Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wartime hotel journalism

"It is a measure of how bad security is in Afghanistan that it turns out to be more dangerous to stay in the Intercontinental today than it was then.

Full protection against suicide bombers is almost impossible. It will have occurred to most of the ill-paid guards on checkpoint duty, be they in Kabul or Baghdad, that medals for success in stopping suicide bombers are likely to be posthumous. If they do identify a bomber at a distance they might open fire, but at close range it is more in their interest to wave him on than try to stop or shoot him.

When I lived in the much-bombed al-Hamra hotel in Baghdad, three friendly and jocular guards would minutely search my car every time I returned to the hotel. When I asked them if this was really necessary, they explained they did it "because we know you are not a suicide bomber, but by searching your car carefully we can earn our pay without any danger. When there is a really suspicious car, only one of us does the searching while the others take shelter."

Patrick Cockburn: Don't expect top room service, or information, in a war zone

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