Whadya call that stuff we fight wars for? "Something of Something" ... "Something of " ... oh yaa, "Fredom of " ummmm, what was that stuff called again?
I was only asking - "In the second of his dispatches from the million-dollar media centre at Qatar, Michael Wolff recounts how he angered the US right"
"The sandstorms blowing through Iraq left a kind of mustard cloud over the desert flats of Qatar, creating a fair approximation of the end of the earth. Serendipitously, Midnight at the Oasis was playing on the car radio as I came up to the camp gate just before 5am - my 10th day in Doha. Then the cellphone was ringing with a nervous producer from CNN in New York [...] We had reached the point where reporters were interviewing other reporters in the most media scrutinised war ever fought. But even among the over-exposed, I was - because of the irritable question I'd asked at a daily briefing and over international television - on the verge of a special status: becoming the wise-ass of the war.
And Rush gave out my email address. Almost immediately, the 3,000 emails, full of righteous fury, started to come.
Which all, in some way, helps explain why we are in Iraq. Now, when you suddenly get 3,000 emails excoriating you and your fealty, you can begin to think that the media may in fact be a hostile, negative, unloved and unwanted presence. (My al-Jazeera colleagues, singled out for showing bloody pictures during war, certainly felt this, too.) But, of course, the opposite is true - we are, even al-Jazeera, a vital, mostly cooperative, part of the war effort. So when, in response to my question, General Brooks said that I was here of my own volition and, if it wasn't satisfactory to me, I should go home, this was far from a statement of policy.
The last thing the Pentagon wanted was for the media to go home. Indeed, Centcom refused to confirm or deny what everyone could see for themselves: that chairs were being removed from the briefing every day (in one day alone, six chairs were removed) so that, as numbers dwindled, empty seats would not be shown to the world. This was a serious problem. What if you gave a war and the media didn't come?
Clearly marked as the rabble-rouser of the get-out-of-Doha movement, I was approached by some enforcer types. The first person was a version of a Graham Greene character. He represented the White House, he said. Wasn't of the military. Although, he said, he was embedded here ("sleeping with a lot of flatulent officers," he said). He was incredibly conspiratorial. Smooth but creepy: "If you had to write the memo about media relations, what would be your bullet points?"
The next person to buttonhole me was the Centcom uber-civilian, a thirty-ish Republican operative. He was more full-metal-jacket in his approach (although he was a civilian he was, inexplicably, in uniform - making him, I suppose a sort of para-military figure): "I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." And: "A lot of people don't like you." And then: "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." And too: "This is fucking war, asshole." And finally: "No more questions for you."
I had been warned.
I finally got to the x-ray machine on the way through the guard house to my CNN interview. Lots of other reporters were arriving at this early hour for their primetime spots. Every- body was making Doha jokes. I was talking about my run-in with the scary White House guys. "You've met the Hitler youth," said another reporter. Everybody laughed. This was grim, but it was funny. The camaraderie of people who understood the joke - who were part of the joke - was very reassuring and comfortable. ..."