Dinner with a Baghdad Band

A word about a languid dinner on a Cairo rooftop with a group of journalists last night, badly in need of a beer and a break. Most of them are denizens of the Iraq war — Jill Carroll, the kidnapped journalist, now in Cairo for the Christian Science Monitor, Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post, Alexandra Zavis of the Los Angeles Times — and several others. Most correspondents in Iraq need to leave the country from time to time to take a respite from the stress and violence. Cairo is hardly a calm and quiet place, except by comparison. All told stories of their various close calls, which frequently involved the heartache of comforting Iraqi staff in their offices as they have lost loved ones and neighbors. I told Carroll I was present at a recent Courage in Journalism award luncheon where she was an honoree (she declined to come and sent her mother); instead the presenter, Sharon Stone, shed copious tears over Carroll’s travails for about 20 minutes, a grand and wildly out of place performance. Jill, slight-framed and about as uncynical a person as you might meet, said she felt adamant that she didn’t deserve the award.  I was reminded of the rare and instant camaraderie journalists create in faraway places, especially in war zones.