Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The Baghdad Press Corps

After four years, I’m standing in a room with the finest press corps in the world. After four years – they’re throwing ME a party.

We’ve been through hell and back ... and back again.

From Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit and to the depths of Baghdad – we’ve literally, spilled the same blood, in the same dirt. Corny? Maybe ... But it’s true.

We’ve lost friends, loved ones, and colleagues. I choose not to count those who have died, gone missing – or simply disappeared. And that’s not counting those who have made ultimate sacrifice, and are often forgotten: those in the Iraqi press, choosing to try to make a difference in their own country. The numbers of lost are just too hard to imagine.

Many of my colleagues have not disappeared here in Iraq – they’ve gone “home” and we’ve never heard from them again. Truth is – what is “home” after four years in Iraq? I wonder how any of us can return home.

I’m humbled by a line I saw in a mini-series about World War II: “I wonder how I’ll explain all this when I get back home.” I do wonder how any of us will explain this place.

Our families – they don’t know ... and we would not expect them to – how could we? We don’t want them to have the burden of worrying about us. Because if they do, we can’t do our jobs with that on our shoulders along with everything else that we’re faced with.

And the simple, humbling truth is: we believe in this ... If anyone didn’t they would not be in this room.

We have had “close calls,” we have made mistakes – we stay up at night, wanting the world to care ... But they will never care enough in our minds. So we choose not to sleep.

We miss our families, our loved ones ... But there’s something about this story – we cannot shake it. It sticks to you like duct tape – something that is a running joke ... Injured? Stick some duct tape on it. Break that piece of equipment? Stick some duct tape on it. We do love our duct tape ...

Our tourniquets, bandages, flak jackets, gum, cigarettes, scotch, water, Gatorade, “wily-X eye protection glasses,” boots, radios, “go-bags”, lucky charms and helmets. Don’t leave the bureau without them. Especially the lucky charms – everyone’s got em’ and they work ... Until they don’t ... Welcome to the embed world. Welcome to Iraq.

We make jokes (bad ones), band together, and look after each other. We’d lay in front of oncoming traffic for any number of our staff members – everyone is equal here in Baghdad. We cut corners, we give the military cigars – and yes, we lie to each other, party together and forgive each other - because in the end – we’re bonded by something we can’t describe.

We love our security – for without them ... You’d see nothing from this country. The sound of silence would be overwhelming from a war that could not be covered without the names of many a former Special Forces soldiers; the names of which – you’ll never hear. Talk about a silent sacrifice.

I choose not to name names, not to list those that are forever my friends: rather this simple thought for those who know who they are.

These are the finest people I’ve ever had the honor of meeting, and they know full well; I breath this story like it’s oxygen ... And I will be back again.

- From Cal Perry, CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief.

Simply stunning!

Wish we had more first hand looks inside how the press operates ...
Mr. Perry,

Your work speaks for itself. You better go back there - or the coverage will suffer. For America, you better go back.
Thanks for this beautiful and moving post, Mr. Perry! It left me almost speechless. I am just able to say that you cannot imagine how much we admire and respect what you are ALL doing there.

Please, stay all safe! We need so much your reports!

Delphine, Paris, France.
when i was reading a letter from a US Soldier in Iraq i think he is Time Predmore .Tim Predmore echoes these feelings in the concluding paragraph of his letter: “How many more must die? How many more tears must be shed before America awakens and demands the return of the men and women whose job it is to protect them rather than their leader’s interest?”

Fantastic Blog story to read esply the lines where you said after four years going "home" ... truly this tells us the mind of a person who has stayed counting deaths and i think its a very sick feeling... even you come home permanently i think you require the help of counsellors who have to sork woth you atleast a year or two..and also its very painful to read and think what goes on your mind Cal Perry .. truly .. i was thinking what way i can help you so that you come out of this feeling ... i am sorry Cal i had no answer..
This was deeply moving to read.

Thank you for the work that you've done and the sacrifices you've made to keep us informed. Despite how it might seem, there are many of us still out here that are passionately focused on Iraq.

Though election coverage seems to have eclipsed almost everything else, there are few stories as important as Iraq. Again, I am very grateful and I wish you good luck.
Mr. Perry,

I will only say what everyone has above: you are a true hero for "freedom of the press." CNN has always been a step above: and since "Combat Hospital" you have set the example. I can only say what you have: I hope you will be back: for the "echo of silence" is not what America needs right now.

You are a war journalist of the finest state. Like those who have come before you: your work speaks for itself. Like the O'Brian's ... the the Michael Heer's: you are one for the books.

We'll see you on the "flip side" - that's right ... I'm a US solider ... and I'll see you on the other side!.

3-3 ACR (Mosul)
Thank you for this and thank you for the work you do. You will always carry Iraq with you, but when this is all over, I hope you find the peace to make your way home--both in mind and body.
Your post was a great relief to me that journalists still care about what is happening in the sandbox. I wish our country was paying as close attention. If no one else listens, you must know that each of the parents of each of our military personnel serving, both home and abroad, are reading every word you ladies and gentlemen of the press are writing. Please try to remember where home is for your own sake. Stay safe and come home when the job is done.
Alf Shukr wa Shukr or A thousand and one thanks, both to you and to those you choose not to name, especially the Iraqis whose contribution goes too often unnoticed.

You speak of sacrifice and service and brotherhood - its a glimpse into a world I never hope to see, but which I hope to understand a little, if only for my friends in Iraq who wonder, like you, "What is home?"
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