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From Iraq: "Freedom is really expensive"

March 20, 2008 |  9:37 am

Foreign Editor Marjorie Miller sent a note to The Times' staffers in Iraq on the fifth anniversary of the start of the war. What follows is her letter to Salar Jaff, thanking the Iraqi staff members for working under dangerous conditions, and Jaff's response.

Dear Salar and the rest of the Iraqi Staff,

On the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion, I wanted to make sure that all of the Iraqis on our staff know how grateful we are for the hard and dangerous work you do for us every day. Please make sure to give our thanks to one and all, in the bureau and out in the hinterland. Whether you're providing translation, reporting, computer support, security, driving, paying bills or even cooking, you are providing essential services and without you we would not have been able to provide our readers with the thousands of smart and human stories we have published in the last five years.

Salar, you were the first to come aboard shortly after Saddam's government fell, but many of you have worked for us nearly the whole time. You accompanied us through the Nabil Restaurant bombing and Mark Fineman's death. You've survived terrible and wonderful times, and several generations of bureau chiefs and correspondents. We, in turn, have accompanied you as best we could though marriages, the births of your babies, the horrible deaths of children and parents. Some of you have sent your families abroad. Some of you have come and gone yourselves, and returned to the country again. We have learned so much from you and your families.

Your pictures are up on my door and window for all to see. Many people here in the building stop to look and talk about the bureau. They read your first-person stories and blog items and feel as if they know you. And every morning I open my front door and pick up the miracle that is the newspaper we made the day before, and your work is a part of that.

I wish you all safety, good health and a better year ahead.

Thank you, thank you,


Reply from Salar Jaff:

Dear Marjorie,

I hope you are fine and also your family. I just forwarded this message to all the staff here, and they thank you for it. Yes, we had been and still are in difficult circumstances through the last years, it's been a long time, sometimes I tell my colleagues that a day in Baghdad equals a year abroad; at the end of the day we pray for God that a day passed without getting hurt.

The change here in Mesopotamia, as I like to call it, was a massive one, freedom is really expensive, so expensive, I am looking at the filled part of the glass not the empty one. Hoping that one day things settle and normal life prevails over the country.

The tasks our staffers are doing is marvelous and great. We as Iraqi staff also learned a lot from you and improved our capabilities. And if we are doing good, that is also because you were always encouraging us and making us feel that really we are one family despite the distance. Diversity of bureau chiefs' personalities helps us a lot in getting different techniques of how to do our job. One thing makes us really happy and proud in Baghdad, that is despite all of those people who make death, we are here at Baghdad Bureau making life.

Thanks again for your message, our regards to everybody there at the paper. Wishing the paper more prosperity and success.


Salar Jaff