For many people the BBC Foreign Affairs Editor John Simpson, who stayed behind in Baghdad when Armageddon was scheduled to begin, was the civilian hero of the Gulf War. The only thing that may have puzzled them was his title. How could a man edit reports coming from all quarters of the globe if he deliberately isolated himself under conditions of siege? On this matter From the House of War provides little help, except for a passing reference to the author's 'rather empty title', which apparently carries important psychological impact when dealing with Iraqi (and other) civil servants, perhaps pandering, in the case of the Iraqis, to their notion that the whole world ought to be edited from Baghdad. One advantage of Simpson's position is that in a crisis he seems to be able to post himself wherever he wants to be and to stay on, albeit with a scratch team, even when instructed by the BBC to leave. 'You'll have to get yourself a new foreign editor, then,' he growled on being told to leave Baghdad, admitting now that he had been 'probably much too heavy-handed in my response; I usually am.' A large part of his motive was 'the fact that I was writing a book'.
LRB 26 September 1991 | PDF Download