War: Day One - Baghdad
As the bombs finally begin falling on Baghdad, Jo Wilding sent back this dispatch from inside the Iraqi capital
20th March 2003
I hardly know whether it was real. In my head I know that bombing started around 5:30am. I know because I heard low thundering booms that drew me out onto the balcony, where I could feel the pulsation through the air and see the distant flashes and the occasional moving light of a Cruise missile, until the sky got too light to spot them any more. I know because I saw the feral dogs that live on the riverside running down the middle of the road, which was wiped clear of cars, trying to escape the noise, which was in stereo. I know because the phones been ringing all day with journalists asking what's happening.
The streets are still empty. Nothing is open to travel to. There's nothing in the shops and the metal or brick frontages are staying where they are till it's all over. The war has started and yet not started. Bush says this morning was only an "opportunistic strike." The full weight of "shock and awe" hasn't yet begun.
This morning the manager of our hotel was arrested, seized by two men in uniforms and dragged, screaming and struggling in obvious panic, to a vehicle, apparently because some ignorant journalists were filming the bombing from the roof of the hotel, even though they're all supposed to be staying in the Palestine Hotel across the road. They wouldn't tell us where they were taking him and we couldn't do a thing to help him. We hardly expected to see him back, but within the hour he was escorted through the door. The edifice isn't crumbling just yet.
Those who are out are wandering around a little numbly. It's kind of the war but it's kind of not. There's nothing to stop us going out and doing things but there's not actually anything to do.
We're still in limbo.