- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

The last embed
With the shooting war in Iraq at an end, we and other newspapers across the country have cut back the special sections or extra pages that had been added, dispensed with the daily maps of Iraq and began pushing other stories out onto the front page.
Most news organizations also have begun bringing home the embedded reporters, who lived and traveled with U.S. forces as they battled their way north from Kuwait to Baghdad and beyond.
Barbara Ferguson, whose letter to her husband was quoted in this column a few weeks ago, captured the sense of closure in her last article from an air base in Kuwait last week for her publication, Arab News.
"As the sole embedded journalist remaining on this base, I alone am here to witness the winding down of a war. Here, there are no big stories, no more hard news to be had, only many thousands of men and women waiting for their commanding officers to decide if they will soon move north to assist in the rebuilding of Iraq, or go home."
From a foreign affairs point of view, however, the story is just starting to get interesting. As dramatic as it was, the outcome of the war was always as President Bush frequently reminded us inevitable.
There were questions about whether it would take three weeks or six and about how many people would die but never any doubt that Saddam Hussein's army would be utterly defeated.
There is far less certainty, however, about what kind of nation will emerge from the ruins of Saddam's regime. How will the power be distributed among such exile groups as Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the Shi'ite clerics in the south, the Kurds in the north and the remnants of Baghdad's Sunni elite? Will the new government be sympathetic to American policy goals or will it be influenced by the theocratic rulers in Iran? Will the Kurds settle for a level of autonomy that avoids a clash with Turkey? Who will control the oil fields?
These are just some of the questions we hope to address in the coming weeks through our embedded reporters, Betsy Pisik and Guy Taylor, who will remain in Iraq for at least a while.
Semper Fidelis
Miss Pisik is particularly well positioned for the assignment, having spent the war attached to a U.S. Army civil affairs unit whose job it is to help in the reconstruction of Iraq. Now that she is based in Baghdad, we expect she will have excellent access to the Pentagon's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance under Jay Garner, a retired American general, and to the new Iraqi leadership as it emerges.
Mr. Taylor, who to his chagrin sat out most of the war in Texas with the 4th Infantry Division, has also found himself on top of one of the most exciting postwar stories as his unit works to stabilize some of the volatile northern cities, such as Tikrit.
Those reporters who have come back have begun to write about their experiences both in articles and in letters, often in moving terms. If one of the goals of the embedding program was to educate the nation's news media about its men and women in uniform, and create greater sympathy for them, it has been wildly successful.
Richard Tomkins of United Press International, whose wife was also quoted in this column a few weeks ago, wrote the following as a postscript to a long tribute to the Marines of the unit with whom he spent the war:
"This reporter took his leave of Bravo 1/5 on April 15. It was one of the hardest farewells I've ever had to make. In the 36 days I spent with them, I had been welcomed and made part of the family.
"The idea of leaving my band of brothers was wrenching, yet my family at home was also calling. In the end, I left quickly, with few good-byes. The sight of a blubbering reporter was something best avoided."
Speaking with other formerly embedded reporters in Kuwait turned up similar emotional pulls. Wrote Mr. Tomkins: "So how to say thank you? How to say how much I love and respect them? Words can't do it. So like other reporters, I give them the smartest, snappiest salute I, as a civilian, can muster. God speed, Bravo 1/5. Semper Fi (Semper Fidelis, "Always Faithful," the Marine Corps motto)."
David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is djones@washingtontimes.com.

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