Sunday, July 1, 2007

Beast of Baghdad

The Jerusalem press corps notes the departure of a familiar Farrell Beast, specifically Stephen Farrell, former Middle East correspondent for the London Times, who has just joined the New York Times as a veteran reinforcement for their Baghdad bureau. It recently underwent a major overhaul, with Dexter Filkins and John Burns back to civilization of sorts (although with car bombs planted in the UK, Burns' new patch of Londonistan is none too calm.)

This alpha male was famously kidnapped at gunpoint by bandits near Fallujah, then re-kidnapped by Baathist insurgents, interrogated as a suspected CIA spy and released after 8 hours. The kidnappers discovered that both their captives had been based in Israel, and things looked pretty hairy for awhile.

"See, not soldier. Just bald," the shaved-headed Farrell joked to the second lot of gunmen, to convince them there was no threat. Dinner then was served to Farrell and his petite female colleague, freelancer and fluent Arabic speaker Orly Halpern, before they were blindfolded and driven to Baghdad.

Steve manages to keep his head down a bit more these days, but has a great nose for news and a knack for danger.

Well, Farrell is back for more Iraq hi-jinks, full-on. He did not exactly slink away from the Holy Land hotspot. The send-off party at his Jerusalem apartment, for which he donned his ratty Iraq t-shirt, was classic. Sushi was served and the press corps was roasted with "Golden Bollocks" awards for ace blunders. The winner was a strapping Scandinavian hack who, when grilled by agents at the Ben Gurion airport, had managed to leave them sputtering and speechless. "Did you have contact with any Arabs?" they had asked, attempting to assess whether he was a threat to the Nation of Israel. "Well,Arabs, Jews, whatever... I can't really tell you guys apart," he had replied. Doh! They must have been rough with him.
James Hider, who is assuming Farrell's old beat at the London Times, is also an old Baghdad hand. It's a beastly business.


Anonymous said...

Didn't Mick Ware, Time & then CNN's tough Aussie reporter, negotiate for the gunmen to let Farrell & Ms Halpern go? That's the story going around Baghdad.
But this little drama pales when you think of the BBC correspondent held so long in Gaza.
Free ALan Johnston.

dogwalker said...

That Farrell guy was just on the BBC, interviewed from Baghdad about the release of his good buddy Alan Johnston. He mentioned how he had been to Gaza many,many times and talked to Alan daily. And added --the nerve-- that Alan would go on vacation, but that he himself had to get right back on the horse after his own kidnap (that had lasted a few hours, not 4 months.) Jeesh.

getoverit said...

How long is Farrell planning to dine out on the hyped-up tale of his encounter with Iraqi gunmen in Apr 04? It is so not like Johnston's kidnap. SF was warned not to go down a dicey road and did; so he was menaced but ultimately treated well, dined, and let go. He cannot honestly compare his few edgy hours to the torment Terry Waite or Alan Johnston went through. Makes me want to throttle him. Will the NYT let him write with his ego the way the London Times encouraged?
SF was not really even robbed cuz his gear was handed back. He was being intimidated. Every time there is a new abduction, this guy surfaces with his "I been there too" schtick.

benefit of the dout said...

SF must have been v frightened. And with reason, In Iraq in 2004 there were 40 abductions when the victims were killed. ANd remember Norman Kember was rescued by British forces but Kenneth Bigley and Margaret Hassan, 59, both got murdered.