The first thing that hits you is the smell.
Fragments of human flesh rotting quickly in the hot Iraqi sun. They're splattered all over the walls, the rubble, the broken bits of furniture lying dusty and burnt in the wreckage. Small, fine bits of dark, bloody meat, mixed in with chunkier lumps sprayed in every direction by the force of the blast. Hair. Teeth. Anything you can identify and much you just can't.
It's what happens when you blow yourself up. There's not much left of you. And that's one of the hard realities of suicide attacks. Anyone can understand the feeling. When you see people badly hurt, when you witness the terrible pain and suffering and see innocent people die, you want to get the person responsible. You want them to pay, to be stopped, to be punished.
But they are gone. And you cannot punish them. It is the ultimate victory. A triumph of terror.
The man who walked into the lobby of the Mansour Melia Hotel in Baghdad and blew himself to pieces got exactly what he wanted.
Doubt, fear, anger. Grief. These are the emotions running from Baghdad to western Anbar province, where many of the dead came from. They were powerful leaders from prominent Sunni tribes in a land where family names are everything. The belief is they were targeted by al Qaeda because they were working with U.S. and Iraqi forces against the terrorist group.
They were former allies — al Qaeda and the Sunni tribes who fought together. Now they are enemies.
It is hard to know the truth. There has never been a Shiite suicide bombing in Iraq. In other parts of the world, yes, but not here. This is the signature of al Qaeda in this part of the world. No doubt they will proudly claim responsibility if it was their handiwork, never ones to shy away from the propaganda value in all they do.
We will probably never know everything.
But there is much I do know after today. I know that one of our CBS colleagues is lying in an American military hospital tonight, being cared for by some of the best doctors in the world. And I know he is there because the division commander for the 1st Cavalry, Major General Joseph Fil Jr., worked with the commanders in charge of the 28th Combat Support Hospital and they made it happen. I know that U.S. soldiers risked their lives again today to come to the aid of CBS staff after the hotel was bombed.
And I know that when our Iraqi colleagues saw U.S. soldiers coming to their aid, it meant something important. It didn't solve everything; it didn't make everything right. But for that moment, in that part of Baghdad, to those people, it was a sign of respect.
We owe the American soldiers who helped us Monday a debt of gratitude that can never be fully explained.
There are many people in the United States who will read this and never understand. It will be taken by the left and the right; it will be adopted by those for and against the war. It will be used.
It is not meant to be that way. What is true about Iraq remains true. And history and time will surely make that clear.
But it is so much more complicated close-up. Every day there are contradictions here that would confuse and surprise people far away.
The real danger we felt here today came not from al Qaeda, who gravely attacked Iraqi civilians and obliterated the lobby of this building.
It was from some of the Iraqi security forces, who are meant to instill confidence, not terror. It's not that all are bad. There are many courageous men amongst them who sacrifice so much. But there are also many militiamen and death squads and the truth is, if they're all wearing uniforms and carrying weapons, it's impossible to know the difference. And more importantly, who can afford to take the chance?
By Lara Logan