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Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: belt loops

Posted by jim on June 27, 2004 at 14:24:18:

the next few days could get heavy around here. pray for them all!
ciao,
jim

Posted by jim on June 28, 2004 at 13:17:23:

there aren’t any scales around, but i’m down four belts loops! 20-25 lbs is my best guess, but i can still afford more. the bad news is that my skin isn’t quite so elastic as it once was. anyway, the food is great at this army base. the dining hall, or DFAC in army vernacular, has several entrees at every meal, with all the fixings.

it’s just the heat. 110+ every day. you sweat like you’re running just from standing around. i also wear a flak and a helmet all the time, so it’s really a workout just to take a walk, and today there was more than a little running. when i get it off, often after 6-8 hours, i look like i’ve been hosed down.

buddies back home are already taking about a pool on how long i take to put the spare tire back on when i get back to philly cheesesteaks and beer, and i fear they may have a point. thanks for the prayers, but spread ’em out to the soldiers and the iraqis too. this aint over.

great to hear from you,
keep in touch,
jim

Posted by jim on July 02, 2004 at 10:30:25:

this no beer thing is hell. i haven’t seen any micros, and all i can get, even when i visit the hotel, are cans of carlsberg and amstel, usually warm, like everything else here.

Posted by jim on July 05, 2004 at 15:47:15:

you hop out of the humvee, you shoot, somebody says “mount up,” and you’re done. there’s just not much time to fool around.

hey, but i have my first week off now. will be back in action 7/14 i think.

seeya all,
jim

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

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Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: palestine hotel shipping

Posted by jim on June 14, 2004 at 12:37:28:

for everybody who keeps asking…. i went down to the DHL desk in the lobby. they say you need only to address is to me @: room 826, palestine hotel, baghdad, iraq

the problem is that pirates jack the trucks and burn everything from america; so, don’t send anything of value. also, the rates might be outrageous, so it would be silly to send cookies, whatever. and the hotel moved all my stuff into a different room for no apparent reason while i was away for a few weeks last time. tomorrow, i’m going into another embed for a few weeks, so i won’t get to my room for a while, adding to the risks. basically, maybe we oughtta stick to the internet. but many thanks all the same!

jim

Posted by jim on June 16, 2004 at 12:50:02:

i’m in the army now….camp victory….near abu ghraib….for 2-3 weeks. jim

Posted by jim (63.79.211.103) on June 20, 2004 at 12:13:06:

this camp is nice, but this country is just hell. yesterday i showed up early for a meeting, and was invited to lunch by the local iraqi interpreters working on the base. one guy, matham, an english scholar about my age, was vehement about his belief that american intervention was the only possible path to stability for iraq.

several of the “‘terps” have had their lives and their families threatened, and one had been killed already by a roadside bomb, but they were so committed to the cause that they endured the risk. today, i went to photograph religious services, because there was nothing else to do, and i learned there that matham was murdered in his home overnight, presumably for cooperating with the americans. and the others immediately quit when they got the news.

matham was a scholar and a father of four. no fathers’ day for them. i was about to inquire about services for matham, but during the service, it was also learned that an IED had just struck a truckload of ICDC troops, killing two, and wounding six or seven, four of them seriously. i’m suddenly even less optimistic about any meaningful handover.

Posted by jim on June 23, 2004 at 01:24:07:

i have a slow day today, as overnight raids were cancelled when the targets didn’t show up. the days preceding the handover promise more action. i’m with the army 1st cav now, which holds the safety of heavily armored vehicles, but also makes it hard to take pictures, so wish me luck.

hasta,
jim

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: undefeated champion

Posted by jim on June 02, 2004 at 13:57:21:

tonight, i entered my first informal match in the marine corps rock throwing game, which i’m told dates back forever and even has official matches and championships. basically, you just take turns with throwing rocks at a bottle set at a ridiculous distance, like 60-70 yards.

the distance originates from targeting shiny objects left on battlefields, like undetonated artillery shells, but that is officially discouraged. anyway, i nailed it after 15 or 20 shots, which was good enough to retire these young bucks for the night. i think i’ll retire too, undefeated.

Posted by jim on June 04, 2004 at 11:16:01:

i’m going back to baghdad soon, to lick my wounds: do some laundry (without a bucket), fix gear, take a real shower, etc. will be nice to sleep in a bed once or twice, then back to next embed. looking forward to new sights, but i’m gonna miss the people i’ve met here. jim

Posted by jim on June 08, 2004 at 00:46:50:

mostly, i throw little rocks at big rocks. feels something like incarceration. yesterday, a driver was coming for me, but cpa thought the risk was too high for civilian travel after some contractors and journos got hit in other places, but they were in very different situations that don’t really threaten me.

today, the ap driver couldn’t leave the hotel to get me b/c of a bomb threat in their parking lot. the base has an internet tent, where i am now, which is packed if it isn’t broken down. there’s a movie in the chow hall every night; usually classics like last night’s “joe dirt.”

and there is a tent full of paperbacks, but it is pretty much picked clean of everything but romance novels. every day casts doubt on everything i have ever seen written by war correspondents, but i’m hanging in one day at a time.

seeya,
jim

Posted by jim on June 10, 2004 at 13:36:02:

i’m back at the palestine. air conditioning. indoor plumbing. a mattress. so nice! back in action soon i hope, jim

Notes: I omitted a few posts related to the sudden deaths of three friends and colleagues back home in Philadelphia, all within a week or so, all due to natural causes but all too young. I don’t feel entitled to take ownership of their stories for this project. Rest in peace, old friends. The Palestine was the name my hotel in Baghdad, one of three used by lots of foreign journalists.

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: apollo 13

Posted by jim on May 26, 2004 at 13:06:19:

today we had a power surge, to put it mildly, in our workspace at this base… sparks exploded from the wall outlets, light bulbs exploded, and the ac charger for my pc practically caught fire…. “baghdad, we have a problem.”

luckily, i had just disconnected my pc, and can charge off of the reporter’s power supply. however, i also lost the power supply to my sat modem, leaving only this very slow thuraya phone.

it takes 9 minutes to send a small picture. reminds me of drum transmitters in the 80’s. also drops a lot, so don’t be alarmed if i log on less and vanish suddenly.

i’ll get new parts from baghdad, or london, or ny, but i might be compromised for a while.

seeya
jim

Posted by jim on May 27, 2004 at 04:37:02:

it is cooler today, maybe only a little over 100. at 120 yesterday… you could leave a water bottle outside for about 10-15 minutes, and make instant coffee. (i was out for 6 hrs.) you could wash a t-shirt, wring it out a little, and hold it up in the hot breeze for about one minute, and it would dry completely. you could dry dry a towel in 3-4 minutes.

just like like having a clothes dryer, except that you live inside it.

jim

Posted by jim on May 27, 2004 at 22:33:22:

abu ghraib has several complete prison complexes, each with their own high walls, barbed wire and guard towers, all inside another great wall.

the complex i lived in for a week now houses mostly marines, some soldiers, and no prisoners. there are patios in this one, with hideous and inaccurate old murals of mickey mouse and bugs bunny.

i think it might have been a visitor center once, but Iām not sure that it didn’t hold children during saddam’s regime. nobody I found had any idea.

Posted by jim on May 28, 2004 at 11:23:56:

my two worst injuries have come from bumping my head on air conditioners, which stick out of everywhere here. i wouldn’t have admitted this, but a doc here was showing me his photo collection of troops with much worse injuries from the same cause. still at same camp now, spinning wheels, nothing to do.

hasta,
jim

Posted by jim on May 29, 2004 at 23:07:12:

i’ve become acquainted with the iraqi camel spider, though fortunately only through a snapshot taken by a marine at a camp nearby. they are about the size of your hand and jump quickly high and far.

despite legends about poisonous venom and laying eggs in your skin, a doctor here says they are completely benign… except for the fear factor.

jim

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: the birds

Posted by jim on May 20, 2004 at 04:08:48:

ok, my schedule is loose enough to take emails again most days. (today, my plans fell through and i’m stranded at a training base, so i probably will have nothing to file for the first time since i got out here. unless i find a feature. haircuts or something. wish me luck.)

Posted by jim on May 20, 2004 at 14:24:49:

There is this bird you hear everywhere you go· I haven’t spotted one yet. Goes: Hoo, hooooo, hoo… hoo, hooooo, hoo… all fucking day and night. Loud enough to hear indoors.

The whole soundtrack of Iraq is that bird, evening prayers from loudspeakers outside of every mosque plus random gunfire and mysterious distant explosions. Every day. Every night.

jim

Posted by jim on May 21, 2004 at 02:39:05:

I’m back at the Iraqi police station in Kharma… Right now they’re watching a perfect knockoff of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” on TV ….only in Arabic. No Regis either.

Patrols later.

hasta,
jim

Posted by jim on May 21, 2004 at 23:37:47:

personal time varies. today i have a dawn patrol and a dusk patrol, w/plenty of time off. unless the action comes to us.

seeya,
jim

Posted by jim on May 23, 2004 at 07:34:34:

i’m at a large isolated base near fallujah. quiet day.
ciao,
jim

Posted by jim on May 23, 2004 at 07:46:12:

i washed laundry by hand in a bucket last night… for the first time in my life. worked just fine. saved water. we are so spoiled.

Posted by jim on May 24, 2004 at 00:44:00:

it’s monday morning. very quiet.

Posted by jim on May 24, 2004 at 11:40:48:

i’m going to have the worst farmer tan of all time. not to mention the helmet lines. marines wear long sleeves and get only tanned hands. even more ridiculous.

jim

Posted by jim on May 24, 2004 at 12:01:12:

i drink six 1.5 L bottles of water most days. so if 100,000 troops drink six a day for a month, that’s 18 million plastic bottles montly. i haven’t seen any sign of recycling, unless they’re picked out of the trash later, but i doubt it.

*except for the few used for automatic doors. the 1.5L bottle are filled with rocks and sand, and tied with clothesline to the top of the doors to most quarters and offices. a couple of nails make for a simple pulley system that closes the doors, so you constantly hear the drag of the bottle against every wall. i guess it serves as kind of a security system too. primitive but effective.

g’nite
jim

Posted by jim on May 24, 2004 at 12:03:04:

the clocks on this server are in texas, on CDT. so it is one hour than posted time for you on the east coast. nine hours later for me.

About: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: kharma

Posted by jim on May 16, 2004 at 14:05:54:

i’m at a police staion in kharma, iraq w/icdc and marines for 48 hrs. ciao, jim

Posted by jim on May 17, 2004 at 11:29:49:

toilets make that one in trainspotting look like the ritz. plenty of MREs and bottled water. and plenty of marines keeping me safe. running water to wash. sporadic electricity. incredible experience. ciao, jim

Posted by jim on May 18, 2004 at 11:13:32:

an insurgent blew himself to smithereens planting an ied about 100m away today. i’m definitely working on the safer side of this conflict. ciao,jim

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 09:44:30:

i’m spending tonight at an icdc training complex where us marines are training the new iraqi army, the iraqi civil defense corps.

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 10:08:09:

i left for a 48hr trip sunday morning, but still won’t get back ’til tomorrow at best. never went so long without a shower and a change of clothes. and you sweat until your clothes are soaked every day. i’ve heard about some folks going weeks, even months. things are different here.

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 12:41:50:

i burned my ass literally today, sitting on a PADDED seat in the back of a humvee that had been out in the noon-day sun. can’t wait to see what happens when it hits 140!
ciao, jim

Posted by jim on May 19, 2004 at 23:35:02:

when i left philly, i had reduced everything i thought i would need for one year to a backpack, a suitcase, and a duffel. when i got to Virginia, i learned that i would be picking up my body armor in london, so i jettisoned the suitcase. i just shipped it back to philly. don’t even remember what was in it now.

when i got into my room in baghdad, everything looked good. then i went to embed at the prison, so it took maybe 10% of my stuff from the hotel. from the prison, i shipped out to gharma, and took maybe half of my stuff from the prison.

you can get really spread out if you’re not careful, but the big lesson so far is that you never really need very much. i have shelter, water, food, and even electricity and a/c here, which is still much more than many embeds get.

also, every time you move out deeper, it looks like hell, and the last place you were begins to look like the ritz. perspective is everything, jim

Notes: ICDC was this sort of mercenary militia set up by the Americans to create the impression of having Iraqi allies. Virginia refers to my recent hostile environment training. I fixed a few minor typos in this post. I just found this Wikipedia entry re Kharma, or rather: Al-Karmah. And this CIA assessment in an entry on the ICDC: Iraqi Civil Defense Corps:

“The ICDC turned out to be a total debacle: It had virtually no combat capability, was thoroughly penetrated by the insurgents, militias, and organized crime, and collapsed whenever it was committed to battle.”

About these posts: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: mres

Posted by jim on May 15, 2004 at 08:52:55:

hey, so to my surprise, MREs are really very good. had beef & chili last night. came with tootsie rolls. had thai chicken today. came with nice bag of mixed nuts. really. just one problem: if everybody in the humvee uses the water-activated heating elements at the same time, it sucks out all the oxygen and you die. jim

Posted by jim on May 15, 2004 at 09:38:23:

i’m heading out on a 48 hr tour. don’t know when i’ll log back in. hasta, jim

About: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: abu ghraib

Posted by jim on May 10, 2004 at 17:32:34:

i’m embedded w/ 1/5 marines @ abu ghraib prison. amazing experience. when other ap shooter leaves tuesday, i will be the only journalist inside. hasta, jim

Posted by jim on May 12, 2004 at 16:37:01:

it is really hard to manage your gear here. i’ve been out here for four days and my lenses all make crunchy sounds when i focus.

Update, 2024: I arrived at Abu Ghraib in the weeks after all the torture photos leaked, though they were already a year old at the time. I was embedded with Marines who patrolled nearby towns every day. I could also walk around the prison grounds where hundreds of men were in tents under pens but I never got into the hard site where the torture photos were taken.

About: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.

Categories
Embedded in Iraq: 20 Years Later

subj: day 2, showtime

subj: day 2
posted by jim on may 07, 2004 at 00:11:41:
it’s about 9am. checking my email, having coffee…
and boom! something explodes in the distance, but nobody can tell where. apparently this is hardly unusual. everybody takes a look from their balconies, and goes back to their coffee. no big deal. i’m told there are sometimes controlled explosions at the top of the hour, apparently to dispose of recovered explosives.

subj: showtime
posted by jim (213.86.90.160) on may 08, 2004 at 11:22:10:
off to embed in 8hrs: 10p sat. est… off to pack & sleep now.
might be m.i.a. for a while. might peek here. no time for email on sat phone.

Update, 2024: I am making it up as I go, in terms of deciding which messages to repost now. There were 20 back-and-forth messages on this date and I felt lucky to be connected to friends at home but I think I will just post my own messages with actual updates. I am cleaning them up a little too but adding nothing new.

About: In 2004, I took a leave from my job at the old Philadelphia Daily News and spent next 12 months photographing the war in Iraq for the Associated Press. I shared my experiences with friends and family on a private mailing list and now I am posting my entries on the same dates 20 years later.