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Travis Fox
Travis Fox
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Confronting Iraq:
Live From Kuwait

With Travis Fox
washingtonpost.com Video Journalist

Wednesday, March 5, 2003; 2 p.m. ET

What is the mood in Kuwait as an expected U.S.-led invasion of Iraq draws ever closer? How is the Kuwaiti government and populace preparing for the war next door? What is life like for the U.S. service people and western journalists stationed in Kuwait?

washingtonpost.com video journalist Travis Fox was live from Kuwait on Wednesday, March 5 at 2 p.m. ET, to field questions and comments about the scene on the ground in Kuwait.

Fox was also be joined by Post Style reporter Richard Leiby, also filing reports from Kuwait.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Travis Fox: Hello everyone. I'm here with Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby in a beachfront Hilton Hotel, 15 miles sound of Kuwait City. Looking out the window, it feels far removed from a war zone. Thanks for all your questions.

Pompano Beach, Fla.: Travis: Are you one of those "embedded" journalists with one of the military details whereby you are a "known" person to them and you will travel them for an indefinite amount of time into Iraq? Can you explain the schedule you keep and where you might be going for reporting for WPNI?

Also, can you share with us what kind of technology you are using to report, capture and transmit your stories back? Thanks.

Travis Fox: I have decided not to embed. I’m a “Unilateral” as it’s known around here. There will opportunities during the conflict to report on what the military is doing without embedding through shorter times with the troops, sometime lasting a day or a few days.

In terms of technology, I’m transmitting now through the hotel phone line. In Iraq, we plan to file stories through satellite phones. As for a schedule, the news will dictate that. I’m planning on filed a couple times a week. -Travis

Europe: Do the troops stationed in Kuwait feel they are in a friendly and safe environment right now?

Travis Fox: All the U.S. troops here are required to carry their gas masks with them at all times and leaving the bases is not permitted.

Herndon, Va.: Do you feel that Kuwaiti's are actively supporting this war, or are they only going along because they feel it is inevitable and don't want to offend the U.S.?

Travis Fox: All the Kuwaitis I’ve met are genuinely appreciative to America for the liberation in 1991. They also hate Saddam Hussein. Because of this the vast majority support any effort to invade Iraq. That said, many are also suspicious of the intentions of the U.S., especially in Israel.

washingtonpost.com: Yesterday, Travis filed this video interview with Kuwaitis at a traditional diwaniya meeting.

South Hadley, Mass.: Good afternoon gentlemen. Please tell us how you are treated on the street by the average Kuwaitis. Are they cool or warm to you? Are they still grateful for our return of their country to them?

Thank you sirs,

Travis Fox: My experience is that average Kuwaitis are very warm. I feel very comfortable walking and driving around here. At first, I was concerned to keep a low profile, but everyone I've met in very welcoming. --Travis

Richard Leiby: I just picked up a coffee at Starbucks -- of course they have them here -- and spoke briefly with two Kuwaiti men. They were all smiles. Even when I told them I was "ana sahafi" -- a journalist.

Fairfax, Va.: During the first Gulf War, 60 Minutes ran a piece on Kuwait. It painted a picture of a two-class society where one either very very wealthy, or extremely poor (almost a slave). The wealthy people were described as participating in a re-distribution of oil wealth. Is this an accurate picture or is Kuwait a democracy much like the United States?

Travis Fox: Based on my experience here in the last week, I would say this is accurate. Only about half of Kuwait's residents are citizens (and ethnic Kuwaitis). The other half are immigrants typically from India, Philippines or Pakistan and fill all the service jobs in the country. --Travis

Richard: Kuwait describes itself as a democracy and is proud of parliament, but several youths were arrested the other day simply for shouting pro-Saddam slogans. Go figure.

Castle Shannon, Pa.: According to this morning's Washington Post, most Iraqis are taking all this talk of war in stride and aren't really preparing to change much of anything. Is this the sense you get from what you are seeing and people you are talking to?

Travis Fox: This is not the case here. Civil defence drills are in full swing. Many of the American and British schools here are closed down, many westerners have left. The Kuwaiti government is even sending out text messages on cell phones warning of security measures. ---Travis

Somewhere, USA: 1. Do you get out and walk around? Alone? Do you feel comfortable doing so? (In Kuwait City, not at the Hilton.)

2. Have you had, or could you have, an informal conversation with a Kuwaiti woman?

3. Do the service staff (maids, etc.) at the Hilton appear to be Kuwaiti?

4. Do you have "interesting discussions" with journalists whose countries have a very different attitude to the situation from that of the U.S. administration?

5. What do you eat?

Travis Fox: Walking around in Kuwait City is no problem. I used a Kuwaiti woman as a translator a couple days ago (albeit a more western Kuwaiti). As the earlier question touched on, all the service staff including this hotel are foreign workers (by foreign I mean ethnically. Many were born here). In terms of food, it's basically what you would expect at any U.S. hotel. With Kuwaitis, we've tried some good local food. --Travis

Richard: Lovely lamb dishes here and shrimp for the Gulf -- a panoply of Middle Eastern delights. We also chowed down with the troops at a rear staging ground today -- hamburgers and hot dogs, of course.

Arlington, Va.: Hi Travis,

Are you at all concerned about your personal safety? What restrictions have been imposed on you by the U.S.? Or have any restrictions on your reporting been given?

Travis Fox: Travis is resting his weary typing fingers. This is Richard. I too am not fearful of my personal safety, but in media boot came everyone was advised to travel in pairs and remain alert. I should have had my gas mask with me today during a false alarm and was chastised by the military for not having it with me at all times. As far as press restrictions, the ground rules issued to accredited correspondents includes separate items. (Not all are restrictions; some are permissions.) Wherever troops are located the press must travel with escorts, known as public affairs officers. But that is US military sop everywhere.

Kennesaw, Ga.: Thanks for doing this chat. Basic questions: What are weather conditions like in Kuwait right now, and how are the troops adjusting to them? And, have you tried on a chemical warfare suit yourself? How long would you last in it now, and how much more difficult would it be in two months with the warmer weather?

Travis Fox: Thank you for writing. Right now, the weather is great. In Kuwait City, it's in the high 70s during the day. Farther out in the desert, it's even warmer. I tried on my chem suit in my cool Washington apartment before I left and after a couple minutes I was sweating. I can only imagine what it would be like to wear one now in the desert, much less in a month's time.

Cincinannati, Ohio: Are you surrounded with other American journalists? If not, do you run into them often?

Travis Fox: Surrounded is an understatement! Right now at this hotel, there are only journalists and military... and the occasionally Kuwaiti out for lunch or a (non-alcoholic) drink. This is the same situation at other hotels as well. --Travis

Charlottesville, Va.: Do you worry about terrorist attacks against you or other Americans? Any special precautions or security measures in the city or outside the city?

Travis Fox: Terrorist attacks are a concern for Americans as well as Kuwaitis. All over Kuwait there are police checkpoints set up at random. There is a large police presence outside this and other hotels. --Travis

Washington, D.C.: You say that Kuwait describes itself as a democracy. Would you?

Travis Fox: Kuwaitis are proud that the country is more democratic than its neighbors, but it certainly isn't an American style democracy. The Emir (who is not elected) has veto power over all laws passed by parliament, for example. Women cannot vote. --Travis

New York, N.Y.: How much sleep do you get at night? Are you at all nervous?

Travis Fox: Richard: Sleep? We're fueled by fear, Starbucks and a burning desire to distinguish ourselves in combat and bring Truth to the American people! Actually, it's now 11 p.m. here, which means an editor will soon be calling and asking for a rewrite that will keep me up until 3 a.m. here, so sleep is not something....ZZZZZZZ.

Travis: Well, we've successfully distracted Rich from writing his story for the last hour, so he'll be getting to bed later tonight. As for me, I'll be editing audio and cleaning the sand out of my cameras from foray in the desert. Thank for all your questions. Sorry we couldn't get to them all. We hope to do this again sometime soon.

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company