In the past 72 hours, violence across Iraq has gotten noticeably worse. Several British civilians were kidnapped from INSIDE a supposedly secure government building. At least 122 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq in May, the third highest death toll of the entire four-year war. Media and other westerners are fleeing in droves. Today from my balcony, I could hear a huge battle unfolding in western Baghdad: artillery shells, mortars, machine gun fire, lots of things that go boom. It was several miles away from my compound, but it sounded like it was practically next door. Every time an artillery shell explodes, it makes a deep thump sound that you actually can feel in your chest even miles away.
That said, I feel pretty safe where I am at the moment, even though we are living in the "Red Zone."
I know I've bitched about this before, but I can't reiterate it enough -- especially to the conservative bloggers and much of the public who have a misconception that all journalists are living INSIDE the Green Zone, enjoying the creature comforts there like movie theatres, gyms, pubs, even Burger King. WE DO NOT LIVE IN THE GREEN ZONE! The majority of journalists are living and working in downtown Baghdad, alongside Iraqi civilians and families. Yes, our compounds are fairly-well protected, but we do not have U.S. soldiers with tanks stationed outside our front door. Sadly, Baghdad is becoming so dangerous that a handful of reporters have moved into the Green Zone, but they are in the media minority. For OPSEC (Operational Security) reasons, that's all I'll say on that topic.
There are moments of calm, when you might actually have hope for the future. I spent the afternoon today interviewing an Iraqi for an upcoming story. He is so confident of the future that he has invested thousands of dollars into starting a new business. Over in western Iraq's Al Anbar province -- once a no-man's land -- violence is significantly down and many locals are now taking up arms AGAINST insurgents.
Which direction this war will take will likely be determined over the summer.
In completely unrelated random news: I've actually made money off this blog! I received a direct-deposit check from Amazon.com today for a whopping total of $10.17 to cover referral fees from some kind souls who actually bought books or CDs from Amazon through the links on this blog. A quarter here, a dollar there really adds up, and it only took me 18 months. At that rate, it will take me 15 years to earn $100 from Amazon, so I won't be becoming a professional blogger just yet. Maybe I could turn a profit if I added some Iraqi porn! Hmmmmm...