Once our C-130 actually flew into Baghdad and my feet were actually on the ground, I suddenly realized that I had left my book back on the plane! And it wasn't just any book, no. It was a special galley copy of "Exit Music" (Ian Rankin's latest murder mystery) which I had picked up at the 2008 Book Expo last June -- and the hard-bound edition wasn't gonna come out until September. Now I'll have to wait for months for the Berkeley Public Library to get a copy for me to read. Mr. Rankin, if you are out there somewhere and reading this now, PLEEZE send me another copy! I gotta find out who killed the Russian.
After landing in Baghdad, I then was faced with two alternatives. My first option was that I could take a bus to Camp Stryker, wait there until 3:00 am, get a ride into the Green Zone on an up-armored Rhino convoy, take a Humvee to LZ Washington and then get a helicopter out to Camp Falcon. Or I could chose my second option, which is what I actually did -- bum a ride from the head of an MRAP platoon who I accidentally ran into at BIAP and who was heading directly across town to Camp Falcon. Boy did I luck out!
Small group criminals?
"Initially it was a euphemism for rogue militias but now it's just a catch-all handle for small groups of thugs who are driven to violence by money as compared to ideology."
At around 8:00 pm our MRAP drove into Camp Falcon, which had become an internet legend when it allegedly got blown up by insurgents back in 2004 -- but so far I've been hesitant to ask if that legend is actually true. I think it would be more tasteful of me to settle in a bit more before asking.
The public affairs officer gave me a quick base orientation -- but I still managed to get lost several times before bedtime -- and introduced me to my new roommate. She is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. She's a war correspondent, a mother of two pre-teens and looks like she might still be in high school (a sophomore at most).
"Have you ever been to Iraq before?" I naively asked. She had. And also to Somalia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, etc.
"I was working for a major metropolitan newspaper when, after 9-11, they suddenly became short of reporters -- so they sent me off to Afghanistan and I've been covering wars ever since." Awesome! I'm so jealous. I want to cover wars!
"And people actually pay you to do this?" Yes. "Who watches your kids?" Family.
"That reminds me of an old pair of Doc Martins I used to wear everywhere for almost ten years," said the reporter. "But when I got to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina, they turned a strange shade of blue and started to stink. I still have them. But I can't wear them anywhere. They smell too bad." I felt her pain.
"Katrina? You were there for Katrina?"