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Part One of Three
(A Photo Essay)
31 December 2006: Baghdad, Iraq
To enter Iraq with US forces, journalists normally travel through Kuwait. This time I flew from Singapore to Kuwait, where I toured military facilities critical to maintaining war-fighting equipment, then to Qatar to continue exploration of the same, and finally back to Kuwait to enter Iraq.
I plan to spend the entirety of 2007 with our troops at war, until sickness, wounds or worse send me home, or the military tires of my presence and catapults me over the wire. Having spent most of 2005 in Iraq, I know what this means. “Drive-by reporting,” as some commanders call it, is worse than no reporting at all. The only way to approach describing what our troops experience, and what is really happening in Iraq, is to go the distance.
West of Baghdad, Al Anbar Province is a vast, lawless frontier stretching to the Syrian border. The population is almost exclusively Sunni Arab, leaving little cause for sectarian violence but plenty of room for other reasons to fight. (View the region on this map and see the breakdown of religious affiliations on this one.) Major cities in Anbar Province, such as Fallujah, are fantastically dangerous. Yet the Marines and Army, along with some Navy and Air Force personnel, are probably stretched as thin here as the Border Patrol between the U.S. and Mexico. No matter how they spread it, our fighters simply do not have enough paint to cover the barn called Anbar.