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September 2003 Najaf 9.2.03 The people who have walked for three days from Baghdad to Najaf for Ayatollah Mohamed Bakr Al-Hakim’s funeral are ‹nally arriving. The procession numbers in the tens of thousands . The ayatollah was blown up by a massive car bomb while leaving Friday prayers here last week. It was a little like blowing up the pope in St. Peter’s Square, and everyone’s waiting to see who will take the blame. Meanwhile, Seb is at the Baghdad Police Headquarters, where another bomb has just gone off. We’ve been taking bets on which hotel will be bombed ‹rst and fully expect them to start hitting civilian targets any time now. The mourners are marching through the streets, beating their breasts and shouting about revenge, and the American forces assigned to keep order are hanging way back. The supposedly disbanded Badr Brigade (the militia of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, of which Al-Hakim was the spiritual leader) is providing security instead. We try to follow the cof‹n to the shrine where Al-Hakim’s brother Abdul-Aziz, the leader of the political wing of the SCIRI, 66 will speak, but we are blocked by a pair of cops who can’t believe a Westerner would be stupid enough to even consider going. Though I try and convince Ali, the translator I’m working with, to press the issue, he lets it drop, and we head back to Baghdad. Baghdad 9.6.03 Kathleen is out of money, and we don’t have enough to continue paying for everyone’s room and board. The staff agreed a few weeks ago that they would have to freelance if the magazine wasn’t making enough money. I didn’t like this plan, but I liked the alternative even less. I conceded, hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but it has. We’ve run the magazine for four months with the twenty- ‹ve thousand dollars we received from Alistair and Dave, a British banker whom Ralph convinced to throw another ten thousand dollars at us in July. Advertising steadily increased in the weeks leading up to the U.N. bombing (we’ve even hired another ad man), but it still only covers about half of our costs—about four thousand dollars an issue. The difference between where we are and break-even is the price of a few international advertisements. We’re in danger of running the mag into the ground if we continue like this. Right now we can afford to print the next issue, but we’re going to lose one writer before that—Kathleen—and the realization makes me ill. Kathleen feels terrible. I’ve spent the entire evening trying to comfort her. She doesn’t want to leave, but there’s no choice. She has one hundred dollars left in the country, and Ralph has asked her to use it to pay for her share of the room and board. She has already called home in tears, and her mother calls back a few hours later, wanting to talk to me. Kathleen offers to lie. “You don’t have to talk to her. I’ll tell her you’re asleep.” I have no idea what to say to Kathleen’s mom, so I pick up the phone and listen. She’s livid. SEPTEMBER 2003 67 “Can you assure me my daughter is safe?” “I will use my personal funds to make sure she can get out of the country,” I say, knowing that doing so would leave me broke. I’ve already poured all the money I have into the magazine . “What you’re doing is irresponsible.” I can’t disagree. She demands to talk to Ralph, and I wake him, put him on the phone, and go to the roof to smoke a cigarette . Half an hour later Ralph comes up. “What are we going to do?” “We have to stop printing. We can’t run like this. How can we keep bringing people out in a situation like this? We can’t pay Iraqis enough to ‹nd replacement writers, if we could even ‹nd people to hire.” We agree that I’ll take the vacation I’ve planned on while Ralph stays in Iraq and maintains a small staff. We’ll keep publishing on the Web until we ‹gure out what to do. There are lots of people in the States, I ‹gure, whom...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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