Video: Operation Iron Fist

Oct. 2, 2005 7:53 p.m.
Baghdad


The vest felt light on my back. When you had to pack vests and carry them around they weighed a ton, but now when you had to go out it felt like a slip of leather...it didn't seem big enough around the neck, around the shoulders. I pulled the groin cover down and it didn't go low enough. I liked the new shoulder guards the Marines had. I also could use a new neckpiece. My helmet had space for coms around the ears, too much space. They also made protective pants...even a ballistic blanket.

Every time you go out you have to weigh whether what you are going out for is worth risking the lives of a lot of people. Every step you take or every block you drive could be over a bomb. My sense is that people don't weigh this enough. You always have to weigh risk versus reward.

On the way out one of the men ducked around into a ditch. A filthy puppy came out wagging his tail and urinating on himself. The man took a long time to pet the dog's dirty white head over and over until it was time to leave, then the dog followed at his heels, groaning for more.

Almost finished the Lou Gehrig book. It's the start of the '38 season and Lou is sick but he doesn't know it yet.


Sept. 30, 2005 7:28 pm
Baghdad


I find that if you rap the back of the Brit's chair with your knuckle it makes a sharp sound, like a small explosion, and if you do it while leaning your head around, you can see her blink both eyes at the same time — like a squint of someone who fears she's been shot.

I was her father's producer in the first Chechen war. He was an eminent war correspondent who got me pretty good. Now the sins of the father are revisited upon the daughter.

I was told today I'm going somewhere out of the city for several days. That means re-packing. Each time you go you take less stuff, leaving some behind, needing to be prepared for different conditions. It looks like a job for the travel towel. It was something I had talked about avoiding, but once told about it I felt a mood lift. More details when we get into position.

Pierre Zak leaves today, a member of the top five cameramen. Pierre would be top five based on attitude alone. The other day in the TV room the discussion turned to cars, and Pierre remarked that the Russian Niva jeep was the most reliable vehicle he had ever been in, the only one able to make the drive from Northern Afghanistan down to Jabal Seraj — a three-day mountain drive where if the gear does not hit, you could fall off a cliff. I agreed with him about the Niva.

"That's the worst drive in the world," I said.

"Yeah," Pierre said, "It's not easy on horseback either." Once the roads got very bad it was a three-day horseback ride. Pierre said offhandedly that he had done it once in 22 hours. Twenty-two hours straight on a horse in Northern Afghanistan.

"That's if you really need to get there," he said.

Note: Click above to see photos by correspondent David Piper and cameraman Pierre Zak from FNC's Tal Afar embed.

Sept. 29, 2005 4:45 p.m.
Baghdad


At a certain level of fear I find myself saying aloud, "Jesus Christ." I don't think it's at the highest level. At the highest level you stay silent and maybe pray inside your mind. If you can say "Jesus Christ" out loud, it's not that bad.

I said "Jesus Christ" this morning. It was more like "Jeee-sus Christ." Kind of like you can't believe what you've just seen. And I said it to nobody, because nobody was around.

In a heroic effort to adjust sleeping schedules, Dragon and I got up early to try and get some exercise. After being outside for about a half hour the pops started — AK pops. Then there were a couple of loud explosions, and then fairly steady automatic fire, enough to make me uncomfortable, and for the helicopters to come. So I decided to stop. I went to a more protected area, still outside, to have a seat. After a little while there were two loud shots, not the pops from AKs but something bigger, more solid, maybe M4s. I wasn't sure where they hit, where they were targeted or where they came from. I'm sure they had nothing to do with me but the sound was close enough to get me out of my chair and begin that half-bent over hurried walk toward the building and say aloud to no one in particular, "Jeee-sus Christ."

Then you get close to the entrance of the building and you find yourself saying something else, softly, this time to yourself, "pop, pop." That's what you heard, pop, pop, and maybe by saying it aloud you make some sense of it. Pop-pop.

Sept. 28, 2005 8:58 p.m.
Baghdad


"It doesn't feel like war," Fein said. He was sitting over a T-bone, poolside, at an undisclosed location in Baghdad. The first hint of the Third World came when his plastic fork snapped on the steak. He slid his hand down his right pocket and pulled out another one.

Fein was sitting with two Jordanians who had been in Iraq for the past five years. They were talking about what almost everyone eventually talks about here — what would happen next.

"All this is going to be gone in six months," he said, wiping the back of his hand toward the pool.

"Six months?" one of the Jordanians said. The other nodded.

Fein wasn't interested in the upcoming referendum on Iraq's constitution scheduled for October 15, the beginning of Saddam's trial scheduled for October 19th, or the elections scheduled for December. He was asking the Jordanians about something else.

"Sunnis or Shiites?" he asked. He wanted to know which side he should try to align himself with, or live with, during what he saw as an upcoming civil war.

"The Shiites will sell you out in a second," one Jordanian said.

Fein nodded.

"But there is a lot of anti-Americanism among the Sunnis," the other Jordanian said.

Fein was cutting his steak with plastic utensils on a plastic plate, seated on a plastic chair at a plastic table, holding each piece up to the light to see if it had been cooked. He cut large triangular pieces and turned his head to the side.

"But that could change once we start giving them arms and money," he said.

He went back to the grill for two circles of chicken. He rubbed the plastic knife on one, then picked it up with his fingers and broke it in pieces. He used the pieces like chips to scoop up hoummus.

"What I want you do to is find some Sunnis — they have to have power — who we can live with," he said. "It's gonna be just like it was at the start, four of us."

The two Jordanians looked at each other.

"I think we know the guy," the taller one said.

Sept. 28, 2005 11:45 a.m.
Baghdad


Chicken Whoppers. They bring them back from airport runs. Also pieces of cheesecake in individual plastic boats, taped down with two yellow strips of duct tape, a very careful and thoughtful move that prevents tipping. I ditched the bread on the chicken whopper. The chicken was salty. I passed on the cheesecake.

"No," Dragon said, "try it." Moyed nodded in agreement. They were right.

Circumstances required me to walk outside — it felt good to walk in the sun. I had an Arabic-speaking guard, whose name I did not know, in silent step with me. There was automatic rifle fire off behind us, not too close. He took a step closer to me and did a slow, low wave with his right arm, a sweeping motion, the kind of thing a father would do to encourage a child to get up on the sidewalk when a car sounded in the distance. There was no need for it, no danger, but it was comforting. We took a seat in the shade. He gave me a bottle of water. He told me his name, then pointed to it on his card. We shook hands.

During the day I asked coordinating producer Omar who Lou Gehrig replaced in the Yankee lineup. Later I asked him who said "He supported me when I was crazy and I supported him when he was drunk." That morning I had asked him the name of the Answer Man visited by Tennessee Tuxedo. Omar was 0-3 but struggled mightily with each question, coming up with the J. (see below) On another shift I asked Omar what his top three jobs would be. After brow-furrowing consideration he said left-handed middle reliever. He said it would be a good salary, and the career would have longevity.

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(Harrigan note : Tennessee Tuxedo was a cartoon character voiced by recently deceased Get Smart star Don Adams. When in difficulty, which was every episode, he and his walrus friend would go to see the Answer Man, known as Phineas J. Whoopee. Upon receiving expert and incredibly complicated advice, usually drawn out in elaborate theorems on chalkboards, Tennessee would exclaim, "Phineas J. Whoopee, you're the greatest!")


E-mail Harrigan


Hi Steve,

My answers: Wally Pipp was the guy that Lou Gehrig replaced, and Mickey Mantle was referring to Billy Martin in the quote you mentioned. Let us know! Take care over there.

Jane from Colorado

Jane,

The first one is correct. The second Sherman said to Grant.



Hi Steve:

Our youngest son is due home in Oct.(22nd) we hope. This is his second tour over there. His first was from March,2003-Feb.2004. Our oldest son was over there at the same time. They both serve in the Army. Thank God they both came home to their families safely.

R.Prestridge
York, Maine


I think you are the best military reporter we have had since WWII. I watch for your work on FOX all the time. Don't usually pay much attention to who the reporter is. Thanks for being there, keep your head down.

Kevin
Liverpool, NY


Steve,

You are right about your Mom. They are all that way no matter how old you are, or dare I
say it how old they are. They know.

Stay safe.
Donna & Mom

Dear Steve:

I just wanted to take a minute and tell you what a great job you did covering Katrina. Your coverage by far exceeded any and all of my expectations. I sure did miss your coverage of Rita. I see that you are back in Iraq. I wish you the best and be safe. Look forward to hearing your reports and thanks again for your great work.

John C.
Cincinnati, OH


Steve,

I watched you all during Hurricane Katrina...your reporting was outstanding and your sound effects made it even more interesting. Then along came Rita and no Steve Harrigan. So glad I get FNC updates regularly....I was about to do a search for you. Stay safe. All your fans miss your face on t.v.

Martha
Houston, TX


It must be strange for you to hear others talking about hanging it up, but I think you are a warrior of sorts and you will someday have the same feeling. I can say from experience that it isn't the last time until you are sitting where I am hearing folks like you talk about it from there that it sinks in. I miss it in a strange way, but I know that I am now done.

Mike
Grand Rapids, MI


Steve

Sorry to hear you are back in Iraq, however, it's good to know someone from the media is over there... My son is stationed at FOB Warrior in Kirkuk. Will be leaving soon to come home the end of October. I end all my e-mails and phone calls with two words: "Stay Safe." And that goes for you also. Thanks for everything!

Joanne
Merrick, NY

Hi Steve,

I Think you are one of the best news reporters around. You did a great job during Katrina, and I was hoping to see your coverage for Rita especially since I live in Houston. For two nights I kept saying to my husband "where is Steve Harrigan?" Now I know. Good luck over there and will look forward to any of your reports.

Diane



If your blog today (the first one of yours I have read) is any indication of your writing ability, I think a book about your adventures would make great reading for both me and my husband - better than Hemingway - a dubious compliment, I fear. Take care.

From one old enough to be your mother (or even your grandmother?)

Eleanor
Sanford, N.C.



Steve--

Our son is on active duty in the Air Force and has just returned to Iraq. The first tour didn't bother me so much--this time I'm pretty nervous about it. He is at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.


Penny
Braymer, MO



Steve —

I was lucky enough to have both Marine sons return home safely from Iraq, and my heart breaks for all moms who have not been so fortunate. Wherever you are, please stay safe

Cindy
Harrison, AR

I started watching you when we first went into Afghanistan and have loved you ever since, you do a more than great job

Faithful FOX News Watcher



Thanks to you and your crew - I wouldn't say this about many media types - but what you do.... I now believe is truly a sacrifice on several levels.

Please know it's appreciated - Godspeed - Be Safe

SR



Have missed you on the news. You were great in New Orleans and miss seeing you. Take care where ever you are and be safe. You are the best.

Linda

You take care over in Iraq. I am wondering if you have ever considered writing a book. Your ability to cut through the bovine droppings and get the story is a gift. I think you would do well as an author. Stay safe and thanks for what you do.

Peg from Florida

Hi Steve,
I am an ardent fan of yours and was wondering what happened to you since Katrina. The last time I saw you was the day you rescued that young guy off a wall in New Orleans. I do hope that you stay safe and return home soon to our TV screens in the U.S.
Roe




Steve,

You are absolutely the best reporter I have ever witnessed! When you tell the story... it is like I'm there. Thanks for all your honesty.

LC Nichols
Montgomery, AL


My son just got back from Iraq. Having been in combat I never expected to be as torn up as I was when he got on that airplane or while he was over there.

Tim Fitzpatrick


Steve,

I for one are so glad you are going back to Iraq, because if not for you being there, we would not get any news. We no longer hear news good or bad on our soldiers. They are forgotten news, and for friends and families it is sad.

Shirley
West Chester, PA


You've got more guts than "Ol Blood & Guts." Keep up the good work...

GM Hilliard


Steve,
So glad to find your blog. Missed seeing you the last couple of weeks. You did a great job reporting on Katrina. You are the best!! Stay safe in Iraq.

Betty
Atlanta, GA


I love reading your stories from Iraq… you at least tell it like it is here…

Doug