Most people would rather suffer a jaw’s worth of root canals than go to Iraq. Most reporters, too. But there are a tiny number who actually feel the need to do so – even to the extent that they're willing to pay all their own expenses in the hope, but nothing more – of recovering part or all of those expenses through donations and selling articles about their experiences. These are the citizen embeds, and I am one of them. I was supposed go over in February, but I didn't, and the reason I didn't is of more than personal interest.
I decided needed to cover the "surge." My editors at The Weekly Standard, for whom I freelance, agreed. I requested two embeds in the Baghdad area or one in Baghdad and one in Diyala, a hotspot hugging the Iranian border. These would allow the reporting I specialize in, which isn't "war" generally but combat. I like to report on the men doing the fighting – and I’m good at it. One person said of one of my Weekly Standard articles from Ramadi: "Great stuff with a great unit in a very tough neighborhood!" That was Gen. David Petraeus, now commander of coalition forces in Iraq.
I was first offered an embed in Tikrit and said no. Saddam's birthplace sees about as much combat as Malibu these days, for the best of all reasons – it has been pacified. If I'm going to be somewhere as peaceful as Malibu, I'd rather be in Malibu. It has a beautiful beach, you can buy beer, and you're not paying a fortune each day for war insurance. In response, the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC) in the “green zone” said they’d find me another embed. So I booked my $1,200 plane ticket only to find my “new” destination was . . . Tikrit!
But, I was told, that would only be the first half of the embed. The second half would be at Camp Loyalty in Baghdad. Nevertheless, that still didn't solve the problem of paying war insurance for a week of twiddling my thumbs in Tikrit. Moreover, I had an excellent indication of what would happen once I got to Tikrit based on my first embed in Iraq. I was told I’d get a combat unit in Ramadi second if I embedded with a civil affairs unit in Fallujah first. Once I got to Fallujah, Ramadi was yanked for no given reason.
So I decided to just skip Tikrit and go straight to Baghdad. Sure enough, I was quickly thereafter informed that Camp Loyalty had suddenly stopped taking embeds – I would have been stuck in Tikrit the entire time.
Michael Fumento is a, journalist, and attorney specializing in science and health issues as well as author of BioEvolution: How Biotechnology is Changing Our World .
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