Sometimes it is hard to get out of bed in the morning here. I have friends in the States who tell me they don't read the news.
"It just makes me so depressed," they say. It is a luxury of sorts to ignore Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan.
To skip over the news channels and discontinue the papers and flip through a couple hundred cable shows, watch the latest on Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and laugh at their antics; it's a luxury of sorts.
A luxury I don't have and I know I don't want. But sometimes near the end of my rotations in Iraq, typically six weeks of early mornings of reporting and late nights of writing (this time I stay 12 weeks before my break) I dread opening my eyes. I am lucky enough to get quick breaks. Most Iraqis can't get tired and just take a quick break from the war for a massage, an evening out and a late night stroll. Luxuries replaced by curfews and fear.
But I have to wake up and I can't turn off the television, ignore the papers, stop reporting or stop writing. The bad news is at the doorstep: gunfire I told myself was construction last week, a bleeding man on the stairs, a dead colleague, another who can never leave the hotel, another who went to a wedding that looked more like a funeral, another afraid she will end up like her dead colleague, men getting death threats and every day the list of those killed on the violence report.
Some days, when the beeping of the alarm wakes me up, some days like today I just want to keep my eyes closed.
Of course I force my eyes open and the day is not so bad. No spectacular car bomb, thank God, and a surprise visit from President George Bush. My Iraqi colleagues and I watch him talk to the Marines in Anbar from Baghdad.
"If we let our enemies back us out of Iraq, we will more likely face them in America. If we don't want to hear their footsteps back home, we have to keep them on their heels over here," he told cheering young Marines on this Labor Day.
In the pit of my stomach I feel nauseous. Many will hear that to mean that life is cheap in Iraq, by some estimates hundreds of thousands have died here in this fight but "if we don't want to hear their footsteps back home, we have to keep them on their heels over here."
Four times he referred to keeping the "terrorists" and the "enemies" that plague Iraq here and not bringing them home. Al Qaida became an element to be reckoned with in Iraq after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion. It is a symbolic fight for many extremists against the American troops now. Many Iraqis believe that the U.S. created an atmosphere to bring their enemies here and fight them on Iraqi soil. They say it to me every day.
"Why do you assume that America wants to make it better here," a friend once asked me in frustration.
I grew embarrassed looking at the wonderful people I work with. I thought about the hundreds of Iraqis that were killed in one attack in two impoverished Yazidi villages, a minority religious community in the north. The families torn a part and the piece of a woman, they pulled from the rubble. She was probably a mother, she was someone's daughter, cousin and sister.
My American life is not worth more than an Iraqi life. An Iraqi life is not worth more than mine. Life is never cheap.
Some days you dread opening your eyes. But closing your eyes doesn't make it stop.