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The Mrs. writes
So tell me, without violating OPSEC, what's it really like there?
And I can read the worry in those lines, and don't need to violate OPSEC - it's not that bad. For me it's nothing like this:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE EAGLE, Iraq ? There's no shortage of dangerous, austere and just plain miserable military postings in Iraq, but the U.S. soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division bunking at this base just outside Baghdad's Sadr City slum might have drawn the shortest straw of all.
Since March, insurgents have flung more than 800 mortar rounds at Eagle, turning a walk to the mess tent into a life-and-death proposition. On patrol, the soldiers routinely encounter roadside bombs, small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
But hopefully this past week's agreement with Sadr will hold, and the troops at Eagle will get a break.
But this next bit threw me for a bit of a loop:
The Dirty Bird, as Eagle is unaffectionately known, has none of the lounges, movie theaters, bicycle fleets and other amenities that U.S. soldiers enjoy at other camps across Iraq.
Let me assure anyone imagining 18-screen multiplexes when "movie theaters" is mentioned that I haven't seen anything like that. Remember M*A*S*H on TV, the movie tent? I do have that option. But there's no pool here, and who the hell has bicycle fleets? And where do they go on them?
"You hear people griping about how the swimming pool isn't working, the chow hall is too small, and I'm like, 'We get mortared every night. What are you talking about?'" Pfc. Jeremy Chapman said.
It's a funny thing about troops in Iraq, many are convinced they're at the absolutely worst, most God-forsaken corner of the nation, and that everyone else is in a palace, living in luxury and safety and style. I think that's a tradition carried forward from every war, but as far as that safety in the base camp areas it's also one that no longer holds true:
In a brazen attack that punctured any illusions of a safe haven in the capital, five people, including three American civilians, were killed today when two separate explosions were set off inside the heavily controlled Green Zone in central Baghdad.
"...punctured any illusions of safe haven..." must refer to the reporters' illusions, because the story goes on to detail the lack of such illusions on anyone else's part:
In recent weeks, the sense of security inside has been fraying. Last week, a homemade bomb was discovered inside the Green Zone Restaurant and defused.
There have been reports of recent attempted kidnappings, muggings and stabbings. One Air Force officer said a homemade bomb was found a couple weeks ago in a parking lot, and that she felt more vulnerable inside the Green Zone than inside Camp Victory, a large American military base by the airport.
The military had been expecting, and the insurgents have threatened, an upsurge in violence as Ramadan approached.
But I'm not in the "Green Zone" either. (Point of fact, no one is, since apparently unknown to the Times crew the Green Zone is now called the "International Zone", and, as long as I'm nit-picking "Camp Victory" is now "Camp Liberty" - but why quibble over facts?)
Where I am is quiet, and has been for a little while. And once again there are thunderstorms just over the horizon. Really, on this eve of Ramadan I can see them, though they are too distant to hear the thunder.
But what will the next weeks bring? If two hundred are killed in this country tomorrow in a long planned "insurgent uprising" will that mean that conditions are getting worse? And what is the unit of measure of conditions? I know that temperature is gauged in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, distance can be measured in miles or kilometers, and sound in decibels, but what about "conditions"?
Here's the final line in the linked Times article:
"Dexter Filkins contributed reporting in Baghdad for this article. Edward Wong reported from Baghdad and Terence Neilan from New York."
What was Terence's contribution? I imagine Terence "frames" articles, then sits back and waits for numbers, names, or minor details from Iraq, then he passes the story on. But that's just me imagining things - and I'm not really there. And anyway, since most of the next few weeks' stories are already framed it's too late to agree on a fair unit of measure for "conditions"; but it sure would be nice if we could have such a consensus.
For although that might ruin a cherished avenue of complaint for a lot of GI's I could at least answer the wife.
Update: Linked NY Times story has been altered extensively since original post.