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And the third was that it was my information to disclose or not.The conversation that day, though, meandered fairly easily along.I knew the INC well and had charted its fortunes from its London exile. One day, a crowd sat round in a circle in the shadow of tall palms, drinking whisky and heavily sugared tea, chatting in Arabic, which I didn’t understand. If Iraqis, conditioned by the Saddam regime to decades of anti-Semitism, knew I was a Jew, would they relate to me differently, mistrust my motives, misinterpret my questions?Then I heard my friend utter the word “Yahud.” Everything went silent. And I realized that everyone had turned to look at me. Being Jewish may not have been central to my identity, but I knew it might matter a great deal to them.I met possible future presidents and prime ministers, and an elite slice of society as unlike fundamentalist Pakistan as can be imagined.The people were warm and generous, but the complex politics of Pakistan has resulted in a virtually ungovernable country, now arguably the most dangerous on the planet.
Before Pearl’s grisly execution, his last words were, “I am a Jew.” I am not sure that would have been my chosen phrase. I am the bacon-eating, secular, nonbelieving Christmas-tree type. The invasion had taken place in March and the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square fell on April 9.
On one occasion, Sam had just put a media badge on the dashboard moments before we drove straight into a group of menacing-looking men. When I had first taken out my tape recorder, and started to ask questions, the sheikh had urged me to “slow down. Let’s chat first.” And so we did, talking and drinking small cups of coffee in his newly constructed reed structure, typical of the Marsh Arabs. But later, after dark, a large explosion nearby caused me to almost jump out of my skin. And in 2007 I made the decision to live in Afghanistan for a while.
Kabul offered a source of great stories at a historic time. And there was a uniquely interesting expatriate community, comprising dozens of different nationalities and religions.
Militancy and extremist Islam are the stock-in-trade.
The powerful and pervasive ISI intelligence agency knows everything (although they seemed to have missed the fact that Osama bin Laden had taken up residence).An experienced journalist, with the benefit of a large organization behind him, Pearl was doubtless taking calculated risks, not reckless ones. The foreign editor of an international publication, who went to Baghdad shortly after me, once told me, “When your number’s up, it’s up.” Not long ago he was killed in a car accident in the States.