The New York Times
I remember the whole period from October, November, December 2003, everybody — all the reporters — were still playing by the old rules and going where we wanted to go. And everybody would come back more and more and say, “My God, I had something really scary happen today: ‘my car got raked by gunfire,’ or ‘a crowd chased me down,’ or ‘some guys with masks chased me in a car,’” and so it was clear that the environment was changing, and so we had to respond to that and it took a long time to kind of figure out how to do that.
The Washington Post
In early December of 2003, I was driving back from Hillah. A translator, a driver, and I had gone down to do a story on the provincial council there. Each province had its own government council. We talked to the members. On the drive back to Baghdad, we were about half way there and saw what we thought was a big car accident. One of the vehicles was on fire. We saw a couple of bodies on the road. As we’re driving by, something caught my eye. I thought, “This is very unusual.” Because people were celebrating, were cheering, were very boisterous. I thought, “This is not an accident. This is very strange.” So I directed my driver to pull over and my translator and I got out. I kept my notebook in my pocket, and since I’m of a darker complexion, if I don’t open my mouth, I’m often mistaken for a dark-skinned guy from Basra. So I just sort of walked through the crowd with my translator. It became clear that those were Spanish intelligence agents and seven of them had been ambushed on their way down to Hillah. Their bodies were sprawled out on the road and they were being mutilated by this mob. We just stumbled upon them.
Andrew Lee Butters
I could feel things change in February of 2004, although I was slow to pick up on it somewhat. I remember catching a ride back from a dinner in a taxi with Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker, and someone asked me how things were going, and I said something about safety, “Ah, it’s fine, you can do anything.” And Jon Lee Anderson said, “I’ve never been in a society where something so clearly was on the brink of happening.” And I was like, “What’s he talking about it?” Sure enough, and not very long afterwards, there were the two uprisings in Fallujah and Ramadi. In some ways you feel like a frog, the proverbial frog in boiling water. The changes are so gradual you don’t notice it until suddenly things get really bad.
For Ashura [a Shiite holy day], in March 2004, there probably were about a million people estimated gathered in Karbala. It was the first time that Shiites had celebrated Ashura publicly in Iraq for something like thirty years. On the final day, when the streets of Karbala were the most packed, there was a series of bombings. We were on the streets of Karbala; one bomb went off reasonably close to where we were. Perhaps foolishly we went to it, thinking it was a one-off thing. We were rushing to the site where the bomb had gone off, and another suicide bomber blew himself up between where that bomb had gone off and where we were, probably about thirty feet in front of me, and it just mowed down everyone between me and him. Thirty people were just wiped out in front of myself and the cameraman — a really devastating scene. Then we turned and another bomb went off to our left, doing exactly the same thing to people to our left, and then another bomb went off. I was on the satellite phone trying to call in what was happening, and people then thought that — I was the only foreigner there — I was somehow setting these things off through the satellite phone. They wanted to attack me, but we managed to basically get out of immediate danger.