Green Zone Cabin Fever

Here in Iraq, there are embeds and then there are EMBEDS. I’m happily here in Baghdad, embedded in the Green Zone, but I have yet to set foot in the Red Zone, the real Iraq. I can’t believe that I have come all this way to Iraq and will soon leave — but will have never set foot in the Red Zone!

I woke up this morning to face yet another day in the press room. My flight leaves Kuwait International Airport on April 17. It takes four or five days to get from Baghdad to Kuwait. That only leaves me a few days to get a Red Zone embed. There’s no time left now for me to fly out to Anbar province or anything fancy but I still have time to see something around here.

Maybe I could just rent a Humvee from Enterprise and drive over to Sadr City myself? Probably not.

“I know!” I told my new bunkmate (my old bunkmate left on R&R yesterday and I miss her already). “I’ll put out an appeal to the insurgents!” The insurgents around here are all now called “Al Qaeda” so that Americans will obediently start thinking that our troops are now fighting the dudes who allegedly blew up the World Trade Center. However, this spin may backfire on its spinners because on September 11, 2001 there were NO Al Qaeda in Iraq and currently, thanks to the miracle of re-naming and the leadership skills of George W. Bush, there are now hundreds of thousands of Al Qaeda in post-invasion Iraq. Someone has indeed blundered and it wasn’t our troops.

“I’ll ask Al Qaeda for a 24-hour ceasefire,” I said, “so that I can go out and tour the city!”

My new bunkmate shuddered. What kind of a person was she sharing her trailer with now? “No, Jane. No. Definitely not.”

“How about that I appeal to Muqtada Al Sadr? He’s planning a day of protest this week and has put out the call for people to go out into the streets of Baghdad. I’m a person. And I wanna go out into the streets!”

“No, Jane. That’s not a good idea either.” I liked my old bunkmate better. She was more game.

“Then what about asking Prime Minister Maliki?”

“Hummm. Maybe. It might be good publicity for him. Women safe on the streets of Baghdad and all that, now that the Joint Security Stations are forming up all over town….” Works for me. Plus maybe I’ll get a free lunch.

“There’s no free lunch in America, Jane.” William Burroughs was right? “And there’s certainly no free lunch in Iraq!” Unless of course you own stock in Halliburton.

Okay. I got a plan. “Dear Prime Minister Maliki: Please give me a tour of the Red Zone sometime between now and April 11. I’d prefer to see Sadr City but will settle for the Palestine Hotel. Yours very truly, Jane.”

PS: I just heard that President [sic] Bush is planning to send four brigades of National Guards BACK to Iraq guys who have already been over here once, twice or three times. Looks like someone in Washsington DC has blundered again. And, as usual, it isn’t our wonderful Light Brigade troops. How ironic it is that I WANT to get out into the Red Zone and these guys are being sent here instead, even though they have served their country faithfully and well time and time again already.

JANE STILLWATER can be reached through her website:


Jane Stillwater is a freelance journalist, war correspondent, blogger, political Cassandra and author of “Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today’s Middle East.”