When you’re a target, it’s different — it’s weird, you know? It’s really strange. Any number of times I’ve been in a car driving down the road, and suddenly a car will come after me, and you don’t want to hang around and figure out why they’re trying to run you off the road or cut you off. And I’ve been chased, cut off, guys with guns, the whole thing. It so suddenly kind of turns on you. You will not unwind while you’re there in Iraq. You just can’t. You’re just kind of cranked up for however long you’re there. You’re just kind of wound up. The last time I was there I did seventeen weeks, so I stayed out for a long time, but — so it’s usually a couple of months and you’re pretty fried. But it’s mostly the isolation. It’s just very, very isolated. There’s nothing much else to do except work. You’re in this house, cooped up a lot of time. You’re working all the time. You really have to work a lot because everything moves so slowly that if you do sixteen hours, it’s like you moved this gigantic wheel one little click. So the next day you work another sixteen hours and the wheel moves another click. It’s all so slow now and truncated that it just takes more and more labor to get the smallest thing done.
The really horrible security situation in Iraq has made it not just terribly dangerous to report there but terribly, terribly expensive. And the result of that has been that the danger has chased a lot of reporters away. In ’03 and ’04 there were hundreds of reporters there, you know? And you never really saw them until some muckety-muck would come into town and go to the Green Zone for a press conference, and everybody would crowd in there, and there were four or five hundred reporters there. Now maybe there’s like fifty. There’s nothing — there’s nobody there. The Europeans are all gone. There’s a few Brits. There’s just basically the big American papers and the TV networks, but the TV networks can hardly get out because they’re carrying all this incredibly expensive equipment. Part of that is the danger and part of that is the unbelievable expense. When I just think of the money that The New York Times has paid, has shelled out and continues to shell out to allow us to report there, it’s just mind-boggling, you know, millions of dollars. We have two houses. We have blast walls. We have, I don’t know, thirty or forty armed guards round the clock. We have three armored cars, which together probably cost a million dollars. We have two generators large enough to power two houses that can run around the clock, which usually do run around the clock and which drink an enormous amount of gasoline every day. We have two satellite systems — a regular one and then a back-up whenever that one fails so that we can be in constant communication with the outside world; we have — we run up these unbelievable satellite phone bills and cellular phone bills.
Knight Ridder (McClatchy)
Most of western Iraq — you just can’t function out there as a western reporter. The country has gotten smaller and smaller. I miss Iraq, I do. I live in Baghdad, but I miss the country.
The Wall Street Journal
I can’t imagine going to Iraq for the first time now and writing it. Truly you do not know the country. You would be writing blindly, with no tangible sense of the place or the people. So I think that as we’ve sort of gotten tired and cycled out, it’s going to be interesting to see how that’s going to play out.
I hope I contributed to the world’s understanding of what’s happening in Iraq. I would like to avoid going back to Iraq. I’m not personally interested in the story anymore. Burned out. With too few breaks. Most of the world is waiting for this train wreck to run its course. Anyone can see it’s going from bad to worse to truly terrible.