IRAQ — EYEWITNESS TO WAR — A PHOTOJOURNALIST’S DIARY is a day-by-day, personal eyewitness account of my 35-day sojourn in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It begins with my arrival in Jordan on April 10th, 2003, and ends on May 14th, when I left Jordan for Montreal.
I went to Iraq to write a book about the war we don’t often see the war of survival on the streets and its effect on the population. During my daily coverage, I worked for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Associated Press, USA Today and Newsday, as a freelance photographer.
In 1991, I spent several weeks covering the Gulf War. At this time there were extensive restrictions placed on media coverage and much of the story was not really told. I believe that such stories should be told, and it was with this intention that I decided to go to Iraq in the spring of 2003.
Most of the coverage is centered in the capital city of Baghdad, where looting and anarchy ruled right up to the time I left. To get a pulse on how the whole nation was surviving the effects of war, I travelled from Kurdistan in the north, to Basra in the south. This gave me a better understanding of the Iraqi people, as the situation in Baghdad was unlike that in Kurdistan or the southern regions.
Many of the suppositions that are discussed in the diary have come true, with Baghdad evolving into a boiling pot of insurgency and daily horrors. To combat this, in November, 2003, American President George W. Bush introduced Operation Iron Hammer, a renewed assault on known insurgent hot spots and hideouts. As the hostilities spread throughout the country, so did Operation Iron Hammer. This culminated in Saddam’s capture on December 13th, 2003, one of the prime objectives of the operation.
Regardless, the Americans were starting to lose the war of public opinion both at home and in Iraq, where they were being painted as an occupying force. More American soldiers were killed in post-war attacks, than during the war. President Bush, seeing the rise in anti-American feelings and attacks, set the deadline of the end of June, 2004 for handing over control of the country to an Iraqi coalition government. On May 29th, 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council named Iyad Allawi, a former opponent of Saddam Hussein, as prime minister to steer the country until proposed elections in January, 2005.
The root of my job as a journalist is to inform. I have tried to bring the reader a unique, unbiased perspective of the war, rather than the generic Shock and Awe campaign we all witnessed on television or read in the newspapers. I can only hope that this diary serves its purpose of giving the reader a fuller understanding of the situation in Iraq, by bringing you onto the streets of Baghdad, to see and smell the daily tragedies unfold.
This diary is just that — a personal day-by-day account of my time in Iraq. “Eyewitness” is a record of my own observations and must be interpreted as such — it is a personal journey. It is my wish that Eyewitness To War be a balanced, non-partisan portrayal of the war from street level.
Robert J. Galbraith
Montreal, September 24, 2004.