Late on this, but the L.A. Times has hired freelancer Borzou Daragahi for the Baghdad bureau. He was a Pulitzer finalist this year for Iraq stories in the Newark Star-Ledger and has reported from Baghdad for AP, "Marketplace" and a bunch of newspapers. Daragahi, a Columbia Journalism School grad, also posts periodic letters from the war zone to his website, Borzou.com, including this last dispatch in March:
In Baghdad, I live on the Internet. I've installed Skype on both my and my wife's laptops, so that we can have long conversations with each other, without paying a cent. I manage my finances online. How's Microsoft stock doing? For holidays, I often head to Dubai, the clean, gleaming facsimile of suburban America on the sand dunes of the Persian Gulf. I used to scornfully take life in the Chicago suburbs where I grew up for granted. In Dubai, I rent a car and drive to a mall and eat at the food court, maybe catch a movie at the multiplex. Sound familiar? But eventually, Baghdad always beckons and I find myself waking up with a start as the latest car bomb explodes and the sirens wail and daily life keeps getting harder and harder.
Once upon a time, my translator and I used to stroll off the hotel compound and grab a cab to our appointments. Now my team includes two armed drivers and a bodyguard named Redha -- a onetime bodyguard of Saddam's notorious son Uday -- who keeps a Russian-made Mikarov submachine gun with him at all times.
"Why do you have the barrel of the gun sawed off like this?" I asked him once.
"For a silencer," he responded.
"Why would you need a silencer?" I asked, astonished. "Wait. Don't answer that. I don't want to know."
He's on the LAT staff list but hasn't cracked the paper yet.