The Late Anthony Shadid Reporting From Baghdad, 2003

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The great New York Times foreign correspondent and two-time Pulitzer winner Anthony Shadid died in Syria yesterday. He was among the best. Here’s just one incredible piece we re-read last night, a dispatch from Baghdad in March, 2003, just a day or two before the American invasion:

His friend, Salman Radi, joined the conversation. “We all expect war is coming,” he said.

Radi said he feared it would be like 1991, when bridges, buildings and, most painfully, a civilian shelter were destroyed. He remembered the stench of rotting bodies. “And now,” he said, “they come again.”

Radi lit a cigarette. He said he had quit for two years, but started again three days ago.

“We don’t know the truth, we don’t know what will happen,” he said, after taking a long drag. “There’s fear inside me, for a long time. What will happen? All I can say is that I don’t know. Tragedies, I’m sure. But I don’t know.”

That uncertainty pervades the city, where streets began emptying and stores were shuttered today in anticipation of an attack.

Some of the artists groped for symbols of resilience, in a gesture, it seemed, to reassure themselves. One spoke of the palm trees that remain a dominant motif in Iraqi art. The desert winds bend them, push them to the ground, but they never break. Another spoke of the Tigris as a measure of national character. Whereas the Nile provided life to Egypt with its floods, he said, the surging Tigris wreaked destruction. Resisting its torrents made Iraqis that much stronger, giving them a well-deserved reputation for toughness.

“It’s like slavery,” Samarai said. “We can’t stand foreigners to run our country. It is horrible for us. What makes me really nervous is that when I was listening to Bush’s speech, he talked and I couldn’t smell any truth.”

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About the author

Jim Newell is Wonkette's beloved Capitol Hill Typing Demon. He joined in 2007, left for some other dumb job in 2010, and proudly returned in 2012 as our "Senior Editor at Large." He lives in Washington and also writes for things such as The Guardian, the Manchester paper of liberals.

View all articles by Jim Newell


Hey there, Wonkeputians! Shypixel here to remind you to remember our Commenting Rules For Radicals, Enjoy!

  • freakishlywrong

    If I believed in hell, I would wish all who committed this fruitless nightmare to rot in it. No, I'm still mad as hell.

  • Gratuitous World

    the Fresh Air he did a few months ago is great too – especially for those averse to reading .

  • ChernobylSoup

    And Judith Miller, working for the same employer, never even left her desk to "report" on the same story.

  • MiniMencken

    Is this the new, snark-free version of Wonkette we have heard is in the works?

  • edgydrifter

    Truth was one thing I never smelled when Bush was speaking, either. Huge piles of rotting horseshit, yes, but not truth.

    • Mumbletypeg

      You beat me to it said it better than I could.

    • weej_bain

      With Shrub, the poop will out.

    • MMathS

      That nut, Chavez, probably said it best: "The devil came here yesterday. And it smells of sulfur still today."

      • Limeylizzie

        That was fantastic.

      • doloras

        Why is Chávez a nut?

        • iburl

          Because he won't lay down and die when we ask him to?

        • bikerlaureate

          He seems to cling to the bizarre notion that he and his countrymen have the right to run their country as they see fit ?

          • ttommyunger

            Well said, Biker.

        • Kidneys4Sale

          Cancer gun. That is all.

  • actor212


  • Callyson

    when I was listening to Bush’s speech, he talked and I couldn’t smell any truth.
    That was what W meant by "Mission Accomplished."

  • nounverb911

    We lost a good man yesterday.

  • Lucidamente1

    Does this mean we can bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran now?

  • SayItWithWookies

    Mr. Shadid’s work entailed great peril. In 2002, as a correspondent for The Globe, he was shot in the shoulder while reporting in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Last March, Mr. Shadid and three other Times journalists — Lynsey Addario, Stephen Farrell and Tyler Hicks — were kidnapped in Libya by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces. They were held for six days and beaten before being released.

    A serious badass. May other journalists honor his legacy by carrying it on.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya

      Let's hope that some do.

      Most of them settle for reprinting the latest government war propaganda these days, and get well-paid for it.

      Note that while Judy 'Queen of All Iraq' Miller no longer works at the NYT, her partner in crime, Michael Gordon, is still there.

      New York Times Reveals "Reporter" Michael Gordon Actually Voice-Activated Tape Recorder

    • NeonTrotsky

      Let it be noted that it was the IDF that shot him

  • MinAgain

    Rest in peace, Mr. Shadid.

  • Crank_Tango

    It's like slavery? Being occupied by crusaders is not like slavery, asshole.

    SLAVERY is birth control, student lunches, and health insurance.

    Friggin drama queens.

    • savethispatient

      You forgot adjusting the marginal tax rate for top earners by 3%.

      • Crank_Tango

        Oh no, raising taxes on the wealthy (back to anything resembling normal levels) is Hitler.

  • pinkocommi

    Anytime someone brings up the idea of karma, I point to the absurdity of a great journalist like this being killed and then Cheney – who lacks a heartbeat and has split and diminished his soul more times than Voldemort – is still gracing us with his presence here on earth as evidence that it is all a load of crap.

    • finallyhappy

      I read he died of an asthma attack -surviving his previous shooting and beatings

  • notreelyhelping

    Here's hoping Kurt Schork and Larry Burrows are saving him a seat at the bar.

  • Mahousu

    There's a great bit he did (included in Night Draws Near) at an Iraqi police station early in the occupation.

    He interviews both the Iraqi police and the American soldiers stationed there, and each side unloads on how unreliable the other one is – right in front of each other, since both of them assume the other can't understand their language. What's more, it becomes clear that what each side is saying about the other is basically true.

    That one article was worth more than every single op-ed the Washington Post ever published on Iraq. Not that that's saying anything.

    • bikerlaureate

      Thank you for the link! I hoped to learn here that he'd published a book, and I happen to have an Amazon gift card collecting dust…

  • fuflans

    this is what real journalism looks like. and a sad day for all of us that appreciate it.

  • fuflans

    abc is running a story about the dangers of asthma.

    i think i would have gone with the 'returning on horseback from an unauthorized visit to a civil war zone.

    with smugglers.'

  • Antispandex

    He must have been part of the lame stream, left wing, anti-American media…because he got his story right.

  • sulmak

    Asthma attack, not what I expected when I read died in Syria.

  • ttommyunger

    "Asthma attack?" I smell something, but I'm not so sure it's truth.

    • sati_demise

      Phillip Morris GMO tobacco named "Quest"

      Take note:
      If you are gonna smoke, it has to be organic tobacco these days.

      • ttommyunger


  • snoopyfan2010

    “It’s like slavery,” Samarai said. “We can’t stand foreigners to run our country. It is horrible for us. What makes me really nervous is that when I was listening to Bush’s speech, he talked and I couldn’t smell any truth.”

    Neither could we.