Baghdad Journal: May 13, 2006 (Jim Rice)

It is time to let everyone in on a little secret. We have been watching "Lost," here in the ABC Baghdad Bureau.

Now, this is in no way a promotion for that show that runs on the ABC television network and is produced by the Walt Disney Company. The fact that Jack, Kate, Hurley and I all work for the same company is incidental. I have watched three seasons of "24" here in the past, and this time, I just happened to bring the DVDs for the first season of "Lost" with me.

If you haven't seen the show, much of what I am about to write will be confusing -- but probably not any more so than most of the stuff I write. If you do watch, remember, I am only about three-quarters of the way into the first season, so forgive me if my observations are outdated (which reminds me of something else: I will commence legal proceedings against anyone who tells me what happens in the second season; I don't want to know yet).

We have come to the inevitable conclusion that ABC Baghdad is "Lost." Now, there are the obvious physical comparisons between Sawyer and me, and between Mr. Locke and ABC producer Joe Simonetti, but I am really talking about something much, much deeper.

(Thankfully Joe doesn't have as many knives as Mr. Locke so I am safe in making this comparison.)

When the cast of "Lost" got on that ill-fated flight, they obviously thought their flight would end well. It didn't turn out that way. Iraq? You make the call.

The "Lost" team is holed up in a cave, afraid to venture out. We, too, are holed up in our compound, hardly leaving unless we have to. It is our cave, our beach-head. No matter how many times we keep coming back here, we are still very much strangers in a strange land. The island, as it were, is hostile.

The island has monsters. We have insurgents, car-bombs, and militias. Fear is clearly the dominant emotion in both locales.

They have Vincent the dog, we have Fox the dog.

(There are a few inconsistencies: They have boars. In Iraq, pork is haram. … They have Kate. All we have is Fox the dog.)

On the island there is no law, no reason, no order. Iraq still has no cabinet. Iraqi leaders say things that, occasionally, have no basis in fact. The U.S. military says that yesterday a Kurdish military unit exchanged fire with a Shiite unit. The Iraqi Defense ministry says it did not happen. Iraq/Island is clearly its own reality. Nevertheless, the "Lost" team is trying to establish a civil society. Iraq is trying, too.

The Island has Saeed, a veteran of the Iraqi Republican Guard. Iraq has a lot of Iraqis.

Finally, and most tragically, much like the passengers on Oceana Flight 815, we have come to the conclusion that no one knows we are here. Neither ABC nor NBC ran a single television spot from Iraq this past week. (CBS ran several, but they are obviously on a different island.) No one is coming translates into no one is watching. We are forced, then, to merely survive. We shoot stories to occupy ourselves. We eat. We write blogs.

What, then, is the meaning? I understand that there is debate about whether "Lost" is real or a dream, or perhaps heaven. Is this just a dream? I assure you, for 25 million Iraqis it is not a dream. For 130,000 American troops it is not a dream.

By the way, bureau chief Bruno Roeber wanted to be compared to Mr. Locke because he fancies himself a hunter. But I think he is more like Jack, because he is a tattooed spinal-surgeon.