The folks in our Baghdad bureau are brave or crazy … or probably both. Many of them have been here since the war began. Phil Ittner is a producer here. He was in the Moscow bureau and came over when the U.S. invaded and was embedded with the aviation brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division as a one-man band … filming, producing and reporting. He works two months here, then leaves for two months…. I asked him why he didn’t try to get another assignment. He said, “One, this is one of the most important stories in the world. Two, I know how to do it.” I asked him if he thought things had improved since he got here. He said no, he was afraid not. But his personal opinion was that the U.S. has a responsibility to continue its presence here because, as he put it, “We tipped over the apple cart.”
Later in the afternoon, we headed to the home of an Iraqi family to find out what day-to-day life is like for them.
The city looks like a third world country, where concrete reigns supreme: Concrete barriers and huge piles of concrete rubble everywhere. All the stores I saw were closed, some for good, some were not open because it was Friday, a holy day in Islam. There is a vehicle ban every Friday from eleven to three, so there were very few cars on the street.
The Iraqi family was warm and welcoming. Their apartment was small and extremely hot. They had no running water, as is often the case. They told us that their electricity is very spotty. They get only about an hour or two at the most from the national grid … more from the generator that is for their neighborhood, and then they have a small generator themselves, but fuel is very, very expensive.
They have three children … nine, seven and eight months, and the older boys looked dazed. It’s too dangerous for them to play outside. It was heartbreaking. The parents said they don’t blame it on U.S. forces, and said they hope American troops stay, because if they don’t, the “militias will kill everyone.”
all U.S. and Iraqi soldiers patrolling the streets have my renewed respect and appreciation. One-hundred-and-ten degrees with full-body armor and heavy uniforms. I don’t know how they do it. But they do, and we should be grateful.