Jill Carroll Letter From Baghdad

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

160_ap_jill_carroll_060110As you know, today is supposedly the "deadline" set by the captors of Jill Carroll, the American journalist being held hostage in Iraq.  I am not optimistic about the outcome of this unfortunate event.

This is from Carroll’s "Letter From Baghdad" written last year, about why she went there as a freelance journalist in the first place:

Only a story of this enormity, with nothing less than America’s global credibility, the stability of the Middle East and countless lives at stake, could be worth risking personal safety and financial solvency to cover it as a freelancer.


The sense that I could do more good in the Middle East than in the U.S. drove me to move to Jordan six months before the war to learn as much about the region as possible before the fighting began. All I ever wanted to be was a foreign correspondent, so when I was laid off from my reporting assistant job at the Wall Street Journal in August 2002, it seemed the right time to try to make it happen. There was bound to be plenty of parachute journalism once the war started, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.


It  isn’t easy to fulfill such a lofty mandate when people are out looking for foreigners to behead. The days are long gone when car bombs and attacks on military convoys were so infrequent we could keep track of the date and place of each one.

Iraq became terrifyingly dangerous almost overnight last spring. Everything changed during the U.S. Marines’ siege of Fallujah the first week of April 2004 and the simultaneous Shiite uprising led by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It wasn’t safe for foreigners to walk the streets, and car bombs became an almost daily occurrence.

The anger and violence have only gotten worse since then, and a new terror has been added: kidnapping.

Some 200 foreigners, several freelance journalists among them, have been kidnapped in Iraq since insurgents adopted the tactic last April.


But in a place where keeping a low profile is the best way to stay alive, the small operations of a freelancer seem safer than those of big media organizations, which rent houses replete with armed guards and a stream of foreigners coming and going.

Let’s hope we find Ms. Carroll safe back home . . . and soon.