Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Think We're Going to Need a Bigger Tunnel

The trip to the military's media social should have taken about 5 minutes. But since the bus transporting us (17 international journalists) couldn't fit through Slayer Tunnel, we enjoyed the 45-minute scenic tour through Baghdad's Victory Base Camp... past the True Value Hardware store, Paris Boutique and bowling alley... alongside the never-ending rows of concrete T-walls... and, finally, a right onto Vigilant Road toward the opulent Al Faw Palace and "the juicer" (see picture below - don't you wish you had a massive orange?).

As I met and mingled with our military's impressive key leaders and senior staff on a beautiful deck overlooking Saddam's "Water Palace," a band (whose sole purpose is to increase morale around the country) played hits from the Eagles and Pink Floyd, and some guys hit golf balls into the lake. Our conversations were interrupted by this request: please bow your heads, the chaplain will now say a prayer.

I found myself taking in every word in a way that I'm not used to - "Let us be guided by truth and fairness in our responsibility as the media... and let us move forward in a spirit of oneness... that this country will be made whole... and let us be safe until we meet each other once again." Simple. Moving. And if ever there were a good place to pray, Iraq is it.

While we enjoyed the rest of the BBQ, our media escort tried to arrange a smaller bus to take us back to our cars. No luck. And the tunnel wasn't getting any bigger. Back on the scenic route, she shared stories with me about her 2-and-a-half-year-old son back home in Manhattan, Kansas... once when they were talking on video skype, he thought she looked thirsty, so he poured apple juice all over the computer. And since he's really just beginning to talk, she has trouble making out a lot of his words - the funny pronunciations unique to him aren't familiar enough to her. She can't wait to see him for two weeks in July - but then she's coming back - and like so many other mom and dad soldiers, she'll be here well past the poorly understood withdrawal in August.

No comments: