Finally facing the fact that I’m not getting in to Iraq from Jordan any time soon, I come back to Amman and make plans to fly to Kuwait.
The frustration is through the roof. Actually, that’s not even true anymore. I’m not frustrated, I’m just sad and disappointed and angry at myself. A couple weeks ago I had this panicked feeling that Jordan was just the wrong place to be to cover this war. I thought about going to Kuwait. But I didn’t do it. Part of it is just I have so many friends in Jordan, made so many contacts, and I like it better than boring and crappy Kuwait. But now I’m so sad. I’m back in Amman, feeling as far from the story as I would feel if I were in New York. I’m watching it on CNN like everyone else. It’s almost embarrassing, alright, it just is embarrassing looking back at the last week. Last Wednesday I was in a total panic thinking it was the very last day I would have easy access to the internet, ATM machines, shops that sell anything I might want. In a mad flurry, I was getting ready to go in to war and then go to leave in Baghdad for the next several months. I finally left Amman in a state of frenzy. Got to that shit hole of Ruwaished and each morning we woke up seriously thinking we might be in Iraq later that day. We got as close as the border once. But then it became so clear that there was no way I’d cross that border any time soon. We’re getting the sense it won’t happen until after Baghdad falls, which now looks weeks away. The idea of covering the war from Amman is too terrifying. There is no news, nothing exciting happening here. So, I’m off to Kuwait tomorrow. I called my friends there and they’dve all been in Iraq. There are lots of ways to do it’safely with military escorts’dor just cowboying it up a road. I got a call on Saturday that one of my best friends among the reporters was dead. (he’s not, he’s fine). He drove north into Iraq thinking he was right behind American troops. Turns out he was way in front of American troops. He reached an Iraqi checkpoint. They were so confused, they didn’t know what to do for a little while and then they shot up his car. He was ducking below the glass and driving with a hand in the air. The car tipped over into a ditch. He crawled out of the car and hid further up the ditch. Later an American soldier found the wrecked car and his cell phone, hit redial and told his editor that the reporter is dead. For an hour, everyone thought he was. Then another soldier found him and he’s fine and filed a great story. You can read his account. Then another friend of mine was in Northern Iraq and was right next to the car bomb that went off there, killing one reporter. The window of his car was blown out. Then another friend went missing for several hours in southern Iraq and was rescued by US troops. Scary and sobering. And, I hate to say it, maddening to know that people I was hanging out with just a week ago are able to get so many good stories while I’m stuck here. Though I’m going to be very safe when I get to Kuwait. Safer than they were.
Our house in Ruweished was so disgusting. Think human feces flowing around the bathroom floor. Disgusting. Unbearable. I barely ate, because there was no decent food. I rarely showered, because the shower was in that special bathroom. I felt like such a softie’so pathetic that I can’t handle a little rough living. But I think it would be fine to live like that if we were reporting great stories every day. But not if we have nothing to report. I spent several days just calling the US embassy, calling the Jordanian palace, the minister of information. I was on the phone constantly trying to figure out how quickly we’d get across that border. It seemed like it could be any day, any hour. Then the wall came down and it became clear that it’s not going to be any time soon. I fled Ruweished on Saturday. Everyone else came out on Sunday. I showered three times in the first 24 hours I was back.
Everybody who can get to Kuwait is desperate to go. That’s all anyone has been talking about today. But there’s no way to get a visa to go there. They’dve simply shut down the visa process. So strangely fortunate, though, that I am in the middle of doing a profile of this Kuwaiti guy who happens to be the brother of the man in charge of visas in Kuwait. So, I called the brother and he said no problem, I can get a visa. So, I’m one of the only reporters able to go (the other ones already have visas). The flight is several hours longer than usual, because the plane is skirting Iraq.
I’ve got too much to do. I can ‘t write more. But this last week has made me see how crazy reporting can be. All these reporters with such pressure to get in the paper, get something great. And all of them just facing the fact that we picked the wrong place. We’re screwed. I really thought I’d be in Iraq by now. It’s particularly frustrating since I’m getting all these emails (we all are) from friends and family wishing me well and saying how scared they are for me. The only fear I’ve faced is of that toilet. There was a brief dispute about my bill at the 5-star hotel I’m staying in. That was kind of rough. And of course the room service could be quicker. But I knew it would be hard being a war correspondent.