The Road to Basra is Paved with Air-Conditioners

Editors note: The latest offering from the mysterious, ever-enthusiastic and indefatigable Sheikh Ya’erbuti, the Post’s Kuwait correspondent. In this issue: hotel hopping in Kuwait City, getting embedded with the US military, and an update on Waqil’s liquor brewing tactic.

ON THE IRAQ BORDER, Jan 31 — The US military has pleased the war groupies in Kuwait and signaled that conflict is just around the corner by announcing its embed policy. However it has thoroughly ticked-off others by moving Thursday’s media briefing — the two o’clock follies — out of the Sheraton Hotel and into the Hilton Hotel.

Colonel Rick Thomas, who is not allowed to be quoted, declared the policy at his regular follies, Ricky’s friends said this type of embed assignment is unheard of since the D-Day Normandy Invasion of 1944, when reporters were permanently assigned, or put in bed, with US military units for life.

Since then temporary assignments have become standard fare, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan where journalists have always had the option of opting out and going back to the tea rooms.

Not any more. Once a correspondent is shacked-up with a unit, the journalist can consider themselves a soldier/reporter with that unit for life. And Ricky will frown on anyone wanting to go home early — that’s desertion. Snubbing victory parades is also a big no-no.

A nicer touch is that all embedded reporters will receive a big shiny badge indicating their unit, which the hardened hacks agree is a welcome accessory to the gas masks and the nuclear, chemical and biological suits.

Unconfirmed rumors at this late hour speak of two journalists who have decided to skirt the embed policy by borrowing a pantomime camel from an amateur dramatics club somewhere in Europe. Their plan is to sneak across the border in their cunning disguise and arrive in Baghdad ahead of the rest of the press corps.

But back to the change of hotel venue. Ricky’s friends said he, among others, decided the Sheraton was not so safe, as its front and back side are rather exposed and offer those nasty terrorists unfettered access for their shoddy designs.

So everyone had to move.

Tea time, served by my subversive friend Waqil, just won’t be the same. The Hilton does have impressive beach but holds all the charm of a headquarters occupied by a 1990s software company.

However, it shouldn’t prove too stressful for too long. Yours truly has booked rooms, a penthouse pour moi and a broom closet for Waqil and his still at Baghdad’s charming al-Rashid hotel from mid-March.

Alas, some people still think the prospect of war is a fallacy.

Ricky is not allowed to talk about such matters, but speculation at the Kuwait Stock Exchange are under no such restrictions. According to one insider the US military has ordered 4,000 air-conditioners to be delivered to Basra in southern Iraq by mid-April.

Who knows? Not the hacks that’s for sure. But just in case the stock exchange gurus are right, I have ensured that my camel is packed and ready to roll. Until the next time, dear readers, my very best wishes to all. S.Y.

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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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