Greetings from Baghdad where The Surge is Working and it’s a balmy 130 degrees, so don’t forget that sunblock. SPF 50 ought to do it.
The flight was unremarkable, though private, thank God. I mean, if you’re going to visit a warzone, might as well be on a G4. Uneventful landing, no SAM’s whizzing by the fuselage. And, to my surprise, a duty free store at the airport with candy and scores of watches. Must remember on the way out to grab some I (heart) Baghdad T shirts for the kids and mugs for the CBS staff.
So much to take in on my first day. Ride to the so-called Green Zone was a stark reminder that there’s a war going on here. Concrete barricades everywhere, lots of barbed wires. And the checkpoints. One after the other. Apparently, the place used to be strewn with IED’s – military shorthand for Improvised Explosive Devices – which insurgents (the bad people) have used to blow up U.S. troops (the good people) and even many Iraqis (the people caught in the middle.) But that doesn’t happen as often because The Surge is Working.
Finally made it to the Green Zone, which I’ve been told is the absolute must first (and only) stop for a foreigner in Baghdad. Since all this terminology is new to many Americans, let me explain. The “Green Zone” is where important good people live, to make it harder for bad people to blow them up. Our living conditions are hugely luxurious. We’ve taken over a house rented from a wealthy Iraqi entrepreneur (wonder if he knows where any of that missing 8 billion is. Should make a note to schedule a hard-hitting, no-nonsense interview.) Anyway, the house has air conditioning, a pretty spacious kitchen, and multiple televisions. Alas, no flat screens or HD but, heck, when you’re at the front lines, you need to learn to tough it out.
Met some of the CBS staff, including a producer who’s been here from the beginning of the war. I asked him why he didn’t try to get another assignment. He said: “This is one of the most important stories in the world. I’m a reporter. It’s not only my job to understand the situation from an historical, religious, and geo-political perspective, but to be an eye- witness to events as they unfold, then to learn the facts, and report those facts back to the American people in as unbiased a way as I possibly can so they can become a more informed electorate, and that requires my physically being in the country for extended periods of time instead of parachuting in for a week for a photo op just to give myself some instant journalistic street cred.” Hmm… Apparently, that happens. Wouldn’t be surprised though, as there will probably more journalists in town pretty soon as The Surge is Working.
Later in the day, we visited the home of a typical Iraqi family just to see what day-to-day life was for them. Even though their apartment was small, extremely hot, had no running water and spotty electricity, (which would be like a 2-grand a month upper east side one bedroom) they were warm and welcoming. And while they told me they were afraid for their safety on a daily basis, the most heartbreaking thing of all was that their young children, ages 9, 7, and 8 months couldn’t even play outside because of the bombs and bullets. Yet the parents don’t blame U.S. forces and hope that the Americans will stay because if they don’t “the militias will kill everyone.” I told them not to worry about that because The Surge is Working.
(A thought: would’ve been fun to bring Willard here for one of his Smuckers tribute to those rascally centenarians, but I’ve been told that it’s tough to find anyone in Iraq who’s made it past 100.)
When we returned my producer informed me that what we did was a bit dangerous and we could have been victims of a kidnapping, or worse, which has happened to scores of journalists in Baghdad since the war began four years ago. Great, now he tells me!
Anyway, I’m anxious to get to my exclusive interview with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker to get a better handle on the situation on the ground, as all Americans, up to and including the president, are anxiously awaiting their report to the Congress and the American people, having absolutely no idea what they’re going to say. Hmm…I smell a scoop.
All in all, it’s been an eventful day, and has given me a fuller appreciation of the situation on the ground and admiration and respect for our troops who I’m told must patrol the 110 degree streets in full body armor and heavy uniforms, but they are the boots of freedom – boots for which we should all be grateful.
Tune in tomorrow for more of my report from the front lines in Baghdad. We’ll be featuring “Kevlar fashions for Fall” hosted by Donna Karan, a cooking segment entitled: “Quickie goat recipes for that electric oven that’s only got an hour of power a day!” and a Concert in the Rubble, featuring the song stylings of crooner Michael Buble, who’ll be singing his new hit single: “The Surge is Working.” If that doesn’t get the bullets flying from all sides, I don’t know what will.