I'm at the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, enjoying absurd luxury before flying back to the East Coast tomorrow. I'll be out of Iraq for about six weeks and should be back in Baghdad circa October 21.
I haven't posted lately for a few reasons, none of them all that interesting to people other than me—I was dealing with the pace and the stress that come with having something resembling an actual job, and also struggling with burnout.
When my mood started to change on my first trip—starting in mid-March and continuing through April—I attributed it mostly to the situation. Things were very violent and tense and I was close to some of the nastiness. This time, though, I never found myself in any danger but still started getting anxious and irritable after about two months. People have their limits, and I now know mine.
I could tell in Baghdad that my mood was strange—I was amped up for no apparent reason. In situations where I'd normally let things slide I was being assertive; in situations where I'd normally be assertive I was testy. And then, as there was in April, there was one situation where I'd normally be testy but instead totally lost my shit.
Fortunately this time it happened two days before I left, not two weeks. But at least I can now say that I know what it's like to spring out of my chair to scream at someone at the top of my lungs. Fortunately the person I was screaming at was on the phone, not in front of me (I still, even after a day at the best hotel I've ever stayed in, can't say I feel guilty about yelling—the guy totally deserved it).
Anyway, after this long break I'm going to try getting on a schedule of six or eight weeks in Iraq, then about two weeks off. In the meantime I'll be posting periodically when something in the news out of Iraq catches my attention (or maybe, God forbid, if something our presidential contenders say about Iraq catches my attention).
When I get back I'm going to re-commit myself to posting here every day, even if it's just to verify I'm around or to post the unedited draft of whatever story I'm working on. I hope my unannounced hiatus hasn't scared off all my readers, because it'll be an interesting time in Iraq.
Something is going to happen in January—either elections, or partial elections, or the postponement of elections. Right now there are huge swaths of the country where it'd be too dangerous for people to gather and vote. Few Iraqis identify with a political party, and the big parties that allied with the US before the war and dominated the Governing Council are likely to dominate any election. The role of the United States in dictating, influencing or vetoing Iraqi government decisions and personnel is still murky (at least to me).
In other words, a lot is uncertain and a lot can go wrong. The next several months will either be a major success story or a disaster of moderate-to-epic proportions. I hope to be ringside, and I hope I'll have some readers to tell about it.