Roger L. Simon

War Correspondent

If you haven’t been following Michael Yon on line from Iraq, you should be. He is the kind of war correspondent I remember from reading collections of WWII reporting as a kid – honest, level-headed, and unpretentious yet atmospheric. You don’t feel like he’s trying to sell you a bill of goods or pushing some agenda. Maybe that’s because he’s a real free-lancer, accountable to no one that I know of. And he can write. Here’s a sample from his latest dispatch about his travels with Jeffrey Mellinger, the Command Sergeant Major responsible for the Multi-National Force:

For a country often called the “cradle of civilization,” Iraq has been mostly rocking with war during our lifetimes. The roads of Baghdad are a pictograph in panorama of the immediate past. Scattered shards of fresh combat, burned-out and bullet-riddled cars strewn in random abandonment, guardrails ripped, torn and twisted, bomb craters in the roads, mortar scars on the buildings, and ominous smoke on the horizon. In this post-apocalyptic scene, one might expect to see few people venturing out, but the only thing ubiquitous in Baghdad these days are the traffic jams. Moving at Mellinger’s usual pace, we quickly emerge from the heated streets out onto the highway. As miles fade away, we enter southern Iraq, and the war zone behind us dissolves into a wavering vista in the rearview mirror.

The drive is mostly just hot, flat, windswept sand and dust, and the first one-humped camels I’ve seen since leaving India. Deep in the desert someone had spray-painted onto a concrete barrier “Watch-Out for Dumbass Camels.”