Iraqis do exist in the thoughts of Times journalist

Here’s that rare thing; a Western reporter, New York Times‘ James Glanz, writing about working with Iraqis in the war-torn country and the ultimate price many have paid.

A beautifully moving piece of work:

On my last afternoon in Iraq, in December 2008, I drove to a graveyard in Baghdad to have a conversation with Khalid Hassan, who had been dead for over a year. All I could do when I got there was kneel in the dust and say, over and over, “I’m sorry.”

Sorry that a 23-year-old who worked in the Times Baghdad bureau’s newsroom was killed, brutally and pointlessly, on his way to work; sorry that I had not found a way to anticipate that horror and move him to a safer neighborhood after a bomb had destroyed his apartment and injured his sister a few months earlier; sorry that someone whose bravery and maturity I saw blossoming would never have a chance to grow up.

Death anywhere cuts short a conversation, prevents you from saying the words you wanted to say or realize later that you needed to say or should have said. Khalid must have literally skidded to a stop, as the murderers first fired automatic rifles into his beat-up Kia and then came back to shoot him in the head and neck after he survived the initial volley. He died next to a gas station after sending a final text message from the cellphone he was never without: “I’m O.K., Mom.”

That would be another conversation without a sequel.