• Cold Mutton: Reporter Dan Murphy found out firsthand this week how quickly fear can erode normal activity in Baghdad. With the Monitor's Howard LaFranchi due in Baghdad on Saturday, he put together a dinner party to introduce him to some folks in town. Dan invited a couple working on justice issues for the US-led coalition, a fellow journalist, and a friend at a democracy-building nongovernmental organization (NGO). A week ago, Dan had eight confirmations for dinner.
But the wheels started to come off shortly after last Monday's suicide attacks, with rumors that attacks were planned against foreigners for Saturday (page 1). The couple at the coalition were the first to cancel, explaining that a "lockdown" order had been issued for the weekend for the hundreds of officials who work at the coalition's heavily guarded central compound. Then on Friday, the Australian Embassy warned that the area around Dan's hotel could be targeted, and most residents should evacuate - including the NGO worker invited to dinner. Finally, Howard's flight was canceled on Saturday because of US intelligence that civil aviation flights might be targeted. "I ended up alone with leg of lamb for eight,'' says Dan. "Howard arrived safely Sunday, so he'll probably be helping me to eat cold mutton for a week."
David Clark Scott