- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2003

Reporters at war
If the war is unfolding largely as the generals planned it, things have gone a little less smoothly for our reporters in the Pentagon's "embed" program, though not so as to impair our ability to cover the conflict.
Our first "casualty" was reporter Guy Taylor, who was embedded with the 4th Infantry Division, which was scheduled under the original war plan to have driven toward Baghdad from the north.
That plan fell apart when Turkey refused to let U.S. forces use its territory for a staging ground; Mr. Taylor remains stuck at Fort Hood, Texas, waiting with the 4th Infantry to see whether they will ever be deployed.
On the other hand, we picked up a reporter thanks to the efforts of photographer J.M. Eddins Jr. who is attached to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, driving northward into Iraq from Kuwait.
Mr. Eddins, concerned that there was no reporter to tell the stories that went with his pictures, teamed up with writer John Bebow of the Detroit News, who is embedded in the same unit but had no photographer to illustrate his stories.
Editors at the two papers got together on the telephone and quickly agreed to a swap; we get free use of Mr. Bebow's stories, and they get free use of Mr. Eddins' photos.
So far we have been able to publish three of Mr. Bebow's stories, including a front-page story on Friday in which he described an Iraqi rocket sailing over the heads of the Marines so low they could see its fins.
Mr. Bebow is on our pages again today with an article about life on the lengthy supply convoy making its way northward through the Iraqi desert, trying to keep up with the frontline tank units leading the charge.
Staff reporter Betsy Pisik and photographer Maya Alleruzzo, meanwhile, had apparently secured for themselves a sort of impromptu embed slot while in Kuwait and were hoping to join up with their new unit today.
However, those plans remained very much in doubt as of last night as a result of logistical problems, including the lack of a vehicle for them to ride in. Reports of deaths of several journalists on the battlefield yesterday may also have made the military leery of taking on any more reporters.
In the north
Meanwhile in northern Iraq, free-lancer Borzou Daragahi reports that he has set up a "safe house" in the city of Chamchamal, about as close as it is possible to get to the Iraqi-controlled oil center of Kirkuk.
"For less than $200 a month, I and a few other journalists have managed to rent the equivalent of a front-row seat in the upcoming war," Mr. Daragahi reported in an e-mail shortly before the shooting started last week.
He and his colleagues have stocked up with canned tuna, junk food, bottled water and blankets, he says. "We've got two generators, two space heaters and between the five of us, well over $200,000 in electronic equipment. We're talking laptops, CD burners, professional digital cameras and every conceivable kind of portable satellite communications tool: Thurayas, Iridiums, Mobiqs and Inmarsats. …
"In addition to a gas mask, chemical suit and a bulletproof jacket, I've stocked up on Atropine, a nerve gas antidote, and Cipro, to treat Anthrax. I've bought gas masks for my driver and translator.
Chamchamal, Mr. Daragahi reminds us, was a frequent target of Iraqi mortar fire and artillery during the first years of the Kurds' autonomy experiment, which began after the first Gulf war in 1991.
From the courtyard of the house, he says, he can see Iraqi frontline positions on the hilltops little more than a mile away.
"With binoculars you can see the silhouettes of Iraqi soldiers shuffling along," he wrote. "I wonder what they're thinking as they amble along the ridge. I wonder if they're afraid, terrified or calmly resigned to the possibility of death."
He adds that his landlord, a friend of his trusted hired driver, "has armloads of Kalashnikovs he says we could borrow if we ever need to protect ourselves. I don't think I'll be taking him up on the offer."
Mr. Daragahi goes on to describe the countryside surrounding his observation point. "This would be a beautiful land if it weren't hell," he concludes.
David W. Jones is the foreign editor of The Washington Times. His e-mail address is djones@washingtontimes.com.

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