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Life in a time of suspicion

Who can you trust? What do you do when the two people you trust most tell you not to trust anyone?

I was given the first of two frank warnings just after I had walked into my office this morning after a few weeks out of Baghdad.

I dumped my flak jacket by the door, and exchanged three kisses on the cheeks with an old friend I call brother. We had sweet coffee. He smoked, and as he twisted out a third cigarette he told me, "only dumb people trust these days."

An hour later, a young Iraqi who has risked his life to keep me safe several times told me, "Trust no one."

They are perhaps the two people I trust with my life in this land of opportunism, and perhaps still opportunity.  But both told me not to. So should I trust what they say? And then do what? 

It reminded me of a joke by comedian and master of irony Stephen Wright. He said he'd named his dog "Stay" just so he could torment it by saying, "Come here, Stay," "Come here, Stay." 

Editor's note: Richard Engel just returned to his reporting post in Baghdad after some well-deserved R&R.  Read the rest of his post in Blogging Baghdad.