There is something about Anne Garrels' reporting that makes me understand even the most incomprehensible story. Like her conversation with Steve Inskeep this morning. They discuss the escalating cycle of violence in Iraq between and among Sunnis and Shiites, and Steve asks the question, "Is this a civil war?" Anne pulls back the focus and shows the big picture: that while it is Iraqis fighting Iraqis, "there's a reluctance to label it as [a civil war] because this could cement a situation which some hope can still be stopped."
Of course, NPR's Iraq coverage would be nothing without the amazing work of Iraqi reporters in the field. They are much more mobile, know the culture and speak the language fluently. But that is not to say that they don't take great risks to bring you and me the news every day. This morning Anne described the experiences of one of NPR's Iraqi stringers (whose name we intentionally omit). He witnessed an assassination in Basra and the shocking nonchalance of the killers. Here is the eloquent and terrifying letter from that reporter:
"There is a car in Basra feared by all the people in the city. We call the car 'Bata' — in English it is 'Swan.' The story of Bata is a horrible one. We all know to avoid the car with black-tinted windows and four armed people inside. Another car always follows, with more invisible ghosts sitting inside.
"The governor of Basra has awarded 20 million Iraqi dinars to anyone with information about Bata. Local songs and jokes tell a warning tale of Bata and when you hear news of another assassination, you ask, 'Is Bata behind this?' Ninety percent of the time, the answer is yes."
For the rest of the letter, click here.