Just Surviving — Thanks to Waqil and the Blue Flame

Editors note: Under immense time pressures from the luxury of Kuwait City and the less comfortable surroundings of the northern deserts, the Phnom Penh Post’s indefatigable Kuwaiti correspondent had filed this for his avid fans.

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 15 — News-starved hacks in Kuwait City have stumbled across a US military conspiracy of a sort not seen since the invasion of Cambodia. The means are comparably cruel and devious and aimed at controlling the coverage of an Iraqi invasion by weakening the media’s capabilities through boredom and bankruptcies.

To explain it costs $5,000 to get a journalist here and kit them out in the latest battlefield colors. Throw in a $1,500 a month per car, a $3,000 a month per diem, another $5,000 for hotels, then multiply by 2,000 for the number of journalists who have swept though the desert capital, and it’s easy to comprehend the increased rate of heart attacks in the bean-counting department of news gathering offices around the world.

The military has also hidden itself behind closed doors and adopted a “tell em nothing” stance since Colin Powell told the UN Security Council that, “there’s no doubt Saddam Hussein is a really bad boy but the war probably won’t start for another three or four weeks.”

Old Cambodia hand APTN cameraman producer Jerry Harmer said the conspiracy is “definitely happening” and will serve to whittle back its effectiveness of the media when the real push starts.

“Just look at the press officers — they’re clearly imposters. One of them is called David Dismukes, and if that isn’t a made-up name then I don’t know what is,” he said referring to the men and women sporting the latest desert attire and assigned to ensure each journalist gets unfettered access to the biggest non-news event since Y2K.

The Bangkok-based producer has spent nearly a month ‘in-country’ passing time on the occasional military exercise in anticipation that real bullets may one day get fired.

“The only bright spot is afternoon high tea at the Shjeraton Hotel where the milk is poured first and the tea follows, always at the correct temperature.”

The US military insists that people covering war have to obey the rules of the ‘host country’. That means no booze and keep your eyes off the women.

But the media pack has countered and engaged the illicit production facilities of a subversive Indian named Waqil, who for a few bucks can brew a poison that mixes well with orange juice and serves as a vague reminder of a drop of Stoly.

Waqil reliably informs us that a simple test — light the fluid and make sure it burns blue — will ensure you won’t go blind and stumble across a minefield. There’s also a place in downtown Kuwait City that boasts a sign offering ‘Authentic Chinese Massage.’

“We’re not beat yet,” quipped another journalist while quaffing a mix of grape juice and yeast. Just another example to prove that the dedication and professionalism of the international press corp is unbowed in its ability to get around the likes of the US military. Until next time. S.Y.

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