My "Dear Jane" letter: There's not even ONE embed available in all of Baghdad!
Note: This e-mail is being sent from the press room of the New York Book Expo. Imagine a whole convention center full of writers, editors, publishers and BOOKS. It is a book-reader's dream.
I'm writing a book. It's called Disaster: A Personal Journey Through George Bush's Middle East. I've got two alternative endings planned:
Alternative Number One: I return to Iraq and actually get embedded outside the Green Zone and write a whole bunch of fabulous articles about what's right and what's wrong in Iraq and help put an end to George W. Bush's bloody war on Iraq. Plus it will make a great ending for my book.
Alternative Number Two: I bombard the Public Affairs Officers in every unit in Iraq that I can think of and get turned down a ton of times, get told that there are absolutely NO embeds available to me in all of Iraq and consider filing a discrimination suit against George W. Bush for blocking Freedom of the Press. "Stillwater vs. Bush". I like the sound of that. Plus it will make a great ending for my book.
Please let me know if you can either a) find me an embed or b) find me a good lawyer. And also please keep your eye out for a good publisher too. Thanks.
PS: Enclosed please find my embed request chronology plus correspondence with various DoD PAOs with regard to getting embedded:
May 2, 2007: I requested an embed for May by phone to CentCom Baghdad. I was told that my request was too late to be processed. I then requested an embed for June 16, 2007.
Approximately May 16, 2007: I again requested an embed for June. I was told by CentCom Baghdad that my request was too early.
May, 2007: I sent an embed requests to a PAO in Anbar province, cc-ing it to CentCom Baghdad CPIC (Combined Press Information Center). My e-mail was never answered.
May 22, 2007: I gave up on the Army and tried the Navy:
From: Jane stillwater [mailto: email@example.com] Sent: Monday, May 21, 2007 7:44 PMTo: Garcia, Denise LT CUSNC N012Cc: Captain Kunkel MNFISubject: RE: Lt. Garcia, a possible embed for me -- and more informationfor you... I haven't embedded with the Navy before -- have only been embeddedwith the Army through CPIC. I write for a variety of media outlets including OpEd News, the Lone Star Iconoclast, the Berkeley Daily Planet and the San Francisco Chronicle. I am enclosing a copy of my embed application FYI and will also cc this e-mail to Captain Kunkel at CPIC.Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.
May 25, 2007: The Navy sounded really helpful. I cc-ed my e-mail to CentCom Baghdad:
From: Garcia, Denise LT CUSNC N012 Sent: Friday, May 25, 2007 1:33 PM To: Jane stillwaterCc: Captain Kunkel MNFISubject: San Fran Chronicle Jane StillwaterJane,Please complete the attached embark form and return to me as a .doc attachment (meaning please don't embed it in an email). I can offer you a carrier embark for sometime after 16Jun as per your note below. If you can spend up to 4 days here I can also get you aboard some of the smaller combatant ships which are conducting maritime operations in the Gulf.To learn more about our mission --www.cusnc.navy.mil
From Kuwait, you'll have to catch either mil air or com air into Bahrain -- embarks to our ships originate out of Bahrain. And, you'll have tobe on orders to fly Space A on mil air out of Kuwait to Bahrain. Ibelieve CPIC can help you with that. Also, if you're going through Bahrain you'll have to coordinate country clearance with Major Renee Russo. I've attached her contact info.Very Respectfully,LT Denise GarciaUS Naval Forces Central CommandUS 5th FleetMedia Operations Officer
May 29, 2007: Suddenly the Navy started citing regulations regarding various hurdles to embedding me -- ones that are certainly on the books but are apparently ignored with regards to many reporters -- especially conservative bloggers:
"Garcia, Denise LT CUSNC N012" wrote:
Jane There are some issues with theatre clearance for Kuwait and Qatar, the transit hubs for mil air. ARCENT in Kuwait does not do theatre clearance for transiting media -- only media that's embedding with them.So, in order for you to transit to Bahrain via Kuwait, CPIC needs to do a theatre clearance for you. A theatre clearance must be submitted 30 days prior to your arrival. You can try to get a straight flight to Bahrain with no theatre clearance, but might run into a problem if there are no flights available which means you would be stuck in Kuwait. Or, have CPIC expedite a theatre clearance so you can catch a flight to Bahrain by way of Qatar.
Media is only allowed to remain in Kuwait for 48 hours in transit, so unless you have a guaranteed flight to Bahrain or a theatre clearance from CENTCOM, ARCENT Kuwait will be unable to bring you to Bahrain for billeting if you're delayed. Please be advised of these options, so there are no misunderstandings prior to your arrival. Please also ensure theatre clearance covers your entire visit to the region. Recently, CPIC cut orders for a reporter to come to Bahrain via mil air and without any theatre clearance and that has caused him a lot of delays trying to move around in the region on mil air.Please work with CPIC to ensure you have all necessary documentation.We can postpone your embark until all your paperwork is in order.
Very Respectfully,LT Denise GarciaUS Naval Forces Central Command US 5th FleetMedia Operations Officer
May 30, 2007: I wrote to the Navy that I did have orders to fly on military aircraft. Immediate CPIC sent me the following e-mail, apparently panicked that I had orders that would let me back into Iraq:
Hernandez Armando MAJ MNFI CPIC wrote:
Hello Jane,I have been in contact with LT Garcia about your interest in embedding with a carrier group off the coast of Kuwait. I just want to clarify a couple of things before you move forward with your request with the Navy--The CPIC Badge is only good for media wanting to reporton Coalition forces in Iraq and not off the waters of Kuwait. LT Garcia also said that you had military orders dated 31 August 2007 for travel using Mil Air. Could you please tell me who issued you these orders? Our office issued you travel orders in April but they are only good for travel between Iraq and Kuwait. We also don't provide travel orders with such long expiration dates since they are primarily used for traveling around in Iraq, and travel between Iraq and Kuwait. I hope this clarifies your question. Hope all is well in beautiful SanFrancisco.
v/r,Armando HernandezMAJ, Public Affairsmedia outreach/embed chiefCoalition Press Information Center, MNF-Iraqvwww.mnf-iraq.com
June 1, 2007: CPIC then tells me that there are NO embeds in Baghdad. In all of Baghdad there are NO embeds? CNN, ABC and Fox, you are in big trouble. They are not allowing press into Baghdad any more? The "war" is going that bad that you don't want reporters to be there? Sorry about that.... Time to impeach Bush and Cheney? Yeah.
Or are other reporters being allowed to embed in Baghdad? Or is it only me? Age discrimination? I KNOW it can't because of my reporting. Here's a URL from One Utah regarding what a great reporter I am. "Jane’s unpretentious, no-bull style of writing really stands out. Other (mostly right-wing) bloggers have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, but few have written anything worth reading," according to Richard Warnick. http://oneutah.org/2007/05/21/jane-stillwaters-trip-to-kabul/
Here's the e-mail from CPIC and my answer:
Hernandez Armando MAJ MNFI CPIC wrote:
Hello Jane,Are those the same set of orders you were issued in Kuwait back in April? *Baghdad embed -- We don't have an embed available during your requested time frame [emphasis mine]. Reporters requesting to use military travel to Baghdad must already have an approved embed.Major Jane Russo would be best able explain when and where CFLLC issued orders are used in theater. Armando HernandezMAJ, Public Affairsmedia outreach/embed chiefCoalition Press Information Center, MNF-Iraqvwww.mnf-iraq.com
-----Original Message-----From: Jane stillwater [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 7:47 PMTo: Hernandez Armando MAJ MNFI CPICCc: Garcia, Denise LT CUSNC N012; MNFI MediaembedSubject: Re: MNF-I Invitational Travel Orders
With regard to my travel orders, they are contained in a Memorandum for Record dated 30 MAR 07 and state that "...this travel is authorized within or outside the United States during the period of the conflict. This memorandum expires on 31 August 2007" in accordance with DoD 4515.13R, Chapter 9, JFTR VOL.I, Appendix E, Part I, Paragraph E.8 and AM.C124101V14 dated 1 April 2003, paragraph 21.9. These were issued by the Department of the Army, Third Army, United States Army Central, Coalition Forces Land Component Command and signed by Elizabeth L. Johnson, COL, GS, CFLCC PAO.
With regard to embedding with the Fifth Fleet, I am looking forward to it because, as I mentioned to Lt. Garcia, my father was a LT JG in the Navy during WWII and remained in the reserves for the next 20 years, retiring as a LTCR. I'm a Navy brat!
With regard to traveling around in Iraq, please see what you can do to get me an embed with a unit under CPIC's jurisdiction as well during the time frame that I will be in that theatre -- approximately June 14 to July 4.
With regard to San Francisco, I spent Memorial Day up near Yosemite and I won't go into how wonderful it was camping among all those cedars and pines because then I will start to miss all that fresh air and seeing as how I leave for the NYC Book Expo in six hours, it won't do me much good.
PS: I am hopefully scheduled to have lunch with someone on the staff of the Wall Street Journal this week. That is one embed that I hope will go through -- especially with Rupert Murdoch busily trying to buy out half of Wall Street.Thank you in advance for any help you can give me in settling this matter in the best interest of all parties concerned.