Detective Team

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The jazz club and his daughters’ ballet lessons bought McCreary and his wife rare entrees to the homes of numerous Iraqi families. “It was an artsy crowd of ancient regime types and politically neutered intellectuals. Carol and I worked constantly to give these people a sense of American values, to demonstrate how free people think and behave: to show them it was possible. But they were cowed. The big crisis in one family was the teenage daughter, whose beauty had attracted one of Saddam’s Takriti goons.” (Takrit is Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, and that of many of his closest associates.)

The United States Information Agency helped arrange for an American singer, Billy Stephens, to give a concert in Baghdad. Stephens sang “We Shall Overcome” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” But when the singer asked the crowd of English-speaking Iraqis to join in, there was silence. “Nobody dared,” Carol McCreary remembered.

“But there was such hope, things really were getting better,” Carol went on. She described the lifting of internal travel restrictions after the Iran-Iraq War was over, and the end of rationing. The American diplomatic community in Baghdad assumed that there was a thin wedge of opportunity it could exploit, especially after the revolution in Romania. Maybe it could happen here. The diplomats all knew it wasn’t much of a hope, but it was enough to keep them going.