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20/5/05 Tomgram: Dahr Jamail on Living in Two Worlds Dahr Jamail’s Iraq Dispatches

May 20, 2005

Dahr Jamail, an independent reporter from Alaska, covered our occupation of Iraq for much of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 before coming home early this year. As a “unilateral,” he was a distinctly atypical figure in Baghdad. Unlike reporters for major papers, wire services, and the TV news, he lacked the guards, vehicles, elaborate home base, tech support, fixers, and all the other appurtenances of an American journalist in the ever more dangerous Iraqi capital, a city now so filled with violence and explosions that the young blogger Riverbend
recently wrote: “It is almost as if Baghdad has turned into a giant graveyard.” Unlike most American reporters, however, Jamail (gambling his life) refused to let himself be trapped in his hotel and so his reporting was of the (rare) outside-the-Green-Zone variety. With his Iraqi translator and friend, he regularly interviewed ordinary Iraqis rather than officials of various sorts.

Like many war veterans — military or journalistic — Jamail, who wrote on occupied Iraq for Tomdispatch while there, found the experience of coming home unsettling indeed. He recently returned to the Middle East and, as he was departing, wrote the following on his experiences in “the Homeland.” Tom

Coming Home An Iraq Correspondent Living in Two Worlds By Dahr Jamail

It isn’t an accident that, after 11 weeks, only as I’m leaving again, do I find myself able to write about what it was like to come home — back to the United States after my latest several month stint in Iraq. Only now, with the U.S. growing ever smaller in my rearview mirror, with the strange distance that closeness to Iraq brings, do I find the needed space in which the words begin to flow.

For these last three months, I’ve been bound up inside, living two lives — my body walking the streets of my home country; my heart and mind so often still wandering war-ravaged Iraq.

Even now, on a train from Philadelphia to New York on my way to catch a plane overseas, my urge is to call Iraq; to call, to be exact, my interpreter and friend, Abu Talat in Baghdad. The papers this morning reported at least four car bombs detonating in the capital; so, to say I was concerned for him would be something of an understatement.

The connection wasn’t perfect. But when he heard my voice, still so far away, he shouted with his usual mirth, “How are you my friend?” I might as well be in another universe — the faultless irreconcilability of my world and his; everything, in fact, tied into this phone call, this friendship, our backgrounds… across these thousands of miles.

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