Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The story’s turning very volatile and even more difficult to predict. The mood of the team rises and falls with every development.

After Chile called for a 45 day deadline the mood darkened at the thought of another month and a half in this dump, waiting and waiting. We started thinking about how we’d get out of Iraq in the intervening period – and whether we’d be able to get back in again. Then Donald Rumsfeld said British troops might not take on a combat role, which was interpreted as meaning that the Americans could go it alone in the very near future. In an instant a 45 day pause turned into a possible imminent attack. Then, Washington and London try to clarify the situation and the whole thing becomes uncertain again.

Some of the team have booked holidays, weddings, home refurbishments in the coming weeks. No one can say whether they’ll have to cancel – or whether we’ll all be back home in a couple of weeks. Dragan’s girlfriend gave birth in Belgrade to his first daughter while we were on the bus from Turkey to Iraq. So far, e-mailed photos are the only contact he’s had with his child. He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to see her for the first time….although he’s hoping it’s before she starts university.

It’s not that we want a war. A nice, clean coup would do just fine. It’s just that the uncertainty leads to endless speculation and “what ifs.” Right now there must be tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of journalists doing exactly the same thing – waiting and wondering.


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