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Sunday, December 7, 2014

In and Out of Time in Iraq

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I fell out of time in the summer of 2004. I fell back in about seven years later, on September 11, 2011.

The first fall was slow, more of a slide than a drop. It began as I moved around Baghdad, in the summer of 2003, with a growing sense of unease. On Memorial Day, while reporting for the Washington Post, I went on a 1st Infantry Division patrol in western Baghdad with another Post reporter, Anthony Shadid. I talked to members of the patrol, while Anthony talked to the Iraqis in the neighborhood. “Everybody likes us,” Spec. Stephen Harris, then twenty-one years old, told me. Anthony heard a different story. “We refuse the occupation,” Mohammed Abdullah, a thirty-four-year-old Iraqi, told him. “They’re walking over my heart. I feel like they’re crushing my heart.” (Anthony, who had been shot in Israel, in 2002, and was kidnapped in Libya, in 2011, died while covering the rebellion in Syria in 2012.)

The rest of 2003 brought a series of bombings in Baghdad—of the United Nations office, of foreign embassies, of the Red Cross—that clearly were designed to peel away potential allies from the United States. (The U.S. responded to these attacks with flailing and with moral errors, such as the torture of prisoners—and not just at Abu Ghraib.) In the spring of 2004, there simultaneously was a Shiite...
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