Monday, February 3
Waiting For The Missiles In Baghdad
Norman Solomon, ZNet, February 3, 2003

BAGHDAD -- Picture yourself as an American reporter here in the Iraqi capital.
You're based in one of the fraying rooms at the Al Rashid, the large hotel where most Western journalists stay.

.... By now, even the most optimistic souls can't quite believe their own denial. Nothing is certain, but one specter is close: The missiles are coming. Probably within a few weeks.

Fear is in the air. And a sense of doom has fallen over the city like a smothering blanket. But there's little time to dwell on, or even acknowledge, such emotions. Staying busy seems to push back the dread.

There's no telling whether your 10-day visa will be renewed. You want to stay on, filing stories destined for front pages. You'd have an up-close look at a turning point of history. But during the later stages of the Pentagon's assault, there's no telling what might happen to you.

Day by day, as the probability of war nears certainty, you realize that you're getting a small taste of the insecurity that Iraqi people have been facing for a long time.

And despite all the claims of reportorial "objectivity," it's hard to deny that many deep stories aren't getting much coverage.

You might do a story about the escalating fears among Iraqi children. Many of them are now exhibiting signs of acute anxiety. You realize that the youngsters, along with older Iraqis, are experiencing a form of terror. Yet the U.S. government is supposed to be opposing terrorism, not inflicting it. ....

Are American media outlets really conveying the humanity of the people in the line of fire?

There's not much time to focus on such questions. You wrap up the story for tomorrow's editions, slip the floppy disk out of your laptop and ride an elevator down to the first floor. Walking past the no-alcohol bar, you stride into the little Internet shop that caters to foreign journalists. The proprietor, a young man named Firas Behnam, smiles and waves from a desk.

Minutes later, you're clicking a "send" button, and your story is on its way to the newsroom back home. You breathe a sigh of relief and glance over at a British newspaper reporter checking his e-mail.

You remember hearing him talk about covering the Gulf War a dozen years ago: During forays to take a look at bomb damage, he'd recalled, the Iraqi people he met did not express any hostility toward him. You tried to imagine the shoe on the other foot. If Iraq's air force were bombing American cities, how would Iraqi visitors be treated? .... (more)
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