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Ashley shot the Thais and the Americans playing stuff for photos about life on the base. He tried to shoot the Poles doing something, but they didn't do anything. They just lay in the sun. One guy outside our room put his Speedo on and just laid in the sun on a wooden lounge, turning over every few hours. The Poles ate in the U.S. chow hall. They had white bread with their meals, spread with butter and mayonnaise.

Special Forces guys were also arriving. There was a big mission coming up to attack a mosque where the Sadr militia had holed up. The brief was held in a tent with a miniature model of the city on a wooden floor. The roads were made with white duct tape. The mosque was a meals-ready-to-eat box stood up on its side. The soldiers walked around the tent, down the duct tape roads, which had names like Sparrow Road, before blowing up the MRE mosque.

My guys were going to stop out in front of the mosque in a Bradley. We were going to get out and try and broadcast the entire attack live. They were going to cut off the electricity to the city, so it was not clear if our nightscope would work in complete darkness. If the mosque was on fire, the flames would provide enough light.

The Special Forces guys did not wear names on their uniforms. Some had their blood type, so in place of the name would be A POSITIVE in big letters. It was like saying, F-you, I’m SF [Special Forces], I don't need to wear my name. But they did have a uniform of their own — all the same. Each one of them had on Italian Asolo hiking boots instead of the clunky yellow army boots. They all had on Finnish Suunto watches with big displays. And they had on Oakley wraparound sunglasses — all balanced on the brims of their baseball caps. On their left arms they had the insignia of a smiley face with a bullet hole and a small blotch of blood forming the nose, with the phrase, "Have a nice day someplace else." On the back of some of their baseball hats there was the phrase "We do bad things to bad people."

They were muscular, with light beards. Everyone looked at them. Tonight they were going to go into the mosque to "clear the building." They would be the first ones in.

Our base was mortared that night. Nine mortars came in, then the base counter-attacked. There was nowhere to run because you didn't know where the mortar was going to hit. It was a bad feeling. People put on their flak jackets over their shorts and underwear and were running around. The Thais were running to the bunker. The Americans were yelling to the Thais that it was outgoing shots, laughing at their panic. I asked the colonel next door where was the safest place to be.

"Down low," he said. I put on my vest and got down. After a while the mortaring stopped so we went to midnight snack at the chow hall — me and the two NY Times guys. It was lobster tail, leftover from dinner — the meal before a big battle. The Indian server put three lobster tails on my plastic plate. We sat at an empty table, in our flak jackets, and ate them. I spread butter on my lobster tail. When a small piece of the shell fell down on my bulletproof vest, I flicked it off onto the floor and kept eating...

Harrigan's Blog Archive

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.