Baghdad 15 June 3.21 am
• Watch Steve's report
I'm feeling strangely at home here at the Baghdad Sheraton, now equipped with most gear necessary for relative comfort in the Iraq summer: flip flops and DriTech® T-shirts. Although, an initial foray through the supply room shows we are out of pop-top cans of tuna in water, bran cereal with raisins, and skim milk. They have also downgraded to low butter Orville Redenbacker's® microwave popcorn, which leaves no satisfying grease on the fingertips, and is like eating air.
It was Thoreau who said few men are ever truly awake. That crossed my mind as I got into an armored jeep Monday morning at Baghdad International Airport. The heat hits first with a whoosh when you get out of the plane, as if you are in your old attic on the hottest day of the summer. Next the brightness hits so you can't really open your eyes, unless, that is, you are my traveling partner, Frank Giglio, who had the foresight to pick up a new pair of sunglasses at the Amman duty free store. At 6 am there was just one staffer to unlock the glasses. He chose a pair with a giant 20% off sticker on the lens, (more, I suspected, out of frugality than fashion sense) and was rudely informed at the counter that they cost $136. By then it was too late to make a change and "Frankie Guns" had to swallow hard and buy what may be the most expensive glasses he's ever owned.
I say truly awake because after 36 hours of no sleep getting from London to Amman to Baghdad I was suddenly wide-awake, wide-nostrils awake, inside the jeep, because now people were trying to kill us. It could be the guys in the car on the left, it could come from an apartment window, from a bomb buried in the road the night before, or from someone driving up and shooting at us. This last scenario played through my head. I imagined getting shot in the left arm, opening the jeep door, and running. My nostrils widened, and I was awake.
They would kill us because we looked white. That's all it took. And everyone, everywhere, was a suspect. Even in the room you laid out pants and a flashlight next to the bed in case a shell hit. My last couple of rooms faced the Tigris. If it was too dangerous to go outside you could open the wooden screens and sit in the late afternoon sun and look at the gray water and the green weeds and the helicopters lumber by.
Raed stocked my room with a blender, a fan, an iron, and clothes hangers. All the lights worked, but to turn them on and off you have to plug and unplug them. The toilet worked, but there was no lid on the back. Producer Bobby Shaffer once complained to hotel management that the seat was off of his toilet, on the floor. So they sent a guy up who took the seat off the floor and rested it back on top of the toilet...
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.