...why not boast about Leopold and Loeb?
was an interesting read. But I would add an additional note, from
the point of view of a combat reporter who just returned from a
second Iraq deployment (and eighth war-zone assignment since 1994).
I, too, was amazed at how Iraq, as your interviewees
noted, is so very different now, compared to last year. But I was
also strongly impressed by another phenomenon, which while not unique
to Iraq, was perhaps more extreme in that country than in any other
war zone I’ve been to.
Simply put, the war you think you see in Iraq
depends entirely on where you are.
Here’s an easy example: Television news
in America touts a lot of what appears to be extreme violence in
one particular area in Baghdad, Fidris Square (where Saddam’s
statue was toppled). True, there is a nightly concert of AK-47 fire
and mortars around there. But it’s also the location of the
Sheraton and Palestine Hotels, where most reporters have been forced
by the violence to hunker down.
If you have a good map of Baghdad, you can see
that the hotels, also known as the “mortar magnets,”
are positioned in such a way that they act as goalposts for insurgents
trying to drop-kick ordnance across the Tigris and into the International
Zone, where the high-ranking diplomats stay.
When the bad guys miss and hit a palm tree near
the Sheraton swimming pool, CNN and the networks are right there
to get the burning bush on tape, and, hallelujah, because the team’s
on-air reporter probably hasn’t been able to leave the hotel
all day because it’s too risky (they, and many prominent print
outlets, get much of their news phoned in by Iraqi stringers, who
are rarely, if ever, credited).
So everyone gets excited because they have that
all-important footage—which is then played repeatedly, until
Americans tuned in that day are convinced every terrorist in the
Middle East is working out of the Fidris Square mosque.
On the other hand, Haifa Street in Baghdad is
one of the most dangerous places in the city and possibly the country,
second only to Sadr City. As of early September, the 1st Battalion,
9th Cavalry Regiment, which patrols the sector that includes Haifa
Street, was taking contact almost 100 percent of the time, regardless
of the mission, whether it was a run-of-the-mill “presence
patrol” or supporting the new Iraqi police force.
But have you ever heard Haifa Street mentioned
in the news, and if so, as often as Sadr City? Probably not, for
the simple reason that the area is so dangerous that reporters can’t
go there autonomously. And the 1-9 Cav rarely embeds reporters because
of the danger (I was privileged to do a “routine” mission
with them in October in which a sniper got a bead on me and, let’s
just say, thank God most of the insurgents can’t aim very
So bear in mind as you watch the news, there’s
a lot more going on than meets the eye, and there are very few reporters,
with very little freedom of movement, out there to show you.
Lisa Herzing Burgess, AB’85
The University of Chicago Magazine
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