Saturday 26th April
I had such a good nights sleep in my cubby hole I missed breakfast. I had to do a bit of a quick dash to the shower block to wash before we had a few briefings.
Once again we boarded a bus to take us to the HQ building beside what is now Basra International Civil airport. Three officers gave us lengthy briefings on the safety and drills on the base, or COB as it is known, the things we would be able to film and a Contextual Brief. This was the most interesting. It let us know the way the various arms of the military were working with the various parts of the Iraqi government. There were lots of acronyms like Mips and Pips and IA and IP and all sorts of gobbledygook, but even without the aid of a military glossary we got the impression things were going well. The Iraqis are now creating a Basra that will be reminiscent of the grand proud city it was before Saddam deliberately ran it down to a third world slum.
The Briefing Room
Richard and I then went for a quick walk in the heat of the day sweating like one of Mike Tyson’s girlfriends when he’s feeling frisky but had a bad day. We needed to get one or two things that might be available at the PX which is the American version of what used to be the NAFFI. At the door a couple of security guards were checking everyone’s ID as they went in. Our British Press Cards were something of a curiosity and after much scrutiny and a request for further ID we were allowed in to the hallowed emporium of things Iraqi and American. One of the “must haves” from what the Brit squadies call the “Jingly” shop is a very garish plastic alarm clock that comes in colours from bright Barbie pink to full sea sick green. The alarm is the Muslim call to prayer and is one of the loudest scariest sounds I have ever heard. I got one on my last trip almost a year ago. The alarm is so alarming I have only used it once. However, it is a great conversation piece in Thunderbird uniform blue and plastic gold. There were many other things almost, but not quite as brash. Glass ornaments inlaid with colourful portraits of Saddam Hussien are proudly displayed not far from glittery belly dancing costumes with many dangling tassels.
The only things we bought were a couple of techie things, thin boxes to store kit and pillows to try and make life a little bit more comfortable on the hard foam matresses that are at least a step up from the travel cots I have slept on before.
In the afternoon there were long discussions about what we would be able to film and the logistics around doing it.
At dinner time in the evening we meandered over to our dinning facility the DEFAC for a meal. This time when we showed our ID passes the curiosity and scrutiny had increased to the point that there were lots of guard studying them intently and deciding that they were not acceptable and we would not be allowed in to the canteen. One of our media minders a Captain in the army had a conversation with the security supervisor on the radio. We were then given the go ahead to eat.
My colleagues were getting a little bit twitchy and keen to do some work but were still thwarted as their gear had not arrived.
It did eventualy get to them quite late in the night.