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Back-to-Iraq blog heads back to Iraq

Last year during the war, my friend Chris Allbritton raised over $13,000 in donations from readers of his blog — Back To Iraq — to pay for a reporting trip to Iraq. The idea was to provide for some truly independent journalism, since with no need to please a publisher or editor, he could write about whatever he wanted, without fear or favor. He produced some spectacular essays and snapshots of everyday life in Iraq under the invasion, which you can still read on his blog today (click on archives in the top right corner).

A few months ago his blog readers started asking him if he’d be willing to return to Iraq and file more stories about what everyday life is like, one year after the invasion. Once again, his readers poured in the donations, and he raised over $11,000. Last week, he left New York, and today he arrived in Baghdad.

Part of what’s excellent about Chris’ tales from Iraq is that they capture the ground-level aspects of life, including his own responses to the sheer weirdness of travelling in the region. It’s blog journalism at its best. Here’s his description of arriving on the flight — which spirals down to the ground in a viciously steep corkscrew, to avoid shoulder-mounted missiles:

First of all, the flight from Amman to Baghdad was startingly normal. A couple of flight attendants served refreshments and vile airline food, just like a normal flight. Except this one was in an all-white South African-registered plane (the irony should be lost on no one, there) and populated by a bunch of Parsons, KBR and other assorted contractors. I’m not going to call them mercenaries at this point, since the guys I talked to were all there to work at oil refineries or on cellular services. Hardly the mercenary types.

The landing was anything but typical though. After a normal flight, we went into a tight, corkscrew dive that sent your stomach up into your throat — and in the case of two passengers, out their mouths and into their laps. It’s a vomit-comet experience. But if you like roller coasters in a sealed container where you can’t really see anything, it’s a lot of fun. Just don’t think about the very real threat of shoulder-mounted SAMs.

I also dig the fact that in discussion after this posting, Chris’ mother posts to say she’s glad he’s still alive.

If you like his stuff, consider donating to the cause via Paypal! The more donations he gets, the longer he’ll be able to stay abroad and file slices of life from one of the most fraught regions on Earth.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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