And I told you, every time I see an American armored vehicle driving through a street, I think “Oh my God,” and I see this gun pointing at the people and I think, “Oh my God, he will kill me now, he will shoot me now.” And you are so scared; most of the time I’m scared. And every time I see an armored vehicle, even in 2003, even in April 2003, an armored vehicle, a machine gun is a big huge massive thing, and it’s a scary thing. And I’m scared, of course. And every time I see a big American gun, I’m scared.
But when I was inside the American camp, and when I was seeing the same street, I was seeing it through a black-and-white infrared screen, every moving being was black and every still building was white, and then you see these black things getting very close to your armored vehicle and you think, “My God, why are they getting so close, why isn’t he killing them? Why isn’t he shooting them, defending … .” Automatically you are switched, and you become on the other side. So I do understand why the American soldiers look at the insurgents as the enemy, and I do understand why the insurgents look at the U.S. soldiers as the enemy. But for us journalists, we have to do this amazing, very difficult mental exercise to try to keep ourselves in the middle.
Los Angeles Times
I used to go and hang out here [in Baghdad]. I used do kind of fun things once. We used to go to a hair salon and just hang out, or a barbershop. We used to go to restaurants. I still try to go to my favorite little DVD shop, but recently a friend of mine went and it was closed. It’s like our world is getting smaller and smaller. The opportunities for interacting with ordinary Iraqi people have gotten fewer and fewer.
Now I’m determined to be able to do this, so we invite people. I recently invited an Iraqi family that I wanted to interview for a story over to the compound for lunch. And we brought the whole family over, sat down to lunch, and had like a two-hour conversation. They weren’t afraid. But I offered to go to their house and they said, “No, we don’t want you to come to our house.” And I said, “Oh wow, are you guys afraid that your neighbors will see me and come and get you later?” And they were like, “No, our neighbors know we interact with foreigners, they know who we are, but we’re afraid that you’re gonna get killed at one of the rolling checkpoints.”
The Wall Street Journal
When I left Iraq for the first time — you know, the tensions in Iraq are so extreme. We were constantly, twenty-four hours a day, on a state of high alert, survival mode. That situation, constantly under tension, you don’t really sleep well. You don’t know what’s going to happen the next moment. In addition to feeling that for yourself, you’re also worried about your colleagues. I was very worried about the Iraqi staff. Being responsible for security of the Iraqi staff. And all the bad things, the terrible things you cover. All the horror, all the misery of the Iraqis.
Every time I left Iraq, I would just stay in a hotel in Amman for two days doing nothing. I couldn’t immediately jump on a plane home. For me, anxiety would come in the most unusual places. Like suddenly in a commercial flight. Or for a really long time, I couldn’t sit by the window in New York. Or anywhere. When I’d walk into a restaurant I’d constantly choose the furthest seat from the window. Because I always associated windows with smashing. I’d seen it happen several times where a car bomb had gone off and smashed the windows. So you avoid sitting by the window.
We talk to each other. Journalists talk to each other about these kind of things. That’s one thing … .
Colonel William Darley
What I try to impress upon [soldiers] is that the inside-the-Beltway media is not the media. It’s the inside-the-Beltway media. And they need to understand also that reporters are very much like them. They’re idealists, they believe. They’re not working for money; they’re working for what they regard as a mission, and their mission is to tell the truth, and to get the truth out to the American people so people can make rational decisions about their government and about their society. And that they’re talented, for the most part, very talented guys and girls out there.
The New York Times