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* OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM SIT REP #1 Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait Thursday, 6 March 2003 2330 Hours Local
"Are you here as a member of the Armed Forces or as a member of the media?" asks the neatly uniformed but unsmiling Kuwaiti immigration official.
"I'm here to cover the war for FOX News Channel," I reply. "Does it matter?"
"Oh yes," he says, trying to be both firm and polite at the same time. "If you are here with the media, you are limited to a sixty-day stay and you must be escorted by the Ministry of Information. If you are here with the American military, there is no time limit and your visa will be stamped by the Ministry of Defense."
"Well, this time it's the media," I respond, hoping that my honesty won't precipitate an inordinate delay in passing through the immigration and customs bureaucracy.
It's my first mistake on this trip and entitles me to a two-hour wait for an absent civil servant from the Ministry of Information.
I had been through this same airport in November 2001, traveling back to Bahrain after covering the U.S. Air Force pilots flying over Afghanistan from Kuwaiti bases during Operation Enduring Freedom. Then, I had been asked only for my passport and U.S. military identity card, and had been amused when a Kuwaiti customs official dryly observed, "It's nice to see that you are traveling on your own passport these days, Colonel North."
Back in the 1980s, when I served as the United States government's counter-terrorism coordinator, I had been issued a U.S. passport with the name William P. Goode next to my picture and an Irish passport under the name of John Clancy. Whether the Kuwaiti official had remembered or a computer warning entry had alerted him to the fact, I had been reassured that by 2001, my prior use of "alias" travel documents wasn't reason enough to have me miss my flight.
Tonight it's a different problem. Without the appropriate Ministry of Information official on hand, no American media representatives are being allowed to enter Kuwait. The people of the tiny, oil-rich emirate may be grateful to us for liberating their country in 1991, but that gratitude doesn't extend to members of America's fourth estate.
The Kuwaitis aren't alone in their distrust of the American media. Most of our own military have a justifiable concern that the decision to embed reporters with U.S. units preparing for combat is unwise at best and a formula for disaster at worst. Many senior NCOs (noncommissioned officers) and officers can still vividly recall how the media turned on them in Vietnam, and since then, the less they have to do with the press, the better off they feel.
"Think about it," a Marine colonel challenged me before I left the States. "If you were a battalion commander in combat, would you want a guy with a TV camera and a live mike walking around talking to privates and PFCs?" I had to admit to him that I wouldn't.
"Do you remember the bogus CNN 'Tailwind' story?" an Army brigadier had responded when I asked him about his attitude toward having print and broadcast journalists traveling with front-line units and filing uncensored reports. "They [CNN and Time magazine] created that story out of whole cloth," he said of the discredited and now admittedly false account that U.S. forces had used sarin, a nerve agent, in Vietnam in an attempt to gas American deserters. CNN first broadcast the story on June 7, 1998, only to retract it a month later, but I could sense that the wound was still raw. The brigadier shook his head and muttered, "There wasn't a shred of truth to 'Tailwind,' but we're still answering the mail on that one. Just imagine the stories of atrocities, needless casualties, and bungled ops your pals in the media will spin from Iraq."
These thoughts are much on my mind when the appropriate Kuwaiti official finally arrives and carefully peruses a long printout of "approved" media representatives. He finds my name on the list and, with a flourish, slams a hand stamp with purple ink on my passport, my visa, and a "special media" pass.
As I walk out of the airport's customs-and-immigration restricted area, my field producer, Griff Jenkins, who flew to Kuwait several days earlier, greets me. I'm introduced to another Ministry of Information official, who hands me a sheaf of papers explaining, in several languages, the rules of behavior for "guest journalists," along with suggestions for a "historical perspective" on the region. As he drops us at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Kuwait City, he politely says, "Welcome back to Kuwait, Colonel North." Then, almost as an afterthought, he adds with a smile, "Please remember, correspondents aren't allowed to be armed."
As we enter the hotel, dawn is just beginning to insinuate itself over the Persian Gulf. In a matter of minutes, the sun will be casting long shadows over the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, 120 miles to the northwest-in Iraq.
* OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM SIT REP #2 Ad Dawhah Port Facility, Kuwait Saturday, 8 March 2003 1300 Hours Local
It is clear that the people here are worried. Ali, our driver, lent to FOX News Channel by the Ministry of Information to "facilitate" getting around the emirate, talks about little other than the imminent onset of hostilities. "It has to start soon," he opines. "There is no more space in the hotels here for reporters."
He's right about that. In the Marriott, where the FOX News Channel bureau has been set up, every room is occupied. It's the same in every other hotel in Kuwait. The Sheraton and the Inter-Continental-just down the street from where FOX has its headquarters -have now taken on the appearance of network affiliates. Commercial Humvees, brand new 4x4 Ford Excursions, and GMC Suburbans with satellite dishes secured to their roof racks line every hotel parking lot. Many of them have "TV" emblazoned on their sides with duct tape. Some are even painted to match the military's flat desert tan. There are so many U.S. and European reporters, producers, writers, and technicians here that the streets outside every hostelry look like those of a major American city.
As we approach the port area, Ali has to negotiate a series of military checkpoints. At each, Kuwaiti soldiers and interior ministry police inspect the inside and outside of the vehicle, using a mirror on a long wand to peer beneath the van. Ali produces his license and a yellow travel pass for the vehicle, and Griff and I hand over our passports, visas, press credentials, and a sheet of paper signed by the Ministry of Information official at our hotel, giving us permission to visit the port area.
Ali endures this ritual three times without complaint before we actually arrive at our destination. "Yesterday they caught an Iraqi spy trying to get into the port," he says. Then he adds with a sigh, "It's going to be this way until you finish Saddam. I hope you go all the way and do it right this time."
I ignore Ali's iteration of the frequently repeated Kuwaiti gibe at the United States for leaving Saddam in power at the end of the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Instead I press him on the apprehension of this Iraqi spy. I had not heard about the arrest, and it's precisely the kind of story we want FOX to break-if we can confirm it. But Ali claims he doesn't know any more about the spy and changes the subject.
"Were you afraid during the missile attack last night?" he asks, referring to the sirens that had gone off all over Kuwait City at about one in the morning.
"Not especially," I answer, instantly concerned that my reply sounded foolhardy. The fact is, I had grabbed my network-issued gas mask and lightweight chemical suit and raced for the FOX rooftop "studio," not out of bravado but because I knew that it was a safer place to be than the hotel basement bomb shelter if the Iraqis were firing chemical-laden Scud missiles at the city.
"I understand that one of your new Patriot missiles shot it down before it hit. Is that true?" Ali asks.
"That's the way it sounded to me," I reply, recalling the deep boom off to the north of the city. "According to the news this morning, it dropped into Khalj al Kuwayt," I add, referring to the bay just north of the capital-and falling into the trap of providing a recycled story I'd heard on the radio earlier in the day.
"But is that what really happened?" Ali presses, once again reflecting the uncertainty he and his countrymen are feeling as the allied buildup in Kuwait enters its fourth month.
"I don't know what really happened, Ali," I say, as sympathetically as possible. He had told me the day before how he and his family had to flee when the Iraqis invaded in 1990 and how anxious his little girl was over what might happen to them.
In fact, I looked for a report from Central Command that morning -something that would explain the sirens and the loud explosion. There was nothing.
As we arrive at the main gate of the port, an enormous military convoy is departing through the exit, about fifty yards away. There are at least fifty HETs-forty-wheeled, heavy equipment transporters, loaded with desert-painted M-1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles-forming up on the highway. Military police in Humvees with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top scurry in and among the HETs like gnats swarming around a herd of cattle.
As I reach for my camera to shoot some footage of the convoy forming up, Ali holds up his hand and says politely but firmly, "Don't do that here, Oliver. If you get caught we will not only not make it inside, we probably won't make it back to Kuwait City tonight either." I put the camera back in its bag and nod to Ali. He works for the Kuwaiti government and doesn't want to lose his job.
Griff Jenkins and I have coerced Ali into driving us to Kuwait's commercial port, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, so that we can shop for some necessities at the allied forces military exchange aboard the base. I'm the only one with a U.S. military identity card, and we have a long shopping list from the other two FOX teams that will be going into Iraq with U.S. units. Ali waits in the van while Griff and I head into the enormous air-conditioned warehouse that serves as the exchange.
Inside the cavernous building is a well-ordered mob scene. At least a thousand American and allied soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are queued up at more than a dozen checkout lines. Nearly all of them are garbed in desert camouflage, though the varying patterns adopted by the different American, British, and Australian service branches lend a distinctively international air to the scene.
Nation of origin or branch of service doesn't seem to matter when it comes to what they are buying. Each shopping basket seems identical, and nearly every one contains packages of disposable razors, shaving cream, scores of socks, bungee cords, CDs, cameras, film, videotape, batteries of every size and description, flashlights, sunscreen, insect repellent, sunglasses, foot powder, large packages of toilet paper, containers of baby wipes, and candies-particularly M&Ms and Skittles, which supposedly won't melt in the oppressive heat-and brown, green, and tan T-shirts. Many shoppers also have GPS receivers, purchased in the electronics department of the exchange-an area that appears to be stocked with as many choices as any warehouse discount store back in the States.
Griff and I pick up the items on our list and join one of the slow-moving checkout lines. It's not long before I am recognized and there is a rush to take photos and get autographs. I'm soon out of the signature cards that FOX gives me for this purpose and I end up using a laundry marker to sign desert camouflage hats, helmets, and flak jackets. I begin to hope that I never meet the supply sergeants in these units for fear they will bill me for all the headgear that never gets turned in.
"What unit are you going to be with when the shooting starts, sir?" asks a U.S. Army sergeant first class as we creep toward the line of cash registers. He's a sharp-looking, well-built soldier with a close haircut and a 3rd Infantry Division patch on one shoulder and a small American flag on the other. His hands and neck are deeply tanned, as is his face-except where his sunglasses have stopped the UV radiation, leaving him with the reverse-raccoon look so common among real desert fighters. It's one of the ways you can tell the genuine warriors from the BS artists who talk about war and get their tans at swimming pools or the beach.
"We don't know for sure yet," I reply. "But I'm told that my cameraman and I are going to be assigned to the Marine air wing."
"Humph ... the air wing," he chides me with a smile. "I thought you used to be an infantryman."
"I was, but we all go where we're sent," I answer, feeling a bit defensive about my assignment.
"Well," he says, "I understand we're going to have a FOX correspondent with my battalion. I sure hope he knows what he's doing. I don't want to have to nursemaid some prima donna who can't find his way to the latrine." Then he adds, almost prophetically, "Once the shooting starts, I think we're going to be pretty busy."
* OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM SIT REP #3 Coalition Press Information Center Hilton Hotel, Kuwait City, Kuwait 10 March 2003 0900 Hours Local
"It figures that the military would take the nicest hotel in the city," says a producer from NBC as we walk out of the ninety-plus-degree heat into the air-conditioned comfort of the Hilton. U.S. Central Command, known as CENTCOM, has taken over this spacious facility to use as a press center. It's also the place where we get our embedding assignments, countless hours of briefings, immunization shots, gas masks, and chemical protective suits.
There is a general "mill drill" in front of the reception desk, where members of the media are clamoring for any information that's being offered by the four public affairs officers behind the desk-two Army and two Air Force-who are being barraged with questions. Finally, a diminutive Navy lieutenant, dressed in desert camouflage, comes out of a room behind the desk. She looks at the chaos, steps up on a chair behind the counter, and shouts, "If you already have your press credentials, back away from the desk and line up!" The milling stops.
She continues, "If you are here for your shots, line up over there!" Some of the crowd starts to move that way. "If you are here to draw your chemical protective equipment, move over here!" More of the crowd heads in that direction. "If you don't know why you are here or if you've come here to hassle us about your assignment-tough. Go away and come back tomorrow."
As she steps down off the chair, she looks at one of her Air Force colleagues and says, for the benefit of all, "Don't take this crap.
Excerpted from War Stories by Oliver North Copyright © 2003 by Oliver North & Fox News. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Introduction: Reality Television||1|
|1||The Road to Hell||7|
|3||Good to Go||33|
|5||Running the Gauntlet on Bloody Sunday||69|
|8||Of Rivers and Rescues||125|
|11||You Can Run but You Can't Hide||191|
|12||You're in the Army Now||213|
|14||Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory||243|
|The Land Between the Rivers||261|
Posted May 9, 2012
This book is a series of snapshots in time covering the exploits of Marines and Soldiers in combat. Since it is written by a Marine, the stories are told from their perspective as opposed to being filtered by the media. It is a positive portrayal of the events in Iraq. Oliver Norths (Author) views are not all that different from many of the troops he writes about, and aren't affected by the media. If you support the troops, or know one, and you want to understand what their life is like...you will love this book. If you do not support the troops and/or the only one you have ever met was an actor playing one on a Hollywood screen set...you will hate this book. Read it if you are thinking about joining the military because it tells what war is like in a real way.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2008
'war stories' is a very special bestseller. it is not only a tribute to the brave men and women serving in the war in iraq but it also shows what is really going on and not being spun by the press or certain politicans who have agendas.Col oliver north went over their to the combat zone and this book shows really what the facts are and I learned alot from our soldiers and what they do for our freedom.the book is very fast reading and has lots of great research and even includes a cd.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 21, 2007
Written from his own battle field notes and memories, the retired, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, wrote the book, War Stories, as a testament to the abilities and honor of the United States military personnel in Iraq, and as a revelation to the widespread hatred they receive from the media at home. The book begins with Lt. Col. North¿s description of the May 1, 2003, trip of President George W. Bush to the USS Abraham Lincoln. After a sound defeat of the media¿s depiction of the president¿s arrival via Harrier Jet, Lt. Col. North points out the bias of the media and then progresses to his assignment to the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 'HMM' 268, and then to the missions he was able to experience with them and other combat units during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon my own completion of this book, I felt I had a better understanding of biases that can be brought about through the media, and the day to day lives of the soldiers currently serving over in Iraq. Each day, while the media passes valuable information on to Americans, there is a large amount of spin, regardless of how obvious, placed upon that information. This spin includes everything from troops who wanted to get into Iraq quickly, so they could get out faster, being accused of being bloodthirsty, the predominantly white, middle class, high school graduates serving in the armed forces being named ¿poor, uneducated minorities,¿ and even the claim in March 2003 that Iraq was becoming a ¿quagmire,¿ as Vietnam had been, because the Pentagon had ordered an ¿operational pause¿ for a combat group which had been trapped in a dust storm to catch up to schedule. The one dislike I had for this book was the loss of objectivity when discussing groups opposed to the war, even though many of these did have a humorous result, which served to liven the book, and take out the ¿research paper¿ flow. I would firmly like to suggest that anyone, who has not done so already, read this book, as it, at the very least, will help them to identify and make reality checks on the information given to them through media and government sources, and will also give them a greater respect for those serving in the armed forces around the world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2005
I think its a great book. The accounts in it I can say are truthful since I was there when several happened. I think its outstanding and very accurate. I recommend it to anyone who wants to know the truth.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 11, 2004
Col, Candidate, Reporter, and National Icon Oliver North offers a first-hand account of combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom that I cannot find elsewhere. Whether you believe these stories or not (as noted in other reviews), it's an amazingly sincere and gripping collection of daily journal entries written by someone who has seen combat many times before, yet North continued to be amazed, shocked, and impressed by what he witnessed. North¿s experience in combat gives him a journalistic advantage anyone coming out of journalism school could only dream of having, and this advantage helped him paint one vivid picture after another of what combat in Iraq was truly like. Success, failure, fear, pride, blood, sweat and tears¿ its all in this book. Until another reporter publishes his or her own battlefield account (and I know they are coming) this book will remain the best source for anyone curious about what modern-day combat has transformed into. I only wish the book was longer because I did not want to put it down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 16, 2004
I would not recommend this book to ANYONE. I know a soldier who was written about on pages 99-101. What is written in these pages is complete fiction. North describes how he attemped to assault an Army aviator after a request that he made, that was also fictional, was not met. The only thing that was true is that North had a conversation with two MEDEVAC pilots. I would give more details, but I am only allowed 255 characters here. We will never know if all the accounts in this book are true. I really hope that most of them are, because there are about 140 soldiers from an Army Medical Company and others in the MEDEVAC community who are insulted and hurt by the passage written in this book. I would hate to see other soldiers feel this way after sacrificing time away from their families and possibly their own lives during the War.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2004
As a military historian and author, I found Colonel North's book to be closer to a novel. I am currently researching for my next, factual, book, 'Marines in the Garden of Eden.' I have spoken with more than thirty Marines from Task Force Tarawa about the battle of An Nasiriyah. When I picked up 'War Stories' I first read the chapter about Nasiriyah. Colonel North's account of Nasiriyah was so far from the truth that I set the book down. If I can find fault with an area I have researched, I cannot trust his credability elswhere.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 30, 2004
Oliver North's account of his time as an embedded reporter during Operation Iraqi Freedom is indeed gripping reading. His writing is political in many areas of the book, and those who buy the book must certainly have already suspected such. Col. North does not write with the eloquence of Shelby Foote nor the enthralling detail of Gordon Rhea but his subject matter more than compensates. The book was difficult to put down and gives a vivid picture of the truly heroic sacrifice our soldiers, air crews and naval personnel put forth to defend our freedom. Col. North takes a number of well aimed shots at the French, Al Jazeera, and the doomsday military experts/pessimists but this does not dominate the writing. Those who argued American troops couldn't win this battle because of 'easy' recent vistories will find the truth is we have the best trained, best equipped, best motivated and most dedicated service personnel in the world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2004
Ollie North captured the events of his correspondent role as they happened. These aren't the words on an armchair general written from the safety of the CONUS. Instead, these are the true-to-life accounts of actual events from the field. When I started reading this book, I actually expected more social commentary and judgementalism. What I got was basically a diary account, written in a chronoligal manner as only someone who was there could have captured it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2003
THIS IS THE BEST BOOK THAT IS ABOUT IRAQI FREEDOM AND IT IS A GREAT TRIBUTE TO ALL THE SERVICE MILITARY SOLDIERS WHO ARE KEEPING OUR COUNTRY STRONG. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE EVIDENCE OF MASS DESTRUCTION ITS ALL PRESENTED HERE AND WHY WE FIGHT.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.