By: Dave Astor
Amidst the many reporters and photographers covering the U.S. invasion of Iraq are a handful of syndicated columnists. One of them, David Ignatius of the Washington Post Writers Group, told E&P Online that it’s crucial to have columnist voices in and near the war zone.
“Columnists look at things with different eyes,” he said during a phone interview from Kuwait Tuesday. “They can explain and analyze. Reporters don’t have the freedom to do that.”
As an unembedded journalist who was in Iraq twice last month, Ignatius talked with many of the country’s citizens. While numerous Iraqis hate and fear Saddam Hussein, they’re also afraid the U.S. will eventually “leave them behind to die” like it did after the first Gulf War. “Their experience with the U.S. is that we come in with a lot of big talk and then bail out. They don’t trust us,” said Ignatius. He noted that the Iraqis he spoke with are frightened that, even if Hussein is killed, members of the dictator’s “mafia” will exact revenge against citizens considered disloyal.
Journalists face dangers of their own. Ignatius recalled a mine in Iraq exploding soon after he passed over it, and also cited the threat of being shot or kidnapped. “It’s difficult to know which roads are safe,” said Ignatius, 52. “At this point in the war, if you try to travel very far in Iraq to do reporting, you need either armor or a gun, neither of which unilateral reporters have.”
The International Herald Tribune‘s former executive editor — who has spent a lot of time in and near Iraq during his career — has also written from Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia during the last two months. Ignatius has been filing three rather than his usual two columns a week.
Among the other syndicated columnists in the war zone are Michael Kelly of the Writers Group, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times News Service, and Oliver North of Creators Syndicate.