AJR  Features
From AJR,   April/May 2007

A Blog of Heartbreak   

As access to the Iraq story tightened, news organizations began searching for new ways to spotlight the voices of Iraqis. McClatchy devised one of the most innovative approaches, a Baghdad bureau blog ( washingtonbureau.typepad.com/iraq) that chronicles everyday life through the eyes of its Iraqi staffers, journalists and nonjournalists alike. The accounts are first-person and unedited.

This particularly poignant narrative was posted on February 15:

"We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over. The young men of the family, as was customary, rose to go.

"'No!' cried his mother. 'Isn't my son enough? Must we lose more of our youth? You know there are unknowns who wait at the Morgue to either kill or kidnap men who dare reach its doors. I will go.'

"So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I.

"I was praying all the way there...

"When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. 'We identified him by the cell phone in his pants' pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves.'

"Now begins the horror that surpasses anything I could have possibly have envisioned. We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all around were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze that Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side, complete bodies; on that side halves; and EVERYWHERE body parts.

"We were asked what we were looking for, 'upper half' replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. 'Over there.' We looked for our boy's broken body between tens of other boys' remains with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.

"We found him millennia later, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony.

"Can Hollywood match our reality? I doubt it."