My embed in Iraq, continued: Turning up the heat in Kuwait....
(Here's a photo of the soccer jersey that almost killed me and Karen Day's photo of Condi Rice being interviewed before playing the piano for the Aspen Free Press)
After arriving at the Kuwait International Airport last night, I grabbed my luggage and went down to the airport Starbucks to see if there was any military personnel there who would give me a ride out to the local US airbase. There was. Yes!
Have you ever figured out how to get to an airbase in the middle of the night, in a foreign country, out in the middle of a desert 40 miles away, after going without sleep for 48 hours, in a dust storm, and with no written orders to get you through the gate once you get there? No? Well neither have I. This is why seeing those guys coming up to me with their SUV keys in their hands was like seeing Aladdin suddenly arrive with a magic carpet under his arm.
"But I ALWAYS stay in the VIP tent," I whined to the clerk at the billeting office. What's the difference between VIP tents and normal personnel tents? Bunk beds. That's it. But I don't do bunk beds. I gots old-lady knees. "And throw in one of those pillow-sheet-blanket kits too?" I had forgotten to steal a pillow and blanket off the airplane. But that isn't larceny. I always make sure to return them to the airline on my return flight.
Then I went to sleep at 1:00 am. But apparently the military doesn't understand the culture of privacy. Apparently that's a civilian thing. So at 3:00 am, some lady officer felt perfectly free to come into our tent and turn on all of the lights. I'm awake! Really awake. By 6:00 am I was fantasizing, hallucinating and stoned out of my mind from lack of sleep.
"It's gonna be hot today," said the blond corporal brushing her teeth at the latrine sink next to me. "Really hot." At 6:00 am, it was hot already out here in the desert -- but bearable. And after spending the last five hours freezing my butt off in that air-conditioning wind-tunnel they call a VIP tent, I was ready for warmth.
I should never go to war. I complain too much.
By 1:00 pm, it was at least 120 degrees outside -- but I soldiered on. I had a mission! The Kuwaiti guy who worked the table outside the PX was selling soccer shirts and I had promised my daughter Ashley to bring her back one from this trip. They were $17 a shirt. I had $20. The guy and I looked through all the shirts and I picked out a royal blue one that read "Kuwait" on the front. Perfect.
"I'm sorry, Madam," said the salesman, "but that shirt comes with shorts. $25 please."
"But I only brought $20! And my tent is a half-mile away. Trudging there and back in this heat will kill me!"
The man truly looked sympathetic but.... "Sorry, Madam."
I hope you like that shirt, Ashley because it took my last ounce of strength to get it. You know what they used to say? "I'd walk a mile for a camel." I surely wish that I had a camel! I double-dog-dare any of you to walk a mile in the desert in 120-degree heat. Or -- like our troops -- do it while carrying 65 pounds of body armor.
So. According to the headlines in today's Stars & Stripes, Obama and McCain are getting closer and closer to agreeing on a date to withdraw our troops from Iraq. And I got an even better idea on how to get Obama, Bush and McCain to withdraw from Iraq! Have all three of them spend the duration of the "war" -- or even just one day! -- out here in the Middle Eastern desert while carrying 65 pounds of body armor, and I'll bet you the farm that even though the fact that this "war" has already bankrupted America still hasn't brought our leaders to their senses, then perhaps the "heat-body-armor-and-no-camel" combination just might.
And if it came down to a contest between Bush, Obama and McCain to see who would last the longest out on desert patrol -- or even save America from economic collapse for that matter -- I'd have to bet my money on Obama. Not that having silver hair would eliminate the other two -- or even having old-lady knees. But didn't Bush and McCain both grow up with silver spoons in their mouths? What do they know about making an eagle scream?
PS: Here's a note from a journalist friend of mine: "Jane, during the Vietnam war, John Kerry was the war hero and Bush was the war dodger -- yet during the 2004 election campaign, somehow Kerry ended up becoming the fake and Bush the great patriot. And now, in 2008, Bush and McCain are the common guys and Obama is being painted as the elitist. America's a great country, but it seems to be having hallucinations caused by a political fever running nearly as high as the desert heat in Kuwait."
PPS: Here's some hot gossip from Sterling Greenwood of the Aspen Free Press: "Jane, you mentioned photos once. Here is one. I covered Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice being interviewed on August 2 by Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute. When Isaacson steered Rice toward commenting on the upcoming presidential election, Rice said she had no interest in being John McCain's running mate or in any other high-level political post after secretary of state. 'I don't need another government job,' she said. 'There's something to be said for fresh blood.'
"Moments later, Rice emphasized it again. 'I'm quite serious about new blood.' After the interview, several in the audience discussed among themselves whether Rice's remarks might be construed as a tacit endorsement of Barack Obama." Yeah, but is Obama's blood actually new enough to be able to hump a whole bunch of body armor out of Iraq?****
From my journalist friend regarding that so-called US military "Rape Tape" going around the internet: There have been fake rape videos for some years on the Internet. The doctor needs to realize that. I have not heard of any genuine tapes -- not that it can't happen.
And blogger.com actually sent me an apology for locking down my blog! It seems that a "bug in our data processing code" happened last Friday, and the heroic employees of Blogspot actually gave up their weekend to fix it for me!