraqi army soldiers pushed me back inside the car, while pointing a machine gun at my head and shouting. They fired at reporters - warning shots, the reporters think - from National Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal. The three incidents prompted a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman to start a briefing with journalists by saying, "OK, raise your hand if you were shot at today."

As I'm walking, phone rings. I answer. My Iraqi colleague Mohammed, who reports full time for Knight Ridder, takes the phone from my hand, whispering fiercely, "No English here. Be very, very afraid here."

I get inside and call the number back, reaching a very nice U.S. Army major who says we need to meet to discuss how to make the entrance to the Green Zone safer for journalists. "Can you meet in about an hour?" he asks. I agree, and he says he'll pick me up at the National Assembly building at 12:50 p.m., and we'll walk together to Checkpoint 3.

12:10 p.m. - Get inside National Assembly building. Someone steals my watch at the final security check.

12:30 p.m. - Talking to Saddam Hussein's old translator. He explains that democracy in the new Iraq is a fiasco. Bush's fault, and Bush will have to face the judgment of history for his mistakes. (All times from here are approximate; see above.)

12:50 p.m. - The major is late so I decide to head down to the checkpoint and wait for him. Mohammed says, "No, you're not. You're waiting for his call."

1 p.m. - On phone with the major, who's apologizing for being late when a car bomb explodes at Checkpoint 3 entrance. Gunfire ensues.

1-3 p.m. - Locked down in National Assembly building with legislators while bomb debris and bodies are cleared from the street.

3:15 p.m. - The major calls back. Come on out, he says. I join him walking to Checkpoint 3.

3:25 p.m. - We step around football-sized chunks of bomber hanging like gruesome Christmas ornaments from the razor wire. I point out the journalists' security fears, being forced to walk through a dangerous area to get to Iraqi government and U.S. Embassy briefings. He is concerned. "Wow, that's dangerous," he says, pushing aside a smoking piece of car interior with a booted toe. "I think the problem is, the guys here are nervous whenever cars come near, especially if they stop, like yours do, to drop you off."

"No kidding," I say, just avoiding treading on an eyeball.
And the Dems are mumbling about "institutes".

edit: Hat tip goes to that other Hegemon-related site.

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