In the Morgue
Even before the war in Iraq started, the one place to go for trustworthy information was (and is) the website of the McClatchy newspaper chain. (McClatchy incorporates much of the now-vanished Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, which it bought not long ago.)
Back when the New York Times and Washington Post were printing the effusions of their staff lotus eaters about weapons of mass destruction, this website, with its small group of outstanding editors and reporters, was consistently getting the story right. While most of the media gang was buying government guff about Iran, the McClatchy website was printing stories asking, Where is the proof?
Few American reporters in Iraq do much reporting these days. It is too dangerous, so they bunker while Iraqi journalists report. Which is why it's a revelation to read blogs written by the Iraqi members of the Knight-Ridder/McClatchy Baghdad bureau.
These blogs will give you a glimpse of daily life in Baghdad that is seldom found elsewhere. Herewith are two of the latest offerings.
Today was a sad day; our staff lost another member who left this morning. Every one else is new for me and another colleague of mine. The new guys are great and wonderful persons but it is so hard to make new friends over and over.
I looked up my phone list, name by name, some were killed, others are missing, many left the country and few are still here in one piece. It makes me frustrated cause I know for a fact we will not see each other again. Even if they come back who says i will be alive to see them again.
i think it is about time to say I have had enough, I will not make any new friends that will be killed, kidnaped or leave the country.
To all my friends; those who are still here, who left, missing or killed: No one will take your place...
At the Morgue
We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over. The young men of the family, as was customary, rose to go.
"NO!" cried his mother. "Isn't my son enough?? Must we lose more of our youth?? You know there are unknowns who wait at the Morgue to either kill or kidnap the men who dare reach its doors. I will go."
So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I.
I was praying all the way there.
I never thought a day would come when it was the women of the family, who would be safer on the roads. All the men are potential terrorists it seems, and are therefore to be cut down on sight. This is the logic of today, is it not? To kill evil before it even has a chance to take root.
When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. "We identified him by the cell phone in his pants' pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don't know what he looks like."
Now begins a horror that surpasses anything I could have possibly envisioned. We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all round it were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side; complete bodies; on that side halves; and EVERYWHERE body parts.
We were asked what we were looking for, "upper half" replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. "Over there." We looked for our boy's broken body between tens of other boys' remains; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.
We found him millennia later, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony.