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Leader Stifled by War's Reality

He rises each morning in a white, prefabricated trailer with two rooms and a bathroom. His room has two beds and two closets, a television, a refrigerator and an air conditioner. He is thankful his roommate doesn't snore.

The trailer is one of hundreds in orderly rows behind the domed, marble-lined palace that once served as the seat of Saddam Hussein's regime. The building is now the U.S. Embassy. The trailers were set up by Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., the Halliburton Co. subsidiary that also provides Brown's food and cleans his clothes.


Brown and son Jonathan, 4, are shown in July spending time together a few months before Brown deployed for duty as a lawyer in the Army Reserve. Brown also has a daughter, Rebecca, 10. (Michael Lutzky -- The Washington Post)

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Brown's trailer is in an area called Poolside Suites. The name is not pure whimsy. A kidney-shaped pool, built for the palace's former occupants, offers some recreation. The dusty earth is sand-colored, and palm trees tower overhead.

Each group of four trailers is surrounded by eight-foot walls of sandbags to contain any damage from incoming mortars or rockets. On Jan. 29, a rocket struck an embassy annex that Brown sometimes walks through, killing a U.S. civilian and a Navy officer.

One place to relax is the Palace Fitness Center, built inside an old warehouse about a three-minute walk from Brown's trailer. Some soldiers work out with their weapons, toting M-16s from station to station. ESPN plays on television monitors.

Brown goes most days. He is in better shape today than at any time since he graduated from Army flight school in 1985.

On the walk back to Poolside Suites, he can pick up his laundry and dry cleaning. The latter is sent outside the Green Zone, meaning that some suits and uniforms spend more time in the real Iraq than their owners do.

Brown keeps in touch with his family mainly through e-mail, but communication is sometimes difficult. He asked his wife, Patricia Arzuaga, to set up an e-mail account for their daughter, Rebecca, who is 10 -- they also have a son, Jonathan, 4 -- so she could write to him directly. Arzuaga says Rebecca has not written as much as Brown would like, because she does not know what to say.

The Green Zone has a salsa night, swing dancing and other diversions, but Brown stays away. As a member of the U.S. military on active duty, he is forbidden to drink alcohol, and it is no fun watching the civilians imbibe.

So there is cable TV in the trailer and a sober set of bedside books: Karen Armstrong on Islam, Bernard Lewis on the Middle East, Christopher Catherwood on Winston Churchill.

Sometimes, lying in his narrow bed, he hears the whistle and boom of an incoming mortar. "Hey," he thinks. "Here I am trying to help, and these [people] are trying to kill me."

On the day before Thanksgiving, Jim Mollen, 48, a consultant to another Iraqi ministry, left the Green Zone alone in an unarmored SUV. He was due to leave in a few days, and he may have wanted to say goodbye to Iraqi colleagues. He was shot and killed as he drove.

Mollen's death stunned Brown. The two men often had sat next to each other at a regular morning meeting.

Talking in Circles

Brown regards his ministry post as a chance to work hands-on with Iraqi officials to reconstruct the country. It has been hard to see results. "I don't think [ministry officials] are doing much, if anything, for displaced people in Iraq," he said.


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