In Country

I am here.

As careful readers of Zeal and Activity know, for several months I’ve been pursuing a career change. Over the summer, I finished up some obligations at home and accepted a contract position at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. I’ve been here for a couple of weeks now.

My reasons for coming are a subject for a different post. In part, in the changed strategy of the surge and the positive momentum reflected in on-the-ground reporting from Michael Yon, Badger 6, Greyhawk, and others, I saw the potential for a tipping point. God willing, I will help push while I am here.

It’s strange to be at the physical center of so much controversy. The International Zone is prosaic and peaceful. Starlings chirp in the trees. The sky is hazy; we are getting clouds more often. Daylight savings was a few weeks ago; dusk sets while we are at our desks, though the weather is still shirtsleeves. In Washington and New York, gauntlets are thrown and daggers drawn over circumstances here.

At once every chattering voice was stilled, every mouth closed, people seemed to hold their breath as with one movement every head in the audience turned toward a small door in the wall on the right. Every gaze fastened upon it with a kind of shrinking awe as if fearful to look upon a ghost. For the accused was a ghost, whom no one in the room had laid eyes on for almost five years, whom no one there beyond his family, lawyers and original accusers had ever seen at all. For five years he had been present in their minds, not as a man but as an idea; now he was going to walk through the door and they would look upon Lazarus. … A movement of “horror and pity” passed through the watchers, and the look bent on him by Picquart whose life he had changed beyond repair was so intense it could be felt by the people in between. … He knew nothing of the Affair, the battle of the press, the duels and petitions, riots, street mobs, Leagues, trials, libel suits, appeals, coups d’etat; nothing of Scheurer-Kestner, Reinach, the arrest of Picquart, the trial of Zola, the court-martial of Esterhazy, the suicide of Colonel Henry, the attack on the person of the President of France.

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