Jewish World Review April 4, 2003 / 1 Nisan, 5763
Ah, the life of a war correspondent this time around
DOHA, Qatar I'll get no sympathy from the soldiers whose company I'd prefer, but my war
so far has been one of luxury and frustration.
I'm slated to be "embedded" with the First Armored Division. But the
division isn't likely to arrive in the theater for several more weeks. So,
for the time being, I'm here at Central Command headquarters on the
outskirts of Doha, a city that looks a little like Las Vegas - if you can
imagine Vegas without gambling, half-naked women, and public displays of
drunkenness. (There are plenty of private displays of drunkenness.)
The nature of the duty for "war correspondents" here is pretty well
summarized by a sign on the door of an office in the media center shared by
British and Australian journalists:
"Please be on the lookout for Darren 'Gobble' Lawton, war correspondent for
Channel 7 in Sydney. He was last seen at the pool bar of the Ritz-Carlton
sipping cocktails, or playing golf at the Royal Doha Golf Club . . .
Management is worried he might be lost, disoriented or suffering from battle
I'm staying at the most luxurious Marriott I've ever seen, where the room
rates are also the most reasonable I've ever experienced. Food's expensive,
though. And the pool bar is nowhere near as nice as the one at the
I don't get to spend as much time at the pool bar as, apparently, "Gobble"
Lawton does, because, for reasons that are unclear, Qatari customs
confiscated my laptop and satellite phone when I arrived in the country, and
when I am not out at Centcom, I'm cooling my heels in various Qatari
bureaucracies as they invent more hoops for me to jump through before I can
get my stuff back. And, without my equipment, filing stories is a b-tch.
The highlight of our work day is the 3 p.m. briefing, which you can watch on
cable TV at 7 a.m. EST. The view we get from here is what the military calls
the "operational" view, as opposed to the tactical view, which is provided
by the embedded reporters, and the strategic view, which the big shots at
the Pentagon provide.
The briefings usually are conducted by Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, a star who
is likely to wear several more stars than the one currently residing on his
collar points before his career is over. Brooks is a good briefer. But he
treats information - good and bad - as if it were sterling silver handed
down to him from a beloved grandmother, and he is reluctant to part with it.
The briefing I attended before writing this column is a good example. In the
24 hours preceding it, an F/A-18 Hornet was downed near Karbala, the first
loss of a fixed-wing aircraft during the war. And a Blackhawk helicopter
went down, killing six, perhaps seven, American soldiers. Brooks didn't
mention this in his opening remarks. Nor did he mention that soldiers and
Marines had advanced so close to Baghdad they could see its skyline, against
remarkably little opposition.
Because Brooks clutches the silver so tightly, good questions are required
to pry information from him. There are some reporters who routinely ask good
questions. There are more who do not. The public affairs officers don't
exactly have a pool about which reporter will ask the most stupid question,
but they remember the howlers, and chuckle about them after the briefings.
I'm amazed at how many questions are asked about ongoing operations,
questions that Brooks could not answer without putting U.S. and British
troops at risk. Do the questioners have IQs between a rock and a carrot? Or
are they hoping that Brooks might slip up and say something that could get
American soldiers killed? If so, Brooks has disappointed them.
Among those who ask really stupid questions, a woman representing the Boston
Globe stands out. Her "questions" are usually as lengthy as they are inane.
The editors of the Globe would never assign to cover the Red Sox a reporter
who didn't know the rules of baseball, or make a theater critic of someone
who'd never seen a play. Yet they sent this ditz to cover a war. They should
Despite the large number of reporters here who aren't quite sure from which
end of the rifle the round comes, the press corps is a pretty good barometer
of how the war is going. There haven't been any questions with "Vietnam" in
them for days. The gang from al Jazeera have gone into a funk. They lie to
But they know the truth, and the truth is giving them
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
04/02/03: The difference between hopes and expectations
03/31/03: Iraq is a steppingstone, not a final stop
03/24/03: European media and former 'human shields' are beginning to get it
03/20/03: Was getting the UN involved worth it?
03/18/03: South Koreans no longer behaving as if they were the French of Northeast Asia --- why?
03/11/03: Ultimatum's moment of truth
03/11/03: Thank you, Turkey, we needed that
03/07/03: The fight against Saddam isn't a distraction from the war on terror --- it's is the main event
03/04/03: Bioterror nightmare approaching --- how it could likely happen
02/27/03: Iranian student: Can America hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?
02/25/03: Yahoos on both the Left and the Right are trying to prevent government from maximizing technology in protecting us
02/20/03: Anti-war group gets it right about great humanitarian tragedy in last Gulf War
02/18/03: Iraqis: Why are these people marching for tyranny?
02/07/03: French kiss(ed)-off
02/05/03: Does the FBI have the ability to protect us from terrorists already here?
02/03/03: The "Axis of Weasels"
01/29/03: A bit of the jitters
01/27/03: The world's mediocre intelligence agency
01/21/03: By reaffirming GOP opposition to racism, president demonstrates willingness to confront liars
01/16/03: Why the United States should withdraw all of its military forces from South Korea as rapidly as we reasonably can
01/14/03: Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear
01/09/03: Bag this boondoggle: The V-22 Osprey would hurt our national defense
01/07/03: Another Korean war?
12/26/02: Learning from Canada's economic suicide
12/24/02: A moral dilemma: Support a vicious fascist dictator or the poor and downtrodden?
12/20/02: Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights
12/18/02: Nothing better illustrates Trent Lott's unfitness for the post of Senate
Majority Leader than his desperate efforts to cling to it
12/16/02: Debunker mentality: It's hard work not seeing ties between Iraq and al-Qaida
12/12/02: GOP ideologues turning on Lott --- better sacrifice the leader than the party
12/06/02: Curing our democracy of afflictions
12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack … by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same
standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred" …
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections
© 2002, Jack Kelly