The Digital Journalist
Baghdad: One Year Later
May 2004

by Jerome Delay

Palestine hotel, March 20th, 1:00 AM

Hard to believe it's been a year since the first bomb dropped on Baghdad. It was just in a few hours. Silence over the city broken by the sounds of helicopters flying overhead.

Today the Iraqi press walked out of Powell's press conference. Protest over the loss of two colleagues, killed by American soldiers at the site of yet another attack on soft targets.

Almost a year ago cameramen Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso died from their wounds inflicted by an American Tank shell that slammed into the Palestine Hotel. Miguel and Kurt, Tatas and Jose, Ali and Ali. In our business, we often die in pairs... that's our buddy system... but the show must go on.

One year. Saddam Hussein's image has been replaced by that of Imam Ali, the Shiite martyr. Crime is out of control. Coalition forces who thought of a warm welcome now fear for their lives. Resistance guerillas push a fragile Iraq even closer to civil war. And if for photographers nothing has changed, you still can't take pictures of anything remotely dealing with the military without a hassle, for many Baghdadis the business at hand is still finding food, medicine and the simple basics of life.

We often joke that everything is going according to plan. I recall the first Americans blocking the bridges over the Tigris. Local folks begged us to ask soldiers let them through. Families separated by the bombs thought they could finally rejoice. To no avail. The first impression is always the right one. This time it was a bad one. Events of the past year, the past week, tonight, only reinforce that first impression.

1:30 AM. I'm a slow writer. Glad to be back, though this is a far cry from the Baghdad I knew. Except tonight maybe. Like a year ago, I'm waiting for the bombs. And like a year ago, I know they will come.

© Jerome Delay

JEROME DELAY is an International Photographer for The Associated Press. His work is published in Time, Newsweek, Paris Match, Stern, and daily newspapers throughout the world.