Noel Clay is a Press Officer and works in the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. He is temporarily posted to the Embassy and will return to Washington, DC after his assignment where he will continue his Press Officer responsibilities in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.Iraq: On the Ground -- Noel's September 26 Dipnote posting
First of all, I’d like to say hello to all my relatives and friends, among others, who found me on the State Department’s DIPNOTE site and took the time to say hello. Out here – living on the banks of the Tigris – reading these postings, much like receiving mail, is exciting. Thank you all for your support and words of encouragement. I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the response, but it was so nice to hear from everyone.
I’m wrapping up the regular work week this evening. Today (Thursday) is what I refer to as the American Friday. You see, the Sabbath here in Iraq and much of the Middle East is traditionally on Friday. Therefore, our weekend here in Baghdad is Friday/Saturday. It takes a while to get used to, but when all you do is work, you kind of feel that there is really no weekend at all. I usually spend several hours at work on Fridays and Saturdays to catch up on work I’ve neglected as a result of more pressing, immediate concerns.
It’s getting late and it is quiet now in my office, “the Green Room.” The only sounds are those of a couple of stragglers clicking away at their key boards. They’re either sending emails back to Washington where it’s mid afternoon (normally there’s an eight hour difference) or maybe they are ordering their favorite sundries from drugstore.com or a new pair of shoes from zappos.com (mine should be in any day now). Either way, quiet is nice from time to time. During the day, the Press Office is the hub of activity. It’s loud, with approximately 25 people going about their duties in one gigantic room shouting from one end to the other, dozens of cell phones ringing, and people coming in and out. Seemingly constant ambient noise spills in from the palace rotunda through the very large open wooden doors that separates our office.
The last couple of days have been spent continuing to field calls about Blackwater and the various investigations that are being conducted as a result of the recent shooting incident. That, coupled with various officials testifying before Congress, has continued to drive the news and create a lot of work for us. Yesterday, we also were asked to respond to inquiries from the press about the Polish Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Pietrzyk, whose convoy was attacked in Baghdad. Sadly, a Polish soldier was killed. Blackwater contractors helped Medivac Ambassador Pietrzyk to the International Zone (IZ) hospital and get medical treatment for his injuries.
Because Americans are such a large part of the mission here in Iraq, the Embassy is asked to comment on most everything that happens in the country. I was talking with a coalition counterpart yesterday and that person told me they didn’t receive one press call for comment on the attack on the Polish Ambassador. We do our best to respond to inquires from the press as necessary, but we also refrain when commenting would not be appropriate and should rightfully come from another source.
With that, another day in Baghdad has ended. With the recent time change, the days are shorter. (Oh, I should mention here that it’s getting cooler now. Daily highs are about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I know that sounds hot, but it can get up to 120 F in the summer. So, 100 F is cool to us out here. It’s a dry heat!) So, it’s my “American Friday Night” and I have no plans, imagine that. Maybe, I should find the “happening” spot? But first, I’ll give my mom in West Virginia a call and check in.