'Iron Hand' Asked For

June 25, 2004 

E-mail Steve your questions.

Chicken kebab with hoummos for lunch today, vastly improved by a tip from Frank Giglio to sprinkle olive oil on top of the hoummos. Most people lose weight in Baghdad. The most recent war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq have served as a spa for many. Slim Fagen lived on rice and beans for three months in Afghanistan and dropped thirty pounds. When I told a nutritionist what I ate in war zones she said it sounded ideal. Maybe the "Baghdad Diet" could compete with "South Beach." It would certainly be cheaper.

Tension is ratcheting up here daily; a string of attacks killed 105 people yesterday and we were live every half hour. Sometimes there was shooting in the street near the hotel. Normally after work in my room I turn on music or read and I forget where I am. This hotel has been hit six times by mortars or missiles, but no one has been hurt. The producer Rafferty told me he would lie in his bed at night and wait for a strike. I have never done that until last night. I lay there, looking up at the ceiling, and I started getting this worried, claustrophobic feeling that a strike might smash through my window. I got up and laid my armored vest and helmet next to my bed, so I could throw it on if we got hit. I looked down at the carpet, and in the dark the vest and helmet looked like a soldier on the floor.

They say the safest room to hide in the hotel is the bathroom. The instruction the security guys gave was: "If they start firing rocket-propelled grenades at the hotel, get to the bathroom and wait for us to get you out." I don't like the idea of waiting for anyone to get me out of anything. There was a cameraman Ron who got so worried that he moved his mattress into the bathroom and slept in the tub. Ron also had a bad stammer. When he would shoot my live shots he would often want to tell me to move to the left or the right so he could center up his shot. But all he could say was "mmm...mmm...mmm." There would be just seconds before the live shot and it was pretty tense waiting for him to get the word "move" out. It seemed to me it would have been easier if he simply pointed right or left, but I did not want to offend him.

Four out of five Iraqis in a recent independent poll think the new Iraq government will make things better. The new Prime Minister has been making hints about establishing "emergency law." The most prominent religious leader in the South called for an "iron hand." If you talk to Iraqis now, that's what they want. They don't want democracy — not right now. They want the shooting stopped, and they will back anyone who can get that done. "We need some of the bad Generals back," someone said to me yesterday, "the evil ones."


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.