Twenty years ago this month, I watched the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on TV in a hotel room in Amman, Jordan, wondering whether it was good or bad luck that I was not in Baghdad to experience the so-called shock and awe bombing campaign.

I had been forced to leave only a few days before, as the government of Saddam Hussein had begun selectively evicting foreign journalists. The Ministry of Information wanted to reduce the number of unruly cats it would have to herd when hostilities broke out.

In vain I had protested that my visa was good for two more weeks. Permission to enter had been very hard to get and I had hoped to use some of my remaining time to start the laborious process of securing another one. "Don’t worry, you will be back in Baghdad soon,” said the lugubrious official who had ordered me to leave. "But it may not be the same Baghdad.”