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Arrival in Iraq

By Michael Fumento

Got to the Green Zone, now known as the "International Zone," at 4:30 a.m. The armored Rhino bus still only leaves once a night at staggered times, and this time it decided to leave really late. Until then I had been lucky, having caught a space available seat on a Royal Air Force C-130. But since that got me in a day early, apparently the Marines are not ready for me at Ramadi even though I told them I might be able to catch a space-A. I'm told I'll find out soon, which actually means right at the last minute.

The area around the airport has changed since last year. The first thing I noticed was blimps overhead. I'd heard that they were going to start using them, since they are much cheaper to use than UAVs and can stay up for long periods of time. An officer told me that the blimps are good at catching terrorists emplacing IEDs and setting up ambushes and have been used to call in fire if an ambush does occur. It's too bad we couldn't blanket the red parts of Iraq with them, but the cost would be horrendous.

Ugandans have also taken over security from the Iraqis and Georgians I saw last year. Judging by their smiles, they seem to be happy to be here. Of course, if you were from Uganda, why wouldn't you be? The area as a whole, comprising the airport and three camps, looks much more "relaxed" as it were in terms of wearing body armor and other hard-to-describe features. Shortly after the last time I was here a suicide bomber blew up a checkpoint relatively close to the airport. I don't think that's happening anymore.

Alas, inside the IZ my beloved Gurkhas are gone. Too expensive. They've essentially been replaced by Central and South Americans -- Peruvians, Hondurans, and the like. But again, this is a positive reflection in that the State Department no longer feels it needs to pay top dollar to the world's best mercenaries. It's too safe here for that. Even the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) appear to have been pushed out so they can fight, leaving guard duties to lesser soldiers.

There are about 45 embeds in Iraq right now, primarily the U.S. and U.K. From a chart I'm looking at now, there will be two other reporters at Ramadi when I'm there; one from CBS (though I assume he has a camera crew) and one from the AP. The great plurality, of course, are in Baghdad. As I blogged previously, it's a bit more comfy and safe staying right here. Besides, this is where almost all of the crowd-killing suicide bombing goes on.

To most reporters, the war comprises nothing BUT such attacks so why bother going with the troops and being where the fighting is? Never mind that Ramadi is probably supplying and training most of those suicide bombers. Such is the American journalist mentality.

View photos.

April 8, 2006 06:53 PM  ·  Iraq