Saturday, September 23, 2006


[posted by Callimachus]

You can see a picture of New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins here. And there you also can read about how dangerous Iraq is for him and other U.S. MSM reporters, and incidentally read about his book deal.

And I've told you about my friend Kat, who worked for almost two years for a contractor in Iraq, the place that is too dangerous for reporters to cover, yet somehow not too dangerous for her to work in.

Maybe it's time I showed you Kat:

That's the whole thing. All there is. I'm 6-foot-3, and looking down, that's what I'd see.

Now I have been reading NYT copy since the war began, and I think Filkins has done some brave reporting and some competent reporting, too. But I wasn't in Iraq. Kat was. I showed her the Filkins piece. Maybe it was the way the interviewer wrote it up. She wasn't pleased:

"According to Filkins, the New York Times is burning through money "like jet fuel" simply to securely maintain its operations in the country. In addition to the 70 local reporters and translators, the Times employs 45 full-time Kalashnikov-toting security guards to patrol its two blast-wall-enclosed houses -- and oversee belt-fed machine-guns on the roofs of the buildings. The paper also has three armored cars, and pays a hefty premium each month to insure the five Times reporters working there."

Gods, it looks like I could have hired somebody to carry my gun, as I see it. I never realized that could be done. I guess it doesn't matter, since I'm still here. Apparently the terrorists were frightened by my steely black eyes and 5ft tall, 89lb muscular body. They must have known when the saw us that "hell is coming with me." (giggles to self)

       If it wasn't that, it must have been either my nineteen-year-old "security" boy or my mid-40's best Iraqi Army buddy with the one stinky uniform and 5-7 missing teeth. Nothing says security like a pot-belly in an army uniform. And if I happened to be able to load his gun faster than he could ... well, you know. He needed a job, and I needed somebody, anybody, who could speak ... preferably really fast. I think about Laurel and Hardy. Nah, they were funny. We were just goofy.

       Great to see the press is well equipped, though. Really. I'm thinking all the armor would have slowed our Toyota down while we sped down those nasty roads they're talking about. No convoys for me, hell no. Got no time to wait for no freakin convoy and armor. If they're coming your way, yippie. But if they're not, just duck your head a lot, pretend you're busy with things in the truck and go. Not hi-tech or expensive, but it seems to have been effective. (No, I wasn't driving, just in case you guys are worried I broke traffic laws. Truth is, I was not allowed to for security reasons ... which is another story.)

       But I'm also checking out this burrow of which Dexter speaks. I'm kind of jealous in a way, but he doesn't make it sound so nice. Still, chances are, if I'd known we needed bomb shelters to keep us all safe, my company would have built them ASAP, definitely. I mean, when you're a country, dedicated to rebuilding another country no matter (f***ing) what, you don't pause to build or even locate those kinda things, do you? We didn't think so. I mean, it wasn't on our "A" list of things to do. Others, such as the NYT, might differ.

       I have to say, though, belt-fed machine guns on the roof is kinda overkill. Those are really cool things, so I saw. I mean, if you need to kill something they're good I guess, and if you just want to blow lots of stuff to pieces, they're kinda fun. But for where you're working, they kind of make you stick out like a sore thumb, and yell "shoot at me, ya dumb Iraqi bastards!" From my experience, that might be helpful for producing good news ops, but I believe it might also make it impossible for you to blend in with the locals.

All in all, I'm really thankful that Dexter was able to share his experience with the rest of the press. It's difficult to live in a hardened bunker, not going out to do your job, and relying on others not too skillfully chosen to do your job for you. I can almost taste the fear as he describes it, and my first response is certainly to slap him and his co-hibernators on the back for their selfless display of courage, innovation, and integrity in doing their job.

I'm sure that Dexter will remember me and all of the other contractors and civilians who worked in Iraq slightly shorted of all the elaborate defence mechanisms dedicated to those in his profession. I'm sure he could appreciate the depth to which one of my rather small size five appendages could install itself within his and his cohort's posterior sections. It would be pleasurable to me at any time to let him accompany myself on one of our less important or threatening rides to a place of little or no interest to anyone but ourselves. Thank goodness for the New York Times.

Unlike Dexter, nobody offered her a book deal.

UPDATE: Kat responds to "Bob" (introduction here) beginning here.

Labels: ,