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Waiting for an Ordinary Day

A journalist reflects on her stint in Iraq.

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It was a stunning dispatch, one of the best from an American journalist covering Iraq in 2004. I remember being struck by its raw honesty, its insightfulness, and by the fact that it was probably what most reporters covering the war wanted to write but couldn’t.

It wasn’t in any newspaper or magazine. It was an e-mail that The Wall Street Journal’s Baghdad bureau chief, Farnaz Fassihi, wrote to friends and family that September. It eventually spread across the Internet, meeting either praise or condemnation. It was bluntly critical of the American war effort and captured not just the frustration of journalists, but also the overwhelming anger and disillusionment of average Iraqis.

“Iraqis say that thanks to America, they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they’d take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler,” Fassihi wrote in the e-mail, which is now included in her book Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq.

Fassihi wrote those words as the war became more horrific by the day, the insurgency raged, and sectarian killings grew more frequent. She wondered whether the stifling security restraints that she and other reporters endured defied the very reasons she became a journalist, “[T]o see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in faraway lands, discover their ways, and tell stories that could make a difference.”

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