Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Live fire

Live fire

Live fire

the fortnightly column of Sheikh Ya'erbuti

Just surviving - thanks to Waqil and the blue flame

Editor: Under immense time pressure from the luxury of Kuwait City and the less

comfortable surroundings of the northern deserts, the Post's indefatigable Kuwaiti

correspondent has filed this for his avid fans:

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 $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 through the desert capital, and it's easy to comprehend the increased rate

of heart attacks in the bean-counting departments of newsgathering 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 war probably won't start for another

three or four weeks."

Old Cambodia hand and 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 Sheraton Hotel where the

milk is poured first and the tea follows, always at the correct temperature."

The US military insists that people covering the 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 corps is unbowed in its ability to get around the likes

of the US military. Until next time ... S.Y.

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