I just got back from a five day trip to Basra in southern Iraq. We stayed with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in a British camp down there.
The accommodations were fantastic. We each had our own trailer complete with double bed, clean sheets and en suite bathroom. Normally, when I embed with the military, I am very happy if I am not sleeping in a cot and there are bathrooms for females. Our digs were the lap of luxury by comparison. But there was a downside. The camp is getting pummeled by indirect fire (IDF) about five times a day. This means:
a) You have to carry your body armor everywhere with you
b) You never have an undisturbed night of sleep because the sirens go off at least twice a night and you have to roll onto the floor and pull your body armor over you.
c) You spend a lot of time feeling nervous that a rocket is going to land in your trailer.
People at the camp are used to the constant attacks by now. The first time the sirens went off during dinner, camera man Pete Rudden and myself hit the deck and slithered under the table, pulling our body armor over us and waiting nervously for the booms. The others were less fazed. They got down on the ground and then reached up to bring their meals down on to the floor
where they continued eating and chatting.
We went to visit a children's hospital that is being built by the USACE in a nasty neighborhood of Basra, which is rapidly becoming one of Iraq's more dangerous cities. As we toured the construction site, I pulled aside one of the Iraqi foremen and asked how he felt working in an area known to be overrun by militias.
“Here is the odd mortar,” he told me, "but generally we are not worried. Where are you staying?”
I told him where our camp was.
“Ah,” he said smiling, "that is much more dangerous than here.”
Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.