Bugged Out

AMMAN — Well, as you can see from the dateline, I’m out of Baghdad. I evacuated after we learned of further threats against journalists. And just this afternoon, upon landing at Queen Alia International Airport, I learned that Margaret Hassan, the top CARE official in Iraq, has been kidnapped. She was taken while driving to work.

Her abduction fits a pattern. She did not employ armed guards and, like my friend John, was a “soft target.” It’s tragic, because she has done more for the Iraqi people than these insurgents ever will. She’s been in the country working for children’s issues and other health-related causes for more than 25 years. My heart goes out to her family.

Even so, I’m not happy to be out. It’s cutting and running, and it feels like crap. I want to cover the story, as best I can, and I really don’t like leaving my friends and colleagues behind. My fixer and translator have no work now, although I’m trying to find them another journalist to work with while I’m gone. I plan to return after Ramadan or whenever we hear that it’s safe(r) again.

To answer some questions: The journalists are clumped together because we only endanger ourselves that way. Kodia asked me why we didn’t disperse and stay with families.

  • It’s more difficult to secure their houses (blast walls, guards, etc.);
  • We can’t trust the neighbors not to rat us out;
  • I don’t trust any Iraqi I don’t know well;
  • And most important, we endanger them by staying with them — they would be branded as collaborators.

So our options are limited in terms of where we can stay. Anyway, I’m going to be exploring my options for the next few weeks — and watching the American campaign closely. Talk about a nail biter. I won’t be coming back and “stumping” for anyone; that’s not what I do. I report what I see. What you guys do with that information is up to you.

Cheers for now,
Christopher

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