Safely out of Iraq

Borzou Daragahi, the Times' former bureau chief in Baghdad, has left the war zone for a new posting in Beirut. He writes in his farewell piece about some of the reportorial deceptions that kept him alive but weren't always appreciated by his wife, journalist Delphine Minoui.

Now that I am out of Iraq, I can begin to be honest.

For years, I had swaddled myself in layers of half-truths: I was an Iranian heading to the shrine cities. I was an average Joe from the Midwest who liked to go canoeing in the summer. I was a reporter for Radio Canada here to tell the truth about what's happening in Iraq. I was an Iranian journalist visiting the brave fighters of Sadr City.

Sometimes I went beyond the truth in the name of survival. I was a Sunni Arab with a speech impediment. I was a sympathetic journalist visiting the brave Sunni patriots of west Baghdad. I was among a group of pharmacists heading down to visit a hospital caring for truck bomb victims. Anything to get the story and get out.

In fact, I am an Iranian American reporter from Chicago, a graduate of Columbia University's journalism school, where I was taught that the greatest journalists were impartial and balanced.

But in Iraq, I measured success through my ability to make it past checkpoints and gunfire, to melt into the background as mysterious masked gunmen flashed by, to ease back into the office compound alive, story in hand, and to breeze past any of the day's complications in chats with my editors.

At the end of every day, I put on my iPod and got on the treadmill to release the tension. I called Delphine, a journalist who early on had shared so many Iraq experiences with me, and assured her everything had gone well.

The piece provides a nice glimpse into the lives of Iraq's freelance foreign journalists, which he was before the LAT hired him.


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