IMAGE:  Issue graphic
LINK:  Also in every issue
Editor's Notes  
From the President  
LINK:  Features
The interpretation of the gods  
Executive Order  
China Reach  
Spy guy  

LINK:  Class Notes
Peer Review  
In their own words  

LINK:  Campus News
Chicago Journal  
University News e-bulletin  

LINK:  Research
Research at Chicago  
GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLetters
...why not boast about Leopold and Loeb?

War Stories” 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 well).

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
Alexandria, Virginia

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters. Letters for publication must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. To ensure the widest range of views, we encourage letters of fewer than 300 words. Write: Editor, University of Chicago Magazine, 5801 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL60637. Or e-mail:


2007 The University of Chicago® Magazine | 401 North Michigan Ave. Suite 1000, Chicago, IL 60611
phone: 773/702-2163 | fax: 773/702-8836 |