Have you ever heard of Bagdad? Not Baghdad, but Bagdad, without the "h." As in Bagdad, Arizona.
My producer Amanda Townsend and I were in Arizona recently covering a couple of stories in the cities of Kingman and Tucson. On the drive from Kingman to Tuscon, we saw on the map that there was a small town named Bagdad, just a little bit out of the way of our route. What, we wondered, do the people of Bagdad think about what is going on in Baghdad? Was there an interesting story to tell?
Well, we found out that Bagdad is a copper mining town with about 2,700 residents. We also learned it's a generally conservative place, with what appears to be a higher level of support for the war than the country as a whole. We also discovered that a decent percentage of the town's young people have wound up traveling from Bagdad to Baghdad as members of the military. One woman told us that ten percent of her son's high school class was in Iraq at the same time.
The town enjoys its attention-getting name. The nickname of the sports teams at Bagdad High School is the Sultans. The logo is a genie on a magic carpet. But the name of the town does not have Mesopotamian origins. Legend has it that a father and a son were mining for copper in the late 1800s. The son wanted a sack for his copper and said to his father, "Do you have a bag, dad?"
Of course, we can't be absolutely positive this story is true, but everyone we talked to in town has heard it. Everyone we talked to in town also has an opinion about this war. Nobody was shy with us.
When we walked into the Miner's Diner, we talked with a couple that had a son in Iraq for nine months. We also talked with a woman whose husband was in Iraq for the first Gulf War. Most of the people we met completely backed President Bush's stance on this war. But others made a point to tell us that while they used to support the war, the time has now come to bring home the troops.
We enjoyed meeting Arizona's Bagdadians. And one of the great aspects of CNN's international scope is that the televised story of our visit can be watched in Bagdad as well as Baghdad.